I tried to return something at a business I have patronized for many years. The customer service representative told me the barcode on the product wasn’t in the system. The implication was that I was lying and couldn’t have bought it from the company.
The situation was funny in a weird way because the company somehow managed to charge me using the non-existent barcode. The service rep immediately tried to get rid of me, though, once she had delivered the company’s “right” answer. Her attitude was that any further conversation was a waste of time. So get lost.
I have recommended the company to numerous colleagues and friends. Now, I feel very different. My doubt makes me wonder what future service will be like, especially regarding more expensive products. I’m not sure I’ll be able to give rave reviews ever again.
Many of today’s contact centers have shifted to a focus on first-call resolution, which at first glance is wonderful. Finally, customers are being factored into a key measurement of success! In the mad rush toward “one and done,” however, customer service often suffers. This mantra has become as much of a hindrance as a help.
‘The survey questions didn’t cover my area of concern or allow comments.’
The concept behind first-call resolution is that customers are helped completely the initial time they call a company. Customers are happier as a result, and the company will ultimately spend less on support because it saves time. Better service also improves customer retention. So what’s wrong with this concept? Nothing, except for how it’s actually accomplished.
In the first place, how many companies really find out what their customers think of their service? In my professional and personal experience, not enough. And, even when businesses do conduct surveys, they don’t always ask the right questions.
After a recent unpleasant encounter with a contact center, I was happy to fill out the survey, so I could let management know. Funny, though, the survey questions didn’t cover my area of concern or allow comments (which are hard to tabulate automatically). Undoubtedly, as a result, this company has a distorted view of my satisfaction and can hardly have a valid customer perspective.
Mike Trotter, of Purdue University’s Center for Customer Driven Quality, suggests a simple solution. Ask one question just as you finish the call: “Are you happy?” If the answer is, “No,” find out why and make changes to your operations. This excellent approach delivers valuable information, so why don’t more companies do it?
What makes excellent service from a customer’s view? Have you ever seriously asked your customers? Listen to what your customers tell you, and I’m sure it will have two elements: knowledge and attitude. Many companies spend lots of time training people on products or services, because they think this is most important. Attitude is just as important, if not more so, and this is where most companies fail.
A customer should be happy getting correct information, shouldn’t she? Well, not if she feels undervalued or misunderstood at the end of the call. That was the case with my experience. Is that first-call resolution or customer dissolution?
First-call resolution isn’t a proactive measure. It implies that you wait for a customer to call you. So even if you handle contacts expertly, this is only part of the total customer experience. You should be providing a full range of relevant, valuable services to customers, when they’re needed. Delivering that critical nugget of information—an open appointment or a flight cancellation with rebooking information, for example—to customers wherever they are will differentiate your business to strengthen loyalty and turn your customers into advocates.
First-call resolution should be first-contact resolution. Even though phone calls may still be the primary way you interact with customers, you need to include multiple types of contacts, such as email, chat, video and web collaboration, for superior customer service. Expand your opportunities based on the requirements and expectations of your customers, and you’ll gain a competitive advantage by becoming more indispensable.
First-call resolution must be more than the latest business mantra. It needs to help your company deliver holistic, matchless, customer-centric service. Combine complete knowledge of your products and services with a healthy attitude and understanding of your customers and their expectations to provide a comprehensive and proactive customer experience. You’ll succeed at first-call resolution—and much more.