“Customer service is king” is a phrase that has never been more prudent. In a time where companies face increasing levels of competition, maintaining a reputation for excellent service is a great way to stand out. But finding the right balance between cost management and customer care can be difficult.
Howard Williams, Marketing Director at Parker Software, looks at how modern tools like live chat software can help businesses to manage costs and addresses 10 of the most common complaints.
Offshore call centers
This is perhaps the most common customer complaint, and for many can be a deal-breaker. A language barrier can generate frustration and usually increases the time taken to find a solution. Companies sourcing offshore call centers to save money may see this as a necessary sacrifice, but modern alternatives could be the answer.
An effective live chat operator can handle six or more customers at any one time. The written word leaves little room for misinterpretation or language issues, and many straightforward requests can be handled immediately. For these reasons, companies can lighten the load on their telephone-based staff significantly, allowing them to keep call centers UK-based while encouraging users to opt for live chat support.
Automated telephone systems
Automated telephone systems can ensure customers are directed to the right department and that staff are used efficiently. But for many, it’s another unwanted frustration. As well as increasing call wait times, a customer may have a non-specific request that is subsequently passed around multiple departments.
Live chat can offer a range of helpful tools. By analyzing keywords in an initial problem description an agent can be presented with possible solutions immediately. This could be a “canned response” – a pre-written text to a problem that can be offered immediately. Or it could suggest a different department that might be more suited to addressing this issue. An agent can then ensure that the customer is presented with either the right solution or the right person to address their concerns immediately.
Being passed from person to person
An often frustrating situation when calling for support is to have to spend time identifying yourself and describing a problem at length, only to discover that particular operator can’t help. Having to repeat the process after being transferred to a different department will quickly build tension.
Using live chat the correct operator can be contacted immediately by scanning an initial problem description for key information. Importantly, live chat software will make sure all of this information is recorded so that a customer doesn’t have to go through the process again, preparing another department with full details of the issue at hand.
Rude or frustrating staff
Everyone’s human. It’s often quite understandable to get frustrated when trying to resolve a problem, for both agents and customers. Sometimes requests can be misconstrued, there could be a language barrier, a customer could be being unreasonable or an agent less than professional.
With written word there’s less chance for ambiguity and misunderstanding, which could help to avoid a situation before it arises. Tools that can automatically scan dialog for keywords that might indicate a problem can automatically alert a manager to the live chat, who could then intervene and defuse the situation. It’s also easy to review a live chat dialog to identify exactly where things started going wrong. This could result in a change of policy on the part of the company or improved staff training. Even if a difficult situation can’t be fully resolved, there’s often something to learn from how it was handled.
Getting stuck in a queue
Call centers may be overworked or understaffed. A particular issue with a product may have arisen that intensifies support requests at a particular time. Staff may be held up by lengthy requests to resolve complicated issues, which can be especially frustrating for customers who are phoning with a simple, easy to fix request.
Live chat can help both by allowing an agent to deal with multiple customers at once and by offering more information on queues. Alerts can be created to prioritize a customer who has been waiting for longer than a set amount of time. Problem descriptions can help to flag “quick” jobs that could be easily solved with a canned response or known solution. These customers could then be served first so those who can be dealt with quickly leave satisfied with efficient service.
Trying to sell me the wrong product or service
If a customer is calling to request information on a particular product or service, or perhaps advice on which is best suitable, this can involve a lengthy and detailed analysis. If a list of requirements is not detailed or clear enough an agent may resort to a “best guess” approach, which may not always be best fit.
Live chat can offer agents a proactive way to manage this problem. Visitor analysis can monitor customer behavior in real time to gather valuable information. An agent can view a history of activity, including which products a customer has looked at, what they’ve searched for and where they’ve been on the site. This could then be used to build a customer profile for anyone who initiates a live chat request, presenting the agent with a range of helpful information to guide their suggestions.
Lack of knowledge
Ensuring staff are trained in all aspects of a product or service can be a tall order. Customers may find that a request needs to be referred to a supervisor or manager, or an agent needs to discuss an issue with a colleague while putting them on hold.
Live chat can minimize these situations. Tools like canned responses offer pre-written dialog that help solve common problems. Keywords are automatically identified from a customer request to offer a range of possible solutions. These can also be used to flag a specific department that might be better able to deal with the problem. And if things get difficult with customers, certain keywords can also alert a manager that there may be an issue they want to get involved with.
Live chat can generate immediate, accurate records of dialog that also help companies to find areas of support that need improvement. Staff can be trained, further documentation can be produced and canned responses refined to prevent this situation from reoccurring.
Staff are too impersonal
Dealing with large volumes of customers in a fairly impersonal manner that doesn’t involve face to face contact usually means there’s little opportunity to add a personal touch. Most customers don’t usually expect a company to “remember” them if they call for assistance, so this is a great opportunity to stand out from the competition.
Live chat can help with this in two key ways. Previous dialog and buying habits can be displayed on screen when a customer initiates a chat with an agent. This puts the agent in the position of knowing exactly what a customer has discussed or viewed in the past, and what products or services they’ve already purchased. Even if the current query is unrelated, the agent is now in a position to build rapport by asking whether the customer is happy with a product or ended up resolving an issue.
Secondly, live chat can help in a proactive manner by using prospect detection to generate reports that inform an agent of customer activity on a website. This might indicate interest in a particular product or service, or search criteria on a knowledge base or forum to resolve an issue. Being able to enter into a dialog with this information puts the agent in a far stronger position to help, and the customer in a position where they feel their needs come first.
Inaccessible or expensive support
It’s often prohibitively expensive for companies to keep customer support lines open outside the weekday nine-to-five. In addition, customers will often find that they have to call a premium rate to receive support after a purchase. When combined with other issues such as automated systems and long wait times, it’s a recipe for frustration.
Running a live chat department is extremely cost efficient, and allows companies to extend support outside regular working hours. Live chat is free and unobtrusive, so a customer can continue to do other things while waiting for an issue to be resolved. All of this helps to cut down on frustration and makes it far more likely that the customer leaves the scenario satisfied that they have received good service.
Having to give out too many personal details
Some companies need to confirm a caller’s identity before being able to help. This could be through an automated system or to an operator. Far too often this must be done more than once, which is especially frustrating if the call is about a very simple issue.
Live chat can store important identification details for you, or request them before a chat with an agent has started. The agent, and any subsequent operators, will then have all of the necessary information to confirm your identity. In addition, relevant documents such as an invoice, bank statement or bill can be uploaded directly to help build a case. This can speed up problem resolution significantly, and make the experience far less frustrating.
About the Author
Howard Williams is Marketing Director at digital engagement specialists Parker Software. Parker Software develops technology that brings businesses closer to their customers. Inspired by a differentiated vision for the future, its software aims to join the dots of digital communication.