Why Customer Care Interactions Should Transcend The Phone Line

Your Communicators are skilled in resolving problems efficiently so that customers aren’t left on hold and that each phone call is quickly answered and ended, one after the other. That’s wonderful, but what about after the phone call is over? Will your Communicators’ degree of customer care resonate with your customers?

Every interaction with a consumer, whether it’s an hour-long call or a two-minute live chat, is a chance to build a new long-lasting relationship. Oftentimes, consumers only truly interact with a brand when they call into the contact center. Therefore, it’s extremely important that the first interaction they have with a Communicator exceeds their expectations.

Contact centers must focus on being more present and striving to create a customer care interaction that goes above and beyond the phone call to spark long-lasting relationships with loyal consumers. Below are various strategies that you can implement to ensure that your Communicators leave a positive, lasting impression on consumers:

  • Exude empathy: Typically, when a consumer calls into a contact center they’re frustrated by a specific problem and want to speak to a real person. Therefore, make sure that your Communicators can emphasize with frustrated consumers by demonstrating compassion and relating to them on a more personal level.
  • Perfect first call resolution: Don’t leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths by not correcting the problem the first time around. You only have one chance to make a good first impression, so concentrate on perfecting first call resolution so consumers don’t need to follow up with a second call.
  •  Be available: No two consumers are alike. Some prefer automated customer care channels, while others opt for the phone. Make sure that you’re always available by implementing multiple channels for which consumers are contact you, such as social media and live chat.

Use the tips and tricks above to ensure that every customer care interaction transcends beyond the telephone and leaves a positive impact on your valued consumers.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Take a Walk in Your Consumers’ Shoes to Enhance the Customer Experience

Think back to a time in your life when you were facing a particular problem and a friend or family member took the time to listen to your perspective and work with you to find a solution. It’s a great feeling when someone displays empathy toward you—one that fosters feelings of trust and loyalty for that person.

It’s for these reasons that empathy is one of the most important traits a contact center agent can display. By taking the time to think through a particular problem and understand the customer’s perspective on an issue, agents can provide more positive quality of customer care.

Here are some other benefits that will result from your agents practicing empathy:

Empowered customers: You never want the customer to walk away from the conversation feeling poorly about the interaction or as if he or she was not heard. By taking the time to understand the customer’s perspective, the agent will instill a feeling of confidence in the customer and the belief that the company is, indeed, on his or her side.

Fewer conflicts: One of the most important jobs of a customer care agent is to diffuse a situation before it escalates into a larger issue, like a social media disaster. By giving indicators that he or she is listening and a sense of compassion, the agent can help reduce the likelihood that the problem will grow into a larger issue.

Reduced customer churn: Customers can easily lose patience and deflect to competitors if they feel they are being given impersonal treatment in the contact center. By displaying empathy and attempting to understand where the customer is coming from, an agent can help reduce churn.

So, make sure your contact center agents take brief moments during their conversations to try and understand the customers’ point of view. You can never know where someone is coming from, so demonstrating empathy might just change their day.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

The Key Ingredient to Call Center Success

It may sound sentimental at first, but an important variable in contact center services is empathy. Think about your best customer care experience; the agent probably conveyed genuine engagement and concern regarding your service inquiry—that is, he or she was empathetic towards your situation.

As well, your company can’t afford to omit such an important customer care initiative as poor customer relations cost companies nearly $41 billion each year. Preserve your contact center services ROI by providing the utmost compassion for your customers.

When empathy is missing from a contact center’s mission, unfavorable scenarios ensue. For example, we’ve recently discussed on this blog the unpleasant American Airlines customer care blunder that involved a woman spending six hours on hold. It’s clear the customer care representative lacked empathy for the woman’s needs as she was neglected for several hours. As a result, American Airlines’ reputation suffered, for instance the company has received a multitude of unfavorable comments on its Twitter page.

But expressing empathy means more than shortening your hold times. Rather, this characteristic should touch all of your business’s customer care best practices, down to dealing with instances of bad reviews. For example, one hotel went so far as to fine its customers $500 for posting negative reviews on Yelp. Rather than fight fire with fire or try to cover up negative press, businesses should use poor reviews as a learning experience and motivation to improve their customer care strategy. Businesses that receive unfavorable assessments can redeem their reputation by expressing compassion for customers’ unpleasant experiences. For example, turn around a bad experience by offering up an honest apology and making a commitment towards bettering future services.

How can you ensure your contact center staff—from supervisor to agent—is poised to provide the highest level of empathy? Here a few ways:

  • Audit calls more frequently to maintain consistent quality
  • Supervisors: provide your agents with positive reinforcement for above and beyond quality of customer care
  • Use technology such as skills-based routing to ensure highly proficient agents and subject matter experts answer related customer calls, which will improve first call resolution.
  • Hire the right staff, i.e., make sure your potential candidates exhibit maturity, experience and dedication to their line of work.

The bottom line is this: Never underestimate the power of empathy; it might be the most powerful tool in improving your contact center services ROI.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Going Beyond ‘I’m Sorry’: The Difference between an Apology and Service Recovery

Much of what is written on this blog is designed to help business leaders understand the importance of excellent customer service and the tools they need to provide it. But no matter what business you’re in, occasional customer service slip-ups are unavoidable. Sometimes the issue—like an airline forced to delay flights because of inclement weather—is completely out of your control.

No company looks forward to these incidents, but if approached with the right perspective they are actually opportunities for you to stand out as a business dedicated to providing the absolute highest quality of customer service. How? By going beyond “I’m sorry.” True Service recovery is more than a simple apology—it’s about making things right. Here’s how you can do it:

Listen closely for subtle clues

Oftentimes, if an agent remains silent while a customer vents they can gain better insight into his or her ideal resolution. For instance, if a customer calls a bank’s contact center because he was mistakenly charged a $30 overdraft fee on his checking account, chances are the inconvenience and hassle are more at issue than the money itself. Sometimes a refund or store credit is a good idea; other times a consumer might be pleased to learn your company is going to re-examine a particular policy. The key to finding the right course of action is really listening, not just hearing.

Be empathetic

You might be surprised to know how much customers value an empathetic response from a customer service Communicator. Everybody has had a negative experience at some point, so encourage your representatives to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and think about how they would like to be treated in a similar situation. Coach your agents to validate the customer’s feelings by saying something like, “I can hear you are upset and I will work with you for as long as it takes to get this straightened out.” That kind of compassionate response can help calm the costumer and get the call going on a more positive track.

Take responsibility

Trying to deflect blame, especially back to the customer, only makes things worse. Even if the consumer did play some small part in a mishap Communicators should avoid mentioning it because it is simply not important anymore. What matters is getting the situation fixed—quickly. Agents should be held accountable for their individual actions and, brand representatives should be held responsible for the company’s mishaps, as well.

Use feedback to make changes

Consumer feedback is one of the most valuable assets for any company because it allows you to make changes to your best practices based on empirical evidence rather than guesswork. Leveraging customer responses will improve service overall and can be particularly satisfying for customers who see their suggestions put into practice.

Research indicates that 96 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain when they have a problem, so you can be sure the ones who do reach out feel strongly about their issue. Though they may be upset at first, if your customer service Communicators make consumers feel their problem is as important to your company as it is to them, you’re on your way to service recovery and loyal customers.