It’s Time to Staff Up for a Better Customer Experience!

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1 Hour telephone hold rates. 45-minute wait for chats. 5-7day delays in email responses. These are just a few examples of what I’ve been experiencing the last few weeks when trying to contact customer service at a variety of organizations. In some cases, I had cash in hand and was ready to buy, in others I had order issues that needed to be addressed. Order issues like incorrect stock levels, credit card holds, and delayed shipments were commonplace. In a nutshell, my service calls were a result of a less than desirable online experience.
And without exception, every organization I contacted had the same message on their phone system or website: Due to COVID-19 we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes so please expect delays in answering your inquiry.
Here’s where my frustration comes into play. It’s been 6 months since we started encountering the effects of the pandemic. I can understand the early scramble to ensure the safety and well-being of customer service agents. It took time to convert them to remote environments, ensure they had the right tools available to do their jobs and create a culture for them that was supportive of both their personal and professional lives. And if an organization is one of the lucky ones that is seeing increased volumes from this pandemic, there’s been enough time to hire more staff and train them to take inquiries from customers. There are also plenty of third-party providers with resources available to ramp up contact centers. And let’s not forget the stressful environments being created for existing employees as they struggle to keep up with never-ending calls and unhappy customers taking out their dissatisfaction on them.
So, what’s happening? Why are organizations subjecting their customers to a poor experience? I hesitate to mention it but are some using the pandemic as an excuse NOT to staff up despite increased business? I can understand ongoing issues with warehousing and distribution due to the need to have employees near one another but why are customer service departments not staffed up by now?
Certainly, there are companies that reacted proactively resulting in seamless transactions and consistent experiences for their customers. Companies that are realizing a dramatic decrease in orders may be overlooking potential future opportunities for growth by not delivering exceptional customer interactions today. What is your contingency plan to avoid long hold times, improving mediocre websites, eliminating ordering nightmares and lastly retaining the reputation with your customer?
What can organizations due to address these customer experience points of friction?
1. Pursue a one and done model so customers are satisfied without having to call back or follow up. This usually requires giving agents the authority to solve issues, process orders, etc. without the need for checking with a supervisor.
2. Provide agents with enough flexibility to satisfy frustrated customers once they do connect with your frontline employees. Free, discounted, or expedited shipping. Coupons for future purchases. Instant savings on the current order.
3. Eliminate the need to get approvals from supervisors. This delays resolution, increases average handle time, and causes further angst for your customers.
4. Use available technology to your advantage. Utilizing call back features that hold a customer’s place in line reduce frustration and balance volumes in real-time.
5. Check to ensure your technology is working properly. At times, heavy volumes can stress even the best technology or telephony platforms that can result in mis-routed calls, repeating hold messages and unintended disconnects.
6. Celebrate employee wins. Even in a remote environment, celebrating employees who go above and beyond with recognition and reward can go a long way to alleviate their anxiety in dealing with heavy volumes.
This pandemic isn’t going away. It’s time to staff up if your volumes are benefiting from this pandemic. The result will surely be a better customer experience!

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