There are few more perennial business challenges than customer service. When competition is rife, customer service makes or breaks your business. All things being equal (and they often are), your ability to resolve customer concerns promptly and considerately is the difference between your business swimming or sinking.
Many businesses, including mid-sized and small businesses, lose sight of customer service. This is often because of immense pressure to produce new products and to make current ones as competitive as possible. Let’s be honest, the better the product, the fewer the complaints.
Another issue is focusing solely on unhappy customers. This is a common mistake. Customer service certainly means addressing the concerns of disgruntled customers. But it can also mean upselling new services to satisfied consumers. Beyond that, customer service drives brand reputation. If you aren’t careful, your brand can quickly get dragged through the mud if your customer service team isn’t responding quickly and efficiently.
Customer service can be expensive, though. Hiring enough people to reduce the time customers spend on hold or waiting for reply emails doesn’t come cheap. If your competition finds a way to lower customer service costs and improve support efficiency simultaneously, they’ll get a leg up on you.
So what are this year’s (and future years’) customer services challenges? And how do we solve them?
Well, frankly my dear, I do give a damn that you’ve asked. Here are a number of common customer service issues, along with modern, technological solutions.
Slow Response Times
When customers need help, they want it right away. And it doesn’t take long for someone facing a problem to become impatient. It’s human nature.
Whether there is truly a fault with your product, or the consumer is merely misguided, is irrelevant until you respond. Your response time will set the tone for the customer’s support experience. If you don’t get back to a customer promptly, that customer will stew and become more and more irritated.
Even if you can’t resolve the matter with the first call or email, responding quickly should help temper emotions. The customer will feel that you immediately took note of the issue. Most customers have a jaded view of customer service. And there’s good reason. One recent customer service benchmark study concluded that customer service response times average 12 hours.
In a modern, technologically advanced business world, that’s way too long.
Because chat bots that’s why.
Using Chat Bots to Improve Customer Service Response Times
Many businesses are leveraging the power of chat bots to reduce customer service response times. Chat bots use artificial intelligence and machine learning to answer customer questions in live text chats. While this may sound too pie in the sky to be a practical solution, you’ve most likely connected with a chat bot and not even realized it.
Can Ozdoruk, VP of Marketing at Netomi, a company that utilizes AI chatbots for businesses around the world, says that chat bot messengers are growing in popularity because they dramatically improve customer service response times.
“Companies are realizing more and more that high-quality chat bots dramatically improve customer service response times. This means happier customers. The early days of chat bots being unintuitive are far behind us. Today’s chat bot handles complex customer service dilemmas with solution-driven goals and the grace of a human,” Ozdoruk said.
The fact is, chat bot messengers improve customer service response times without the toll of inflated payrolls. In other words, a company can deploy an intelligent chat bot instead of employing enough people to respond to the flow of high-volume request times and then finding that you’re overstaffed when requests ebb.
“Many people think a chat bot service will break their bank. The fact is, it’s less expensive to leverage a chat bot than it is to go on a hiring spree,” Ozdoruk said in regards to expenses.
In some ways, using chat bots for customer service is just keeping up with the joneses. As the cliche implies, all businesses will likely soon use chat bots to improve their customer service. If you aren’t using one, you’re customers may find their way to your competitors.
Also I should note, chat bots won’t necessarily replace people. They just have the ability to be there when people aren’t. Chat bots are a great way to handle off-hour requests or even just the overflow that your customer service team can’t address when they’re helping other customers.
The Unpaid Invoice
Unpaid invoices and payment disputes can drain customer service energy, especially in the B2B sector. If you’re constantly tracking down payments or debating payment amounts, you’re wasting company energy.
But it’s a fact of business that you will inevitably have these challenges. The good news is, emerging technology may soon come to the rescue.
Blockchain Smart Contracts May Help
Blockchain can facilitate clear contracts that help remove the potential for disputes.
And you thought Bitcoin was just that weird investment opportunity your neighbor keeps hounding you about…it still kind of is, but I digress.
Smart contracts are “self-enforcing” documents shared across a network of computers.
Smart contracts also reduce the costs to produce a legally binding document. For example, if you are dealing with foreign businesses, a smart contract secures transactions for low costs.
Smart contracts only unlock when exact conditions are met. So therefore little legal oversight is necessary, which saves a lot of money. You can leverage a smart contract in simple cases, such as sending money from one person to another. You can validate property ownership. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Smart contracts reduce the amount of time you spend disputing payments. The result is more time spent increasing the value of your products.
The Angry Customer
Your product is top shelf. You care about your customers. You toil to make things perfect.
It doesn’t matter—you’re still going to make someone, somewhere, super agitated. And how your company handles such situations will define you to the public.
In other words, you must be on point when you interact with an upset customer. In today’s world of social media and business review sites, potential customers are looking at how you deal with challenges more than looking at your successes.
When it comes to tempering consumer dissatisfaction, Disney is a leader. They get a lot of practice. Disney moves tons of merchandise and therefore deals with a greater sheer number of customers, some small fraction of which will inevitably find something wanting with their product or experience.
To achieve the highest possible customer service results, Disney deploys what’s known as the H.E.A.R.D. technique. The acronym stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Resolve, Diagnose.
Disney customer service staff first listens to the consumer’s complaint (or reads it, depending on the support medium). This allows the consumer to vent frustrations, which can help reduce dissatisfaction. Many people just want to be heard; hence, the first part of the acronym.
The next step is to empathize with, or relate to, the customer’s anger. “I get it, I can sure see why you’d be frustrated today,” is an example of how representatives might convey empathy to customers.
Now, you apologize for the inconvenience you’ve caused the customer. Then, you follow that up by resolving the issue using clear steps and action items.
What do you intend to do to fix things? Are you issuing an immediate refund? Or will the refund take several days to register in the consumer’s account? Be clear and purposeful.
What you don’t want to do is come off as defensive. That’s a sure-fire way to exacerbate customer irritation.
Angry customers want to be heard. They want to understand that you can fix the issue and that you care. In the end, they’ll want to know you won’t make the same mistake again. So make that clear.
In dealing with angry customers, you will likely need the human touch. If you opt to use a chat bot, this may mean ensuring the chat bot is programmed to transfer tense conversations to a real, live human.
Deploy Live Video Chat to Help
Sometimes there is just no substitute for the real, fleshy thing. People want to talk to (you guessed it) people. A frustrated customer just wants to resolve the issue quickly by talking to a compassionate person eye-to-eye. There is no better way to achieve this than by leveraging face-to-face video communication.
Looking into someone’s eyes can quickly de-escalate a situation; it’s harder to be angry with someone you’re looking at than a faceless voice down the phone line. Eye contact matters; it inspires empathy. On both sides.
If you have the capacity for it, live video customer support will certainly bring an “about face” to your 2020 customer service goals.
Avoid Call Transfers, or Refine the Protocol
There is nothing worse than spilling your guts to a support team member only to learn that they can’t handle your situation.
These situations often prompt the death transfer. Meaning, you get placed back on hold, tortured by muzak in a desolate telephonic valley with not a human (nor even a chat bot) in sight.
First, let’s be clear, sometimes you have to transfer calls. It’s just the way it is. But here are some tips to make the experience better.
- Train staff on frequent problems that customers report. At the very least, you can cut down on transfers by equipping your customer service reps to handle your company’s most common customer service issues. If using a chat bot, the solution is much simpler because a sophisticated chat bot can be programmed to resolve a diversity of issues.
- When you do transfer, don’t “blind transfer.” Instead, stay on the line until the appropriate support representative picks up. Whatever you do, don’t blind transfer someone into a voicemail box, or even worse, more muzak. That’s certain to enrage your customer.
Virtual Live Call Transfers
To make things easier, consider using modern VoIP technology that makes call transfers easier. Such systems can allow phone calls to be transferred using cell phones and computers, which helps decrease the potential for accidental blind transfers.
In 2020, sophisticated technology is sure to drive customer service advances. This will mean businesses will be setting higher expectations for support communications. If your company is lagging behind the times on the technological front, you might find yourself underperforming in this critical customer service sphere. And that is bad for business.