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Improve customer service without breaking the bank

CX Best Practices

By all accounts, customer experience (CX) has become the single most important differentiator between brands. More and more customers choose — and stick with — brands that consistently deliver positive interactions across multiple channels throughout their entire customer journey — from product awareness, to purchase, through to ongoing support. Great CX matters so much to customers, that many are often willing to pay more for this type of excellent service.

"Investing in creating a good service experience will pay off. Consumers choose to do business with companies that take care of them," says CX expert and speaker Shep Hyken, whose company Shepard Presentations surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and found that more than half were willing to pay more for good customer service. "While delivering an amazing customer service experience won't make price irrelevant, it will make it less relevant," he adds.

Being able to afford the infrastructure required to deliver best-in-class customer service, however, can be another story altogether. It's easy for industry experts make the argument for investing in great CX, but the reality is, not every company has the budget to make it happen right away. But, all is not lost! Here are a few ways to significantly improve your brand's customer service without 'breaking the bank'.

Create self-service options

Without a doubt, the number-one way to decrease per-customer service costs is to enable them to efficiently and effectively help themselves. In fact, creating a self-service option often pays for itself and costs less than voice and other support channels in the long run, says Hyken. "It can reduce some overhead, but more importantly, it can give your customers a better experience when they need help and support," Hyken says.

Something as simple as a good FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on a website or a good how-to video library can give customers quick and easy access to helpful information. And the best part? For most organizations, the knowledge needed to build such a resource already exists among the current workforce, so no additional research is necessary.

Balance next-gen tech with a human touch

While they do require a significant upfront investment, chatbots and IVR systems (Interactive Voice Response) are other great tech-based solutions for reducing customer support costs over time. In a similar vein to FAQs, companies can use chatbot technology to reply to common questions with simple, easy-to-understand answers, or to help with resetting passwords.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that not all customer requests are simple enough for automated technology to handle, and treating them as one-size-fits-all can create greater costs in the long run. For more complex issues, Hyken recommends companies "have a quick and easy way to get the customer to a human for support. The best companies have balanced the digital/self-service support with convenient human backup."

Remove obstacles from the customer journey

When creating ways to improve CX, sometimes it's just as important to remove obstacles as it is it to create new processes. This could include reducing the number of clicks a customer needs to perform to find information on your website, or increasing the discoverability of FAQs or support forums.

As an example, real estate firms have enabled e-sign on a much wider scale, eliminating the need for customers to print and sign legal documents. When you demonstrate that you're listening and doing something to address a pain point, customers are quick to reward you with thanks — and continued business.

Empower your frontline team members to own the customer experience

Sometimes, just changing the KPIs you're using to measure success can offer one of the lowest-cost ways to improve customer service. While it may seem counter-intuitive, companies that promote metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) often do themselves a disservice. Shifting to measure First Call Resolution (FCR ) instead and actually spending more time solving customers' problems properly during the first interaction with your brand can significantly reduce costs in the long run.

So does empowering agents with the freedom to 'go off script' with customers. That's because it's nearly impossible to anticipate and capture all the variations of today's complex problems in a manual. The benefits of this become clear when you consider what happens when a customer interacts with a disengaged agent. "When customers reach someone who doesn't have permission to help them, they will do two actions that cost you more: escalate to another person, or hang up and start over again," says CX author and keynote speaker Jeanne Bliss.

While both of these customer actions cost you money in terms of repeat calls, Bliss says the costs extend beyond that interaction. Receiving poor service actually decreases customer confidence and lifetime value; customers walk away from companies that require them to do so much work to get basic assistance. Most importantly, though, "they cost you the spirit of your employees who are not trusted and given permission to read the situation and act," Bliss says.

In the end, empowering your frontline team members to use their intelligence and problem-solving abilities is the absolute best way to improve your customer service, and it doesn't require any additional monetary investment at all.

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