Today’s savvy businessperson is learning more and more that the benchmark of a company’s success lies not in predicting trends or rising stocks, but in something much simpler: Customer Service. But while this may seem like a very back-to basics approach, it is also factual. Seventy-six percent (76%) of consumers feel that the true mark of how a company values them is through customer service, and 81% of companies that clearly demonstrate the ability to deliver a superior customer experience are beating the competition. Customers are even shown to be willing to pay more for better customer service. But when their customer experience is less than stellar, it can spell disaster for a business.
A recent survey showed that 55% of people stopped patronizing at least one business within the past year due to poor customer experience, even if they love the product/service the business offers. In fact, one bad experience can keep 40% of customers away from a company for two or more years. Yet it doesn’t stop there – 95% of customers are more likely to share bad experiences with their friends, as opposed to 87% of those who share good experiences. Negative press has always travelled faster than positive feedback, with the offended party telling their friends and family, and they tell other people, etc. And with bad customer experiences much more easily shared online, there exists a ripple effect that can potentially ruin a company in a matter of seconds.
Of course, “bad” customer service can cover a range of experiences. While for some people it includes long wait times and slow service, most customers would agree what is even worse is a representative’s poor attitude. Many people are aware of the infamous phone call that went viral earlier this year between a (former) Comcast customer and a customer service representative for the company, with harassment and bullying tactics on the part of the representative. But for most people, negative customer experiences are not that extreme. Instead, the attitude that is seen as most detrimental (and seen far more frequently) is one of indifference. Too often representatives convey a tone that indicates they simply do not care about the customer or their problem.
And guess what? They probably don’t.
In April 2015, International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), along with Five9, released a report entitled “Agent Apathy: The Root Cause of Poor Customer Service”. Based on a survey called “The Modern Agent: Understanding Performance, Productivity, and Positive Results” which was distributed to 404 contact centers at the beginning of the year, the report revealed that most contact center agents experience high levels of stress on a daily of basis, and are becoming more and more apathetic. When morale is low, it is to be expected that it will eventually seep into an agent’s interaction with a customer. Businesses cannot expect agents to provide superior customer service when they are experiencing inferior job satisfaction. So what can be done? When asked what is needed to help improve performance, two answers were commonly given: Better Technology and Better Training.
A call center needs to have the right technology to provide customers with superior service, but many of today’s call centers lack such means. In fact, 71% of call center agents interviewed reported system complications and inefficient tools to help solve their customers’ problems, leading to frustrations on both ends. Agents are on the front lines with customers every day; having them use outdated, useless technology is like sending today’s soldiers into battle with muskets and bayonets. Unfortunately, too many companies are hesitant to spend money on such means, and do not seem to be interested in the ROI when it comes to new technology for their agents. However, by providing better tools and technology in the call center, like speech analytics which can monitor agent interactions with customers and capture elements of the customer experience directly from the actual voice of the customer, companies can quickly assess and address agent performance and satisfaction concerns immediately. This would help improve job satisfaction and productivity, which would lead to happier, more loyal customers.
Call center agents should be trained well enough to handle most (if not all) of a customer’s problems. Unfortunately, agents frequently receive only the bare minimum in training, and are thus ill-prepared to help resolve all issues, especially when they are more complex. But with relevant training, skill development, and regular feedback, agents can develop a sense of purpose and be able to see the results of their efforts. With call center monitoring tools like a speech analytics application, call center managers/supervisors do not have to wait until performance reviews to offer helpful suggestions to their agents. Instead, they can regularly offer input on where an agent is excelling, and where there could be room for improvement. By helping agents develop their skills, call centers can make agents feel self-assured and empowered, and more apt to provide customers with exceptional service.
Despite the fact that 87% of contact center leaders say they are aware of growing stress and apathy in their agents, most are not taking meaningful steps to solve the problem. If they mean it when they say that customer experience and loyalty is of the utmost importance, then they need to do all they can to ensure it. According to a recent Gallup State of the American Workplace report, organizations that engage both their employees and customers experience a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes. Happy agents demonstrate better, more consistent work, which helps retain customers.
Agents who are given the optimal means to do their jobs are more confident, and more likely to provide customers with the best possible experience. By following simply steps, companies can make call center agents the stars of the organization, which will help immensely with bridging the gap between a business and their customers, improving satisfaction and loyalty on both ends of the company-customer relationship. When businesses invest in the happiness of their call center agents, they are also investing in the happiness of their customers. It’s not complicated: A happy agent means a happy customer, and a happy customer means a more successful business.Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community