multi-skilled agents

Multi-skilled agents

Multi-skilled agents

Have you called a customer service lately and been transferred between different departments? Even if you do your best to choose the right numerical option to get your problem solved. When it’s your turn the agent lets you know that you have reached the wrong department. But they can transfer you to the right one. If you are lucky the issue ends there, and you have reached the right person to help you. Or maybe not, and they will transfer you yet again. You feel how you are losing your patience. You just want to solve the problem and not spend hours on the phone! Wouldn’t it be nice if the first agent you reach actually was multi-skilled and could assist you?

There are trends going on in customer services that gives me the belief that maybe the industry has a bright future. Ticketing systems make customers feel like they are nothing more than numbers. Single-skilled agents alienate customers. This is the time for change.

Multi-skilled agents instead of single-skilled

Does it really engage your agents if they only handle the same questions, day in and day out? This is how bigger companies create an efficient customer service. They say that this is the way to go. For some customers this might help but you run the risk of alienating even more customers. It’s time to listen. It’s time to realise that a customer service only can be efficient if customers are satisfied. Anything else is a big failure.

I have mentioned in earlier blog posts that it’s the emotions that your customer will remember, not what was said. They will connect the emotions they are feeling while being on the phone with you with their perception of your company. So if you piss of your customer by sending them between departments you are quite likely to lose that customer.

So why should we put emphasis on multi-skilled agents? Would you like to do the same thing, day in and day out? Probably not. By training your agents to be able to solve multiple types of challenges they will be more engaged. They will not be as bored. An engaged agent will give off a different energy to you customer than a bored one.

You know those customers who are rude to your agents because of how frustrated they are with your company? By training your agents properly and give them the chance to actually solve customers’ problems that frustration will decrease. So trust your agents and train them properly. The better they are prepared the better your customer service will work. Contact us and together we can create a customer service where your agents are engaged and empowered to solve your customers’ challenges.

Read more about how you can help your agents herehere and here.

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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The Future customer service

The Future Customer Service

In this blog post I will gather insights from earlier blog posts and describe how these affect the future customer service. To reconnect to the core of customer service we will remind ourselves what service is. After that we will look at creating a winning process, what challenges we can see and technology’s role in it.

What is service?

How does it affect the future customer service?

After a quick google search this is a good definition for the word service:

“A valuable action, deed, or effort performed to satisfy a need or to fulfil a demand

(source businessdictionary.com).

 

I choose to highlight the key things in the definition, which is valuable action and satisfy a need. This means that your customer will expect their needs to be fulfilled when they contact your customer service. You are also expected to deliver value with your actions. Dissecting the definition makes it clear that a lot of companies sadly are failing.

Bad customer service

We all have examples of companies whose customer service we think have failed us. My latest disappointment has forced me to educate myself on my legal rights. A train company is trying to force me to pay for a trip where I was stuck in the train for five hours. The heat was horrible, we weren’t given enough water, and the train felt very claustrophobic. The problems have just been building up after that trip. The train company’s customer service is almost impossible to contact, and they really don’t want to help.

Even if factors like long queue times and unhelpful agents affects our impression negatively, it will in the end be the intuitive emotional response that we will remember. Maybe these companies don’t really understand what service means? Maybe they don’t really care about delivering high standard service? Do they care about their customers? This has everything to do with the future customer service. While we see some companies are getting better at it, we also see a lot of companies who are failing. In an era of customer-centric business models, the companies who are doing a good job will use it to their advantage.

Good customer service

Problems are going to happen, but what matters is how companies deal with them. An example of a company that did a good job and left me with a good impression was an interior design store. Actually, I can think of multiple small interior stores that are doing a good job. These companies make it feel like they truly care about their customers. You are valued. It didn’t even take much for me to get that impression. They answered emails in a timely matter and they fixed the problem.

I will remember these companies as having great employees. Maybe the key takeaway is that big companies have something to learn from the small companies? But in future customer service, how can we insert the style of small business into large corporations? In future customer service can big companies just ignore the customer and still grow?

The Process is key to the future customer service

The key for a successful future customer service is to create a process that should have a good forecast of satisfied customers. Let’s think it through with the support of literature about forecasting and strategy. The problem we are facing is a highly unpredictable environment where communication problems and information asymmetry only amplifies the problem. You and your customer are expecting different things and because of communication problems the unpredictable only becomes harder to manage.

Strategic method

There are people out there who doesn’t believe in strategy. Saying that strategy is a waste of time. I think they have misunderstood what a strategy is. They mistake it for a plan. Below I have made a simple strategy for the future customer services in general. My recommendation is to read ‘Good Strategy/Bad Strategy’ by Richard Rumelt. By reading it you will once and for all understand the power of a simple but good strategy. The basic structure is like below.

The diagnosis (What obstacles are you facing?):

  • Unpredictable environment and information asymmetry.

The guiding policy (What key thing do you need to remember when plan your time?):

  • Technology and the right people. To choose an omni channel platform and use the expertise that the company behind the platform has. To use the technology to its fullest potential. Also make sure you have a good team of agents and team leaders who are fully engaged.

Basic but coherent actions (The strategy needs to be followed by actions that supports each other toward the policy) :

  • Define what a good customer service is for your company.
  • Work with consultants from the omni channel platform company to create a technology-based process. The process needs to be designed around the software not the other way around.
  • Hire and coach good agents.

Use forecasting to gather the right information

So clearly you need to gather some information before you can define what good customer service is for your company. One way to gather the information is by answering the questions below. I have formulated these through the different perspectives a forecaster use to make a sound analysis (read about forecasters in ‘Superforecasting; the Art and Science of Prediction’ by Philip Tetlock).

Outside view of the challenge

  • General market research; what does it say that people want from a customer service?
  • Your industry; what does it say that a customer service in your industry should be able to do?
  • What does general market research say about how your target group usually acts?

Inside view of the challenge

  • What do you know, based on experience or your own market research that your customer wants and needs?
  • Based on how many customers your company have, how many interactions do you think your customer service will have on a yearly, monthly and weekly basis?
  • Based on feedback from your customers what are there more complaints about?
  • What does your statistics say about your customer service? How are your chosen KPI:s doing?

Other perspectives of the challenge

Are there other perspectives that can give you insight into what your customer service needs? Could the software company give you some good insights? I am for example a Customer Success Manager at Connectel, and I’m here for your benefit. I’m not here to sell you yet another IT system. Rather I’m here to help you with the one thing I think about every day. Processes. I can be that other perspective your organisation needs to create a future customer service that is highly valued by your customers.

 

 

By now you should have all the information you need to create a choice architecture. The hope is that your created structure will overcome your problems with information asymmetry. Last thing to remember when you create the process; work to meet your customer’s expectations nothing more or less. There is no point in trying to exceed the expectations since your customer will probably not remember it.

The technology of future customer service

The harsh truth is that technology does not create success. There is a disconnect in what most people expect from technology and what it actually delivers. Technology is only the tool to create success, like a pen and piece of paper. First if companies understand what they can expect from technology is when we can start delivering value successfully.

Take advantage of expertise

Don’t miss the opportunity to work with the company that delivers your omni channel solution. While people have flawed expectations on technology they often think paying for the expertise of the software company will be a waste of money. You couldn’t be more wrong. These people, like me and my coworkers at Connectel, know what is possible and we know how to make your goals a reality. We keep up to date on the latest technologies and we try to come up with new creative solutions all the time. At least in my mind a well-built process is like art. It’s easy to say that we know the software better than anyone. Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss your process with us.

Contact us to learn more about our platform solution CEC (Customer Engagement Center). Together we can create a process that will be robust even in the future customer service.

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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customers

Customers Don’t Know What They Want.. Or Maybe?

Customers don't know what they want....

Or do they?

Everyone has at some point heard a company or a business leader say that customers don’t know what they want. But I don’t agree with that statement and this blog post is my explanation why. Instead of focusing in what someone want you should focus on what they need.

Companies think that their customers don’t know what they want

Your company is the expert on your product, or at least it should be. Whenever two people are talking who have different levels of knowledge about a topic an asymmetry is created. When your sales people start asking deep, maybe technical questions you are very likely to confuse the customer. To be frank, most of your customers probably don’t care about having deep knowledge in every purchase they make.

Your customer knows what they need even if it’s only on a basic level. The deeper their knowledge is of what they need the more they are invested in the possible purchase of your product. Depending on how big of an investment your product equals they will have different interest in the technical details. There is a big difference depending on for e.g. the cost of your product and how many people the purchase affect.

You speak different languages

Because of the asymmetry you can almost see it as you speak a different language than your customer. It’s only if you understand this that you can start taking real steps toward your customer. If you on the other hand decide to stick to the idea that your customer don’t know what they want then you have to realise one thing. You are probably asking your customer the wrong questions. You might even be pursuing the wrong prospect.

There are only so much information that we can keep in our minds at one time. If you are selling a B2B product then your customer probably is busy remembering information that has to do with their company. If it’s a private consumer then they also have something that is more important. Even worse will it be over time. If the customer only will be reminded by your information on more rare occasions, then they will find it hard to remember it. Customers need to be reminded of important information.

IT psychology gives us a hint

Do you need to work with a software on a daily basis that is not actually that good? A software that does not fill all your needs? Then I’m sure you try to find your ways around task related obstacles on a daily basis. A company can only overcome this if the IT company listens to their customer and help the customer with training. As a customer you usually only have two options. Deal with the obstacles or buy the product from someone else.

Your customer will work around obstacles no matter what product you offer. Have you, or a woman around you, used different kinds of facial treatments to meet all their needs? There has been a trend for the past few years that are perfect proof of this. Where you use different kind of facial products in different areas of your face to deal with different problems. There is no perfect product and you will probably not solve all your customer’s needs. All you can do is respect your customer enough to realise that they know what they need. Even if they cannot formulate it in the language you are used to.

Customers know what they need

The issue has been stated, we are so used to not having all our needs met but products. This has resulted in us almost avoiding thinking about it because it will often be wasted energy. If we all had our creative hats on all the time, then there would probably be more innovative products that actually solve our problems on the market.

So if as a company you should not stick to the assumption that customers don’t know what they want. Show them enough respect to realise that they know what they need. What they need is more important than what they want. They can say that they want the latest product on the market. But if that product does not solve their needs then they will not be loyal. It will just be a matter of time before they turn to another company. So, think again about the information you gather from your customer. What can you change to make you better at gathering information about what they need?

When it comes to customer service, it should be what your customer are asking for. One thing they are asking for is better customer service. With our help and platform you can serve your customers like you should. Read about omni channel here . Visit our product page here.

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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remote customer service thanks to cloud technology

The Remote Customer Service; Thanks To Cloud Technology

The Remote Customer Service;

Thanks To Cloud Technology

We live in a society where the old school office is something people are working to get away from. People have realised that the focus on an office does not mean we are more productive or better at teamwork. If you do not want your customer support to be tied to one specifik location, then this is the blog post for you. This blog post will discuss how the Connectel platform can make that happen. A remote customer service feels cool. We know how you can make it happen in a function that doesn’t feel easy to do remotely.

You log in to the given CEC website and you have everything you need in front of you. Everything will be gathered in one place. The great thing with the CEC system is that you don’t really need to gather all the agents in the same place. If you are using WebRTC, then all you need is your computer and a pair of headphones. With agents spread out geographically this is how you can set up a remote customer service.

We see more of this set up in the industry than ever. Especially with the increase in, for example, health care support apps. The owner of an web shop or a digital company that has a few employees spread out geographically could also find use for a system set up like this. When you are running a small company you often need to wear many hats. Maybe even you as the owner needs to handle customer support. So while it might seem difficult, a remote customer support is doable and something we will see more of in the future.

A remote customer support might even be beneficial if you think of some of the tech trends we see today. If you as a customer made a video call, would you rather see a boring office in the background? Or maybe it could create a better connection if the agent was sitting at a café or outside? Another benefit is the money your department would save if you didn’t have a large, stiff office that can fit all the agents. The truth is that 60-80% of the customer service budget goes to dealing with agents.

But I think the main benefit to a remote customer service is that you will have happier agents. The environment agents have to deal with is usually stressful and high pressure. If you have a calm surrounding then you are better able to focus on your customer’s needs.

But now I’m asking you, could you consider having a remote customer service? 

Connectel – the perfect remote customer service platform

You can of course create a customer support that is just as good as the traditional one. The omni channel strategy is equally easy to create, and you can read about that strategy here. You can connect many well known systems, like CRM systems or ticket management systems to CEC. You have support systems, like our brand new speech analytics functionality and our scripting tool. Integrating everything you can do with CEC into your process means that you almost do not need your team leader. But if you would need to contact him or her, then we have a chatting tool in the platform for co-workers.

When you buy the platform it’s empty, but you can shape it into something unique for what you need. We at Connectel will always be here to help you figure out what you want and need. We have a lot of ideas about setups and you know your business. If you could build the perfect customer service, no matter how complicated it seems, how would you do it?

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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The strength of good customer support

The Strength

of Good Customer Support

The closest link your company has to your customers is through the customer service. How much do you value that? Companies are misplacing their focus within customer service. They rather focus on limiting costs instead of optimising the effects customer service can have on a customer relationship.

Customer Service – One of the Fundamental Areas of Marketing

While everyone knows that advertising and public relations are areas of marketing, it seems like people often forget that so is customer service. Advertising and many marketing areas are something that is easier to control and literally a one-way communication. Customer service is rather the opposite. For a company that wishes to be customer-centric the emphasis on customer service and support is crucial. How can you really call yourself customer-centric if you don’t have a great support system in place? It’s in customer service your company have the chance to prove your customer centric spirit.

Thinking of customer service relationship to marketing always makes me think of mom and pop stores. These stores that can have loyal customers on a different level than any other kind of business. There seems to be a magic to these kinds of small businesses. Somehow they really have created a lasting impact on their customers. It’s that magic that big businesses often try to recreate but usually fails to succeed with. What is that magic? It’s often the relationship between the customer and employee. Building a relationship cannot be broken down into a science.

A company should want the atmosphere to be set for building a relationship with the customer. It all comes down to conversations, digital or vocal. If the marketing department spreads the façade on social media that this is a company that puts the customer first. Then that will be in vain if the two-way conversations you have with customers don’t live up to that attitude.

Separate Departments

The problem is the fact that we are talking about two departments that usually function completely separately. This is probably the reason why there is a disconnect in the alignment between efforts. Sometimes it even seems like the customer support department have a closer connection to the IT-department than to marketing. What does that tell us about the end result? It doesn’t really matter how hard the marketing department is working to present an image. It only matters if customer support breathes the same spirit.

In talking about values and spirit, take for example some of the most common company values; compassion, customers, responsibility and teamwork. All of these somewhat cliché values are all about people and relationships. How can a company stand for these things and still work so hard not to have to talk to customers? If the customer support department are pushing their agents so hard to save money, marketings efforts will almost be neutralised.

The most important thing is alignment and communication between departments. Every action company managers take also has to exude these values. There are too many companies that think it’s good enough if their employees fake the sound and look of happy employees towards customers. How your company treat your employees behind the scene truly matters. It will show through the cracks and your marketing attempts will fail.

Market Research & Feedback

How often do you actually get a chance to have a real conversation with your customers? Companies usually have two separate approaches towards market research and feedback. Either they put a lot of emphasis on it, or they don’t really seem to work on it at all. The first approach thinks it’s an investment that will be worth the money long term. The second don’t understand the value and think it’s too expensive.

But in customer support you have a team that should be working with this on a daily basis. Value the time they spend with your customers and do your best in making your agents comfortable on the phone with customers. Everything doesn’t have to be so efficient. Do not focus too much on statistics. It will leave a lasting impression on your customers if they had a nice conversation with your agent.

Creating Brand Ambassadors

If you (against the odds?) succeed in your customer service and support. You have a greater chance of creating brand ambassadors. Those people that all companies wish to have but is far from easy to create. In this day and age, we attempt to turn how to create brand ambassadors into a science. We measure everything we can and hope that our NPS score and Customer Satisfaction score is proof that our customers are becoming loyal to us. But when we think of it, are we really always that honest while answering surveys? If we are as honest as we can be in surveys, is it actually that easy to grade our feelings?

A customer relationship is as non-scientific as any other kind of relationship. That is what makes it so hard, and small things can have a massive effect on that relationship. So instead of focusing on the science of it, why not just focus on building that relationship through genuine conversations?

So, what are your company’s goals when it comes to marketing? Is it to portray an image that puts the customer first? Then value customer support and service and realise how much potential these efforts have and how it can either make or break your company’s image. In the next blog post we will have a look at what is not a buzzword, omni channel communication. It’s here to stay and companies needs to adapt to it. It’s because of that Connectel specialises in omni channel, which you will learn more about it in the next post. Would you like to get more information on how Connectel’s solution CEC handles a omni channel strategy? Then visit open your channels!

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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3 Reasons for Self-Service

3 Reasons for Self-Service

From the customer's point of view

It nothing new that companies want to go for self-service because of the dream of lower costs and less pressure on the phones. While I love omnichannel and have expressed before how every customer service should use the omnichannel strategy there are a lot of companies that are simply not interested. Not as much in the US, but especially in Scandinavia. The option companies have is to make a real effort with self-service. The point here is not to do it for the money but to do it to please the customers who you are not pleasing when you avoid omnichannel.

1. The backup option

If your company is relying a lot on the phone channel your IVR might not be created in a way that is easy to use for your customer. Do you have a lot of options in your IVR and does your customer often end up in the wrong option? Then self-service could be an option to help your customer from going crazy.

It’s also an option for those who doesn’t have the time to make a phone call. Or you might be in a place where you really cannot even make a phone call. If you can solve your problems yourself then your life becomes a lot easier.

2. Self-service is available 24/7

Another great argument for self-service is the availability of it. I have in earlier blog posts mentioned that too many companies are not available when customers actually need them. Most of us realise we have something to solve during the evening after customer service has closed for the day. If you are not planning to solve this issue, then self-service is an option available as a compromise.

Mobile devices also make self-service more accessible than ever. No matter where and when. If you can solve your problem now, then there will be no need to remember your problem. I don’t think you want your customer to go around reminding themselves that they have a problem with you. Right?

But let’s be very clear that it’s only a viable option if you are planning to do the work that it takes to have self-service as an option to human customer service.

3. Better customer experience

If self-service has been built right then one great argument for it is the speed of it. If the structure of the information is easy to navigate then I can get answers to my questions within minutes. At the same time agents have more time to deal with the bigger problems that they actually should spend their time on. No need to call a customer service to ask them to send out a new copy of that invoice you seem to have lost!

Self-service is relying heavily on you using or building a information system that truly works for your customer. A well built self-service system is based on the science of usability. Read this article to get some guiding points on how to let usability guide you. Or google usability and self-service. Either way you do need it before you get started.

So clearly self-service is a win-win situation. For companies that does not want to go omni it is also a great opportunity to deliver great service and support with less pressuring daily effort. But it puts a lot of pressure on you  build or choosing the right information system. We at Connectel obviously stand by our own self-service FAQ product, Custello. You will find information about in a few weeks on our new website. Until then, if you are interested send us an email.

Anna Itzel - marketing manager at connectel
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