Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Top 5 Ways Contact Centers Annoy Customers

By: Erica Marois

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” –Bill Gates

What’s the secret to delivering outstanding customer service? Start by addressing customer pain points. If not, you may be sending your customers straight to the competition. According to 2015 Harris Interactive research, 69% of customers are willing to pay more for a product or service with a solid service reputation. Does your company fall in this category, or belong in the service hall of shame? The stakes are high, and if you want to provide superior service you need to eliminate the process, policies, and procedures that contribute to customer frustration.

In Brad Cleveland’s book Call Center Management on Fast Forward, he outlines ten key expectations that shape customer sentiment today. If you’re not meeting these expectations, you’re probably annoying your customers, and you should definitely stop.

This post will cover five of the most common ways contact centers annoy their customers. Be honest, which are you guilty of, and how can you improve in 2017?

   1. Being Difficult to Reach/Not Being Responsive

Basic phone support during 9-5 business hours is no longer enough. Your customers are connected. Are you? While small businesses can’t always offer 24/7 customer support, they can (and should) provide customers with self-service options outside of normal business hours. Furthermore, make sure customers can find you easily! Go look at your website. How easily can you find the proper phone number, email address, or social handles to use for service? The standard service hours? Modern accessibility means communicating clearly, and doing so on the customer’s terms. Forcing them to hunt for information is a fast track to frustration.

Ignoring them all together is also a recipe for disaster. For example, your customers are having conversations about your company on social media. Whether or not you choose to respond speaks volumes. According to research from Maritz and evolve24, 70% of customer complaints on Twitter goes unanswered. Is your company an offender? Start thinking of ways to listen and respond to customers in channels you’re currently ignoring.

   2. Being Rude, Disrespectful, or Apathetic

The companies with sterling service reputations commit to hiring and retaining employees with a passion for customer experience. Skills are easy to train, but attitude-- not so much. An attitude of courtesy, respect, and customer focus, starts from the top. Accordingly, executive leaders need to set the tone, shape the culture, and demonstrate respect to customer support professionals. Agents are often the only point of communication between your brand and your customers. Stop treating contact center agents like entry-level hourly employees and start treating them like they’re important team members--because they are.

Moreover, tolerating apathetic, disengaged employees communicates that your customers aren’t that important. And one toxic team member can destroy morale for the whole center. Don’t let that happen. 

   3. Wasting Customer’s Time/ Not Resolving the Issue on the First Contact

Next up on the list of contact center offenses are two enormous time wasters that truly annoy your customers. First, having to repeat information. Second, having to reach back out a second time to resolve an issue

In order to solve these problems, find the root issues. To get started, try these tips:

  • Secret shop—call your contact center, visit the website and look for self-service options, test the mobile app, send a social inquiry, etc. Take the time to walk in your customer’s shoes, so you can experience their pain points. Never assume you know what those pain points are, and never assume that a process you think will work well actually will.

  • Ask your agents for feedback—they are often the best source of customer feedback and insight. Tap into their knowledge, and go further by encouraging them to submit suggestions for improvement. 

  • Partner closely with other departments—the customer experience depends not just on the contact center, but the organization as a whole. Every single interaction a customer has with your brand impacts their perception and their experience. Keeping the lines of communication open between all departments prevents disjointed experiences, and ensures that everyone is aware of issues that require attention. 

   4. Keeping Customers in the Dark

Speaking of open lines of communication, this one is simple. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be proactive. Are power outages possible in the near future? Are you rolling out a new app? Will mobile banking shut down for a few hours? Let your customers know ahead of time—don’t wait for them to discover a problem on their own. Keeping customers in the know with proactive updates demonstrates respect, and also simplifies life for your agents.

Again, cross-departmental collaboration is key. If your contact center isn’t aware of marketing promotions, outages, or IT challenges, how can your team relay the information to customers?

   5. Not Providing Well Trained & Informed Staff

Perhaps the root of all of these missteps lies in the extent contact centers invest in their employees. We’ve all experienced the negative effects. How often have you called a contact center for help and gotten the run around because the agent wasn’t prepared to handle your request, or had no prior knowledge of your history as a customer. As Sheri Kendall-DuPoint pointed out in a recent #ICMIchat, training should move beyond information dumps, and instead, focus on active and action-oriented learning. Some of the best ways to accomplish that are through peer-to-peer learning and on-the-job, scenario-based training. For more advice on effective training practices, check out Elaine Carr’s What Works in Training article series.

Bringing it All Together

Delivering stellar customer service isn’t easy, but definitely worth the extra effort. By eliminating the common frustrations customers encounter, your contact center can be a hero. Not just for customers, but for the company as a whole. Commit to solving these problems and your reward will be more satisfied and loyal customers.

How has your contact center cut out the red tape and found ways to provide an improved customer experience? I’d love to hear your ideas! Leave them in the comments or send me a tweet.

Erica is the Community Strategist at ICMI. With a background in marketing, public relations, and social media, she brings more than eight years of community management experience to ICMI. 

Erica oversees ICMI’s robust network of community contributors – 500 strong! She also hosts ICMI’s weekly tweet chats (#ICMIchat) that feature dynamic, interactive discussions with thought leaders and innovators in the contact center community. Connect with Erica on Twitter: @EricaMarois

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