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Customer Service 101 Peggy Carlaw

Cus­tomer Service—the Customer’s Way

While dri­ving down the road the other day, I heard the fol­low­ing com­mer­cial on the radio:

Ally Bank, com­mit­ted to cus­tomer ser­vice, with the option to reach a human being at any time at 877–247-Ally by press­ing zero.”

As you can imag­ine, I almost drove off the road. After years of com­pa­nies bury­ing an option to reach a live oper­a­tor 7–8 lay­ers deep in their IVR, here’s a com­pany that invites you to actu­ally talk to a live human being. Amaz­ing!
customer service 101 Customer Service 101
As com­pa­nies com­pete for cus­tomers, it’s obvi­ous that good cus­tomer ser­vice is crit­i­cal to keep­ing cus­tomers sat­is­fied. While hav­ing customer-friendly poli­cies and pro­ce­dures is important—as is high-quality cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing and ongo­ing coaching—the fact is that to com­pete these days, com­pa­nies that think strate­gi­cally, like Ally Bank, are putting more empha­sis on pro­vid­ing cus­tomer ser­vice the way cus­tomers want to be served whether that be by phone, e-mail, chat, self-service, or (drum-roll, please) a real, live human being.

Staffing Up Cus­tomer Ser­vice with Humans

How­ever, staffing up with humans is an expen­sive propo­si­tion. To max­i­mize your invest­ment, resources need to be put into hir­ing, prod­uct and cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing, and on-going coach­ing. A report of cus­tomer ser­vice in 16 coun­tries by Genesys found that hav­ing to repeat them­selves and speak­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives that lacked the skills to answer their inquiry were two of the main rea­sons cus­tomers left a com­pany. The num­ber one rea­son? Being trapped in auto­mated self-service.

On the other hand, the research found that cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion increases when com­pa­nies meet these four key cus­tomer needs: com­pe­tence, con­ve­nience, proac­tive engage­ment, and personalization.

When asked what they would most like to see com­pa­nies do to improve ser­vice, 40% chose the abil­ity to speak with a live per­son, but more than half chose at least one new com­mu­ni­ca­tion channel.

The moral of the story? If you’re going to pro­vide cus­tomer ser­vice the way cus­tomers want to be served, pro­vide them with options. Your self-service options need to be easy to use, and your human options need to be well-trained.

Peggy Car­law is the founder of Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, a lead­ing train­ing com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in improv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between front-line employ­ees and cus­tomers. Peggy is co-author of sev­eral books pub­lished by McGraw-Hill, includ­ing Man­ag­ing and Moti­vat­ing Con­tact Cen­ter Employ­ees and The Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games.
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Peggy Carlaw
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  • Eva

    Well said, yes true. From a prospec­tive side of a CSR, I agree…customers want to speak to the life per­son!! But yes, there are those who like email, fax, or any other way but they do dread and hate the Automa­tive Ser­vice!!! They should always be given an Option. They would be hap­pier and so woud you.
    Many times I have answered the phone, and the voice at the other end says: "Wow, a life per­son!"
    Eva

  • http://glennfriesen.com Glenn Friesen

    "Wow, A Liv­ing, Breath­ing, Human Being!"

    Cus­tomers feel spe­cial when a liv­ing per­son answers the phone. It could be some­thing to do with the Uncanny Val­ley or just know­ing that a busi­ness cares enough about their cus­tomers to actu­ally talk to them. Either way, you're right, cus­tomers want to speak to a live per­son. And they'll keep com­ing back when they do (cus­tomer loyalty).






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