Customer Service Isn’t the Cost You Want to Cut

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“Your call / email / chat is important to us, but we are experiencing unusual volume at this time.” If you’ve had a reason to reach out to your mortgage company, cell phone provider, or favorite retailer, this might be the response you’ve received.

I have spent hours contacting a cell phone provider over a billing error, and one month later, I still don’t have a resolution. With some of the frustration I’m hearing, you might assume that customer service is taking a hit – particularly when there are daily reports of inflation, an oncoming recession, and the need to cut costs constantly.

During this uncertain time, you might also be lulled into thinking that your customer service or support center is the best place to trim spending. As someone who has been in this industry on and off for 30+ years, that would be a mistake.

I’m aging myself, but I lived through the dot.com bust in the late ‘90s and a few recessions. I’ve seen companies pull back on spending in areas they believed to be “not as critical” (like customer support or the contact center) to the organization’s success, only to have it come back to haunt them.

These same companies found themselves having slow growth and customer service and customer retention issues. Why? Cutting back on customer service when some of your competitors are implementing tools and solutions to offer better contact resolution and ensure the right skilled agents are available at the right time is short-sighted at best and disastrous at worst.

Instead, it is smarter and more sustainable to increase the level of customer support you provide your customers. Thanks to innovative technologies, which can bring new efficiencies and cost savings, you can do more with less. It is an opportunity to retain customers and employees—and secure new ones along the way.

The New Shift

Providing exceptional customer service is certainly not a new concept. It’s been a theme across business books, case studies, and articles. The reality is that if your organization doesn’t provide a superior experience, your customer can look elsewhere.

Customers want empathetic customer experiences – to be heard and have their issues resolved (either through self-service or other means). When they do need to speak, text, or email with someone, they want that person to have the skills and know-how to resolve their issue.

When it comes to customer service and customer experience today, what is the best approach for organizations to prepare for success? Here are a few best practices to ensure they are ready:

The Three E’s: Educate (or train), engage, and empower your staff (or agents) to address all customer queries. Having siloed teams (whether because of hybrid, remote or different work schedules) can be challenging. Make sure you plan team meetings and use quality management software to keep them up-to-speed, motivated and involved. This approach may seem like a no-brainer, but if they are not, both the employee and the customer experience suffer.

Empathetic Customer Experiences: We often forget that agents or customer support personnel are the difference between mediocre or brag-worthy customer experiences. By educating, engaging and empowering your teams, they will be in a better place to provide empathetic customer experiences. Once you provide foundational training on empathy, use sentiment analysis software to understand better how customers feel after particular interactions.

Do More with Less: Workforce Engagement (WEM) software can help provide streamlined and cost-effective platforms to address business goals and needs with AI-powered forecasting, scheduling, and real-time adherence monitoring. Ensuring you have accurate forecasts helps ensure that you make the most of your talented team and lower operational costs by not over or under-scheduling.

What’s Next

It is sometimes hard to think beyond the here and now in today’s uncertain environment and consider investing in customer experience. From what I’ve seen in my career, the companies that do well after an economic crisis are laser-focused on what’s most important – caring for and retaining customers while also continuing to grow. Focusing on the customer journey and enablement wherever possible via digital initiatives and AI and doubling down on customer transformation programs will enable your organization to not just survive, but also thrive in 2023 and beyond.

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