Shifting customer service into high gear

When a customer contacts customer service, whatever channel they use or problem they have, they want fast answers. Most expect “now” service within 5 minutes of making contact online and say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good customer service.

Companies struggle to balance providing rapid answers with the need to ensure their customer service agents are as productive as possible. While agents are at work, it is critical to maximize their time and skill sets, so they can deliver optimal service to as many customers as possible, as fast as possible. Sounds easy, right?

Not so fast. Great customer service means arming agents with the right technology and ensuring they have access to the right information to help them help your customers…as quickly as possible.

So how do you make your agents faster and more efficient? Let’s take a look at three opportunities to help increase the speed and efficiency of your customer service operations.

Improve the equipment

First, take a hard look at the technology that agents use on a day to day basis. It starts with some basics. How many systems or screens is an agent required to use? If they have to refer to >1 system or multiple screens to get to the information they need to solve a typical customer issue at hand, this is not good. Especially when customers expect the agent to be equipped with complete information, including their contact and product data to service information and history.

If customer information is in one system, product information on another screen, company and departmental collaboration in a separate system another, you are left with “a swivel chair” problem. Instead of an end-to-end experience that integrates customer service with the rest of the organization, each agent is left to perform “swivel chair” integration by moving their chair as they go from screen to screen or system to system. They are often required to copy and paste information from one screen or system to another—not for data entry, but just to get to the information they need to solve the problem at hand. This slows agent response and increases customer dissatisfaction.

Finally, how well does the customer service management system help the agent manage their work effectively? Can they easily manage multiple cases or customers? Oftentimes systems are not optimized for agent work, requiring a lot of effort and time to navigate to the right information.

Inspect the roadway

Next, it’s important to examine the overall effects of new technologies. Many organizations have introduced chatbots in an effort to give customers quick answers to simple, routine questions while relieving agents from answering recurring questions. Sixty-nine percent of customers use them for this purpose. Research shows that chatbots can answer 80% of routine questions, speeding response times.

What happens when the chatbot can’t answer the customer’s question? Typically, the customer is transferred to an agent. In these instances, technology needs to give the agent what they need to solve the problem. The detailed chat interaction is a critical part of this service history. Arming agents with prior chat interactions helps ensure that the customer’s request doesn’t hit a brick wall.

Provide pure power

“Knowledge is power,” said Sir Francis Bacon. Once you’ve given agents what they need to be faster and more efficient, how do you empower agents to keep pace with ever-changing technology, product, and service environments? Knowledge.

As automation and AI increasingly take on common customer requests,  agents are left handling the more challenging cases. In order to do that effectively, they need the ability to access knowledge in every area of their company.

The key is to provide agents with seamless, contextual, automatic search that accesses information and answers faster by working across multiple sources such as knowledge base articles, answers in online community forums, and other sources.

What if the issue is brand new and affects multiple customers? Given the pace of business today, it’s critical to ensure your technology can assist your agents by proactively matching and providing information on known issues. As an agent handles a case, the system should be able to advise the agent as to whether similar cases are happening with other customers or accounts.

Machine learning and other emerging tech can help surface similar incidents and problems related to product families or major outages. This keeps the agent in the know as conditions change and arms them with the very latest in information, so they can better serve their customer.

And when agents solve those new problems, make it easy for them to share. As cases are closed, you should simplify the process of turning solutions into knowledge articles. Make it simple to submit answers to knowledge editors using workflow so the solution can be edited and published for other agents and customers to benefit from.

Shift into high gear

Your customer service agents play a huge role in delivering great customer experiences. Their work is hugely important. The latest research shows:

  • 26% of customers will stop purchasing from a company after a single bad experience
  • 92% will stop after three or fewer bad experiences

Don’t be one of the companies left by the side of the road. Give your agents the technology they need and keep them updated with the latest information. You’ll transform their ability to provide customers with satisfying and fast answers to their issues. And if you can do that, your customers are far more likely to keep coming back.

Paul Selby
Paul Selby is a product marketing director for ServiceNow Customer Service Management. Previously Paul held product management and customer service and technical support management roles at several software companies, serving all industry segments and large enterprise to small business and retail customers. An avid runner, he resides in Springfield, Oregon and can often be found putting miles in on the streets of his hometown.

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