customer with a computer showing a 'please wait' page

Four ways to anticipate customers’ needs before they ask for help

CX Best Practices

Customer service has become more than just fielding a phone call when a problem arises.

In an increasingly competitive and saturated commercial marketplace, businesses are feeling the pressure to foster ongoing relationships with their customers in an effort to promote brand and company loyalty. In order to accomplish this, their customer service teams need to be ready to respond — and in many cases, even before the customer knows what they need.

Whether customers are looking for technical support, pre-sales information, or if they just want to voice their concerns, companies need to be proactive in creating positive relationships with consumers. The following strategies can help companies sync with the needs of their current, and would-be, customer base:

1. Mobile-first support structure

Make mobile access a priority. When a customer encounters an issue or wants information they are more likely to have their mobile device with them than they are to be near a computer or landline phone. A study by PEW Research Center found that as of 2015, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone, suggesting that a mobile app may be the preferred vehicle to establish connection.

It’s important that your app supports all current mobile platforms and offers options that include chat, voice connection, email and troubleshooting FAQs. Alternatively, make certain your support information is easily found through online search — and that once found, the support page displays properly on every type and size of device. Your contact information should also be prominently displayed at the top of the page so customers are not forced to scroll through multiple screens to make contact.

2. Gamification and entertainment

Gamification is a great way to create engagement with your customers. Consider adding elements of gaming to your support interaction, such as badges or points customers can earn as rewards for answering questions correctly on community boards or help forums. These could even be translated into discounts for future purchases.

If developing a gamification model is too complex, creating an environment that uses an entertaining style is another strong option. Southwest Airlines has leveraged this tactic in their passenger-safety demonstrations, in which flight attendants are encouraged to present the federally mandated (read: typically dry) instructions in a fun, interactive way. They still present the mandatory information but in a much more entertaining style.

When applied to the contact center, agents can add their own personal touches to support encounters. The result can lead to a more positive and personal connection between the customer and the company.

3. Fast connection on the first call

People calling into contact centers are interested in getting help, not listening to on-hold sax solos. Aim to answer calls within the first three rings, and avoid holds and confusing call routing. These steps give customers the impression that the company is staffed by people who care about them. And when high call volumes or other mitigating factors make these things impossible, engage the customer with helpful information or options that change waiting periods to entertaining or informative uses of their time. Make the most of each call and build personal relationships by letting your customers know they are your priority.

4. Personalization

Linking inbound calls to a customer’s prior contact history gives them the impression you know who they are — and that you care — from the moment their call is picked up. Having an institutional memory of your customers and the reasons they’ve contacted customer service in the past helps to reinforce the idea that they matter to the company in the long run.

Whenever possible and appropriate, direct the call back to a representative who has worked with the customer in the past by using profile information to automatically route calls based on call history. Make it a priority to retain and confirm warranty and customer information during each call to ensure files are as complete as possible, and train customer service agents to take detailed notes to ensure future representatives have all the facts.

Successful business depends on retaining customers. With most support requests originating from a problem or concern, it’s important that your customer service team is ready and willing to turn that negative into a positive experience.

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