The Importance of Making On Hold a Last Resort in the Contact Center

There are some unbelievable stories about companies that don’t put a concerted effort towards their quality of customer service. In fact, just recently a woman spent six hours on hold with American Airlines trying to rebook her cancelled flight due to weather-related issues. Instances such as this not only frustrate customers on an individual level, but they also damage a company’s reputation on a greater scale.

Contact centers have plenty of resources available that giant brand-name businesses, such as American Airlines, should be using to establish themselves as customer service experts. One such resource, which tends to have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, is simply the attentiveness and personality demonstrated by the Communicator on the call.

For example, in contrast to the American Airlines story, a customer service representative of online retailer Zappos once stayed on the line with a customer for an incredible 10 hours. The length of the interaction was not due to hold time or conflict; rather, the Communicator was expressing out of this world service and social skills.

Zappos exhibited quality customer service through the skills exhibited by its contact center Communicator, while American Airlines call didn’t even make it to the point of contact with an agent. So, what kind of tools can businesses leverage to ensure that putting their customers on hold is a last resort? Here are some tools that should be implemented within every contact center for success:

Skills-based routing: This tool will automatically transfer a customer’s inquiry to the available Communicator with the greatest amount of experience in the subject matter.

Comprehensive IVR: Your auto-attendant should offer comprehensive menu options to meet the satisfaction of your customers upon first impression—otherwise the customer will already have grown frustrated by the time they are greeted by an agent.

Predictive Models: This technology allows for the better preparation of contact center agents. Data is collected in order to outline consumers and creates a model based on past consumption behaviors in order to predict the problem ahead of time.

Make sure putting your customers on hold is your last resort. Learn more about the ways business can implement stronger resources to improve their quality of customer service.

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 American Teleservices Association (ATA). 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.

For Customer Service, Consider Baby Steps Over Giant Leaps

In days gone by, great customer service meant employing knowledgeable salespeople and friendly cashiers in-store. But as new channels emerge, and consumer expectations for quality of customer service continue to rise, providing a top-shelf experience can seem like a daunting task.

When looking to make a change, some business owners immediately look to the end goal as opposed to the steps that need to be taken to make an impact. For instance, a contact center manager might hastily decide to completely re-write a call script. Or, a social media marketer might create company accounts on five platforms in a single afternoon.

Oftentimes, the most prudent way to begin re-shaping your customer service is through smaller, incremental steps. Making 100 percent improvement in a single area is usually unrealistic. Making one percent progress in 100 different aspects of an operation, however, is easier to accomplish. Taking smaller yet more impactful steps is likely to immediately yield better customer service. Here are some small steps you can take now to assure quality of customer service:

  • Reduce your supervisor-to-agent ratio
  • Provide more extensive training to new hires
  • Invest in customer analytics
  • Implement quality assurance to ensure that every product is manufactured and delivered with ease
  • Stay abreast of developing contact center technology

Some of the recent research released about customer service is jolting. For example, 55 percent of consumers said they switched to a different company for a product after a single negative experience, according to a Zendesk survey. But companies should guard against making sweeping changes as a reaction to these kinds of statistics. In other words, just as you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, you shouldn’t toss your entire customer service strategy if making tweaks might do the trick.

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.

When It Comes To Service, Your Customers Have a Long Memory

If you have been keeping up with our blog, by now you are well aware of the impact that customer interactions have on business. In this same vein, you know that top-of-line quality of customer service is critical for improving customer retention, which in turn has profound power over your company’s bottom line.

According to a recent survey conducted by Zendesk and Dimensional research, a stunning 39 percent of consumers will avoid a vendor for two or more years after a bad customer experience. Meanwhile, 55 percent will simply switch to a different product or company following a negative interaction. This same study also reveals that consumers are far more likely to share experiences than they were even five years ago when things go awry with a brand.

What these numbers boil down to is that customers are likely to remember how they were treated by your organization—and for longer than you expect. Here are three ways you can avoid becoming a bad memory:

Real-time interaction

Nothing makes a customer happier than getting quick answers to pressing problems. On the flip side, it’s why obscenely long on-hold times are always frustrating and why customers continually press zero in the IVR menu. Today’s technology makes it possible for customers to visit a company’s website, chat digitally or even request a call back from a representative so that questions are answered quickly: bottom line. Skills-based routing, for example, ensures that complex calls are received by the Communicator best equipped to handle that particular inquiry. Getting the most seasoned agents on the most difficult calls helps boost first-call resolution rates and, consequently, customer satisfaction.

Customized CRM

Customer service representatives spend a sizeable amount of their day seeking information needed to effectively manage customer interactions, according to a recent Aberdeen report. That is precious time that can be reclaimed, however, with the right CRM solution. Comprehensive customer profiles and customized scripting that pop on screen as soon as an inbound call number is recognized allow Communicators to skip the tedious and irksome process of asking the customer for personal information and move right into providing personalized customized service.

Quality assurance

Like anything else, call center processes need a regular checkup. Program supervisors that conduct skills assessments each month and independent quality assurance teams that remotely monitor representatives are two ways that managers can ensure that their facilities are embracing constant improvement. To help foster this, supervisors can engage in training exercises with Communicators. For example, a supervisor can play the role of a caller during a mock interaction to give a Communicator a more realistic idea of what a live customer call will actually feel like, from the simplest to the most complicated scenario.

Rather than biting your fingernails at the realization that consumers today have the memory of an elephant when it comes to customer service, take it as a grand opportunity to distinguish your brand. After all, customers remember outstanding service just as they do poor interactions. In fact, 52 percent of customers are more likely to repurchase from a business following a good experience, according to Zendesk.

We all want a strong reputation, in life and in business. By taking advantage of the many solutions at your company’s disposal, you can be certain your brand will be remembered – for all the right reasons.