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Don’t make these five customer care mistakes

Posted October 2, 2018
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Providing customer care can be a delicate dance. Whether good or bad, the service your support team provides will invariably impact your revenue, brand loyalty, word of mouth and everything in between.

A 2017 study, conducted by management consulting and customer experience firm Northridge Group, found that 81 percent of consumers are likely to abandon a brand in favor of another if they experience poor customer care.

To ensure your organization doesn’t suffer a similar fate, avoid these five common mistakes.

1. Ignoring valuable data

Customer data is a gold mine of information that can be used to better the relationship between brand and consumer. And, according to Martyn Lewis, author of How Customers Buy… & Why They Don’t: Mapping and Managing the Buying Journey DNA, data is critical to improving customer service.

Lewis has seen companies make all manner of mistakes in customer service, from not appreciating the lifetime value of a customer to underestimating the negative impact they can have on their business and brand. He advises using data analytics as a compass to map the customer journey by first understanding what your customers are doing, then gauging what they expect from your company.

“Data is everything in my mind,” Lewis says. “You can sit back in your office and say your customer wants this or that, but how do you know? Data is the objective way of looking at it — and if that doesn’t support what your gut is telling you, something is askew. You’d better find out what it is.”

By data mining, businesses can better understand their market, spot areas in need of improvement, personalize the customer experience, boost efficiency and increase the speed with which queries are resolved — all of which can enhance the overall customer experience.

2. Failing to be proactive

Armed with insightful customer data, you’re better positioned to anticipate their needs. It’s important, therefore, that your customer support agents leverage it.

Rather than simply respond to queries, look for ways to propel the service experience forward, like routing calls to the appropriate agent based on predictive analytics to save your customers time and energy. Conducting phone-based customer surveys, along with post-chat surveys via messaging apps, can also help you identify common pain points.

Monitoring user activity across all support channels is equally informative. It allows businesses to spot behavioral patterns and trends that can then be addressed in future communications to get to the root of a problem earlier and avoid repeating that same mistake.

3. Relying entirely on automation

There’s no doubt that automated technology like chatbots and messaging tools factor into the modern customer experience, but if you aren’t leveraging human agents as well, then you aren’t maximizing the power of customer care. A recent survey of U.S. consumers found that “customers want a live representative above all other things that a call could offer.” Empathy and emotional intelligence can’t be expressed by a bot — at least, not yet. These characteristics can, however, be inspired in agents.

Murray Nossel, author of Powered by Storytelling and co-founder of business communication company Narativ, agrees. “Empathy is crucial,” Nossel, who has a background in clinical psychology, says. “Agents have to relate to customers as human beings, not just calls they need to scratch off a list that day. And in order to recognize customers as humans, their own humanity needs to be recognized (by companies).”

Nossel recommends rewarding empathetic behavior in the contact center and building a knowledge base of customer service examples that can be shared among agents. “You can then pass down wisdom about what to do in certain situations,” he says. “Two minutes of genuine communication with a customer will go a lot farther than three minutes of bromide being recited from a script.”

Nossel describes a scenario featured in his book, in which a customer service agent working for a medical insurance company received a call from a woman in search of a list of therapists for her husband, who refused to use a sleep apnea machine due to pre-existing fears and the high cost. Instead of dismissing the women’s concerns and handing over the list, the agent shared that he too used a sleep apnea machine. He got on the line with the husband, chatted about football, shared a story about a player who had died of sleep apnea and explained that the husband’s apnea machine would likely be covered by his insurance. All of this convinced the husband to give it a try.

“If you want to have a successful business with a loved brand,” Nossel says, “you have to make a connection with the customer.”

4. Not measuring effectiveness

When your goal is to deliver exceptional customer service, accurately measuring contact center activities and monitoring agent performance is a must. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like First Call Resolution (FCR), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Average Handle Time (AHT), and employee attrition reflect your level of customer care.

Here, too, data comes into play. “Many companies don’t truly understand the impact that unhappy customers can have on your business, from negative word of mouth to Net Promoter Score (NPS),” Lewis says. “You don’t want to be too focused on your own offering that you miss what the customer is really thinking.”

Lewis refers to this as “going inside out” versus “outside in”. In other words, to improve your CSAT rating you have to base your actions on customer activity and preferences rather than assuming you know how consumers behave. Only then can you provide more thoughtful, relevant and effective customer service.

5. Confusing multichannel with omnichannel

Research conducted by consulting firm Capgemini reveals that eight in 10 consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. That begs the question: Are you giving them what they want by meeting them where they are?

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From Multichannel to Omnichannel Customer Experience

A checklist to help organizations assess their readiness to make the jump from multichannel to omnichannel CX.

Download the checklist

Many organizations conflate omnichannel with multichannel in the context of customer care. They attempt to maintain a brand presence on every channel, from Snapchat to Facebook Messenger, without stopping to consider where their customers are actually spending their time. Instead, companies should take a purposeful omnichannel approach that incorporates the channels that make sense for their audience, and work toward creating a seamless, satisfying experience across each one. It’s far better to concentrate on the touchpoints relevant to your customer base than to spread yourself too thin.

By avoiding these missteps, companies will deliver better and more personalized customer service, reaping the rewards of happier and loyal customers. That payoff is well worth the extra effort.

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