The most fundamental way to build customer rapport is to demonstrate understanding of customer needs. Customers today expect speed, personalisation and convenience when communicating with companies and service providers, and they expect to communicate via the channel of their choice. But equally, if contact centres are not removing the causes of customer frustration and working to make every interaction feel more human, then building strong customer rapport will remain a pipedream.
As contact centres wise up to the digital age and embrace innovative technology, is it still possible to keep interactions human? The answer is yes. If used the right way, technology can absolutely help to remove the causes of frustration, resolve customer issues quickly and effectively and demonstrate an understanding of your customers as individuals. Here are three key rules to follow to build and improve customer rapport:
1. Think multi-channel
It is important that you understand your customers and how they like to communicate. Of course, every industry and every business is different; but in general, customers across all demographics prefer a choice of channels, appreciate self-service for simple transactions and want to know there is a live agent to talk to if their issue cannot be solved any other way.
Some customers will prefer to send an email for a non- urgent enquiry instead of calling, while others will prefer web chat to resolve a minor issue without having to make a lengthy call. And increasingly, mobile apps are providing customers with the personalisation, choice and convenience they need. Find out what your customers want, and then work to adapt your channel strategy in line with their needs.
Once you have all your channels set up, make sure you keep things consistent. This means maintaining a uniform tone of voice, with service levels and brand messaging customized for each channel.
And of course, the key to multi-channel success is to make sure your agents have cross-channel visibility. That can be easier said than done, but increasingly organisations are turning to cloud platforms which were designed for a multi-channel world. And it is worth the effort; 78% of customers say they are likely to recommend a company they can communicate with regardless of channel without having to re-explain their query, according to West research.
2. Make the most of data with intelligent routing
One of the key ways in which technology can help humanise every interaction between contact centres and customers – and remove the frustration of waiting on hold to speak to an agent whether via phone or webchat – is through an intelligent contact flow.
Make sure your technology is enabling agents to manage contacts across multiple channels while fulfilling both simple tasks and complex enquiries with ease. This is not just about interactive voice response (IVR). This is about using data and information that you already have to guide customers through their contacts with you, making sure that they are better served and removing friction.
Data-directed routing allows you to flexibly route each customer to the best person every time, from the moment they contact you. With the right technology, customer information such as phone number, email address or even Twitter handle can be referenced in the CRM instantly to identify them. Where they go from there is completely subject to how you want to assign the system to best serve your customers.
If used to its full potential, data-directed routing can be a great way to demonstrate empathy with your customers. Empathy is about showing awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people, rather than talking about your own. You can build on commonality even if you are not allowed to divulge personal information and opinions. Take for example, you ordered some groceries via the internet and there was a broken jar of jam that went on all the other products. Simply acknowledging that it happened – “no one would like that happening to them” – can show empathy.
In email or social media communications, keywords can also be used as data points for more intelligent routing. So, for example, a keyword search for a certain technology product name would ensure the email was forwarded to the team with the right skills to resolve that enquiry. With further keyword analysis, determining that the word “broken” for example would direct the email to a helpdesk, while “invoice,” would send it to the billing department.
3. Flexible scripts make agents more human
Another way in which technology helps to build rapport is through flexible scripting. Flexible scripts give agents some room to be more human, and helps them to deal with the increasingly complex nature of customer calls. Because scripts can be adapted in real-time, they can always evolve in the natural direction of the call and support the agent throughout the entire process.
Much like call flows, call scripts were traditionally static. They required agents to read from them verbatim, and did not adapt to the needs of the customer or the information supplied. As a result, agents ran the risk of sounding robotic, unable to deviate from the script, even if a customer request made this the most logical thing to do!
Dynamic scripting doesn’t just give agents the flexibility to respond to customers in a more human way. If done well, it will also dramatically increase the percentage of successful call outcomes, helping contact centres meet First Contact Resolution (FCR) targets, as well as increasing customer satisfaction and potentially reducing call durations.
Customer rapport depends on both technology and agents
All of this might sound easy, but in too many instances, legacy technology systems are just not flexible enough to enable the contact centre to meet customers’ needs. Cloud contact platforms can resolve this issue, particularly if they are built with multi-channel contact and a better user and customer experience in mind. Ultimately, building customer rapport requires a combination of flexible technology, processes and skilled agents who are empowered to put their relationship skills to good use.