Where Human Touch Still Matters: The Importance of Real Customer Service in an Automated World


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It’s 4 a.m. on a Wednesday, and Luis is taking his “lunch” break. Luis works the third shift — the graveyard shift — as a custodian at a local college. He has 30 minutes to pay a bill, cash a check and clock back in at work. But what business is open at 4 a.m to fulfill these needs?

For companies that have the means to stay open 24/7/365, it is customer service at its best. It’s being there (live, in person) to connect, listen, build a relationship and make a positive difference for someone like Luis. And from a business perspective, it’s a decision that differentiates companies and demonstrates an all-in commitment to serving customers’ needs, no matter when they arise.

To many, the idea of being open 24/7/365 may seem counterintuitive to business success: There’s not enough volume, too much overhead or a lack of productivity. And I get that. What works for one company may not work for another. The bottom line is to provide the best customer service you can. Here are key ways to do that, whether or not you and your company are in the position to serve customers around the clock.

Anticipate Needs

Do your customers work unconventional hours? There are millions of men and women who burn the candle at both ends to make a living. Their contributions are not only worthwhile, but critical. The nurse who’s on duty to help deliver that baby who couldn’t wait a few more hours. The truck driver who’s delivering parts needed first thing the following morning. And custodians like Luis, who made the choice to make a career out of making a difference for students.

When a customer takes the time to visit your company, either in-store or online, what do you expect their needs are? It will vary depending on your industry, but it’s important to visualize the most optimal customer experience, and take the steps to make it happen. Does your customer need emotional support? New ideas they hadn’t considered? Basic knowledge of an industry before making an important decision? Or perhaps they need your company’s services in the middle of the night when everything else is closed.

Once you’ve determined your clients’ top need, how can you meet that need and exceed customer expectations in order to build loyalty and trust? We have found that having a human answering phones and greeting customers in-store is vital to handling real problems in a way that meets real needs.

Know Your Customer

Additionally, a company that knows the patterns, likes and dislikes of their customers has the best chance of keeping them as customers. In almost all industries, consumers have options for where to do their business, and their decision will be based on which option meets their needs best.

Luis will choose the financial services company that’s open when he needs them in the middle of the night. In doing so, he’ll build meaningful relationships with the staff, share his experience with his friends and family and become a loyal customer.

Be sure to consistently analyze your customer data and feedback obtained from social media comments, reviews and survey results. What trends can be derived from it? Are you properly staffed during your peak hours? Is there a segment of your customer base that is underserved due to your hours, inventory levels or lack of employee-customer communication? If so, truly explore those insights and find appropriate solutions. It can be difficult to acknowledge your status quo may be subpar, but think of the benefit: an improved customer experience.

Create Company Advocates

Customer service is an essential part of every business. High-quality customer experience creates a loyal customer base. How do you create a compelling customer experience? Start with the people on the front-line.

When someone demonstrates that they truly value another person, the receiver will feel loyal to the giver, according to research outlined in Association for Psychological Science. That’s why it’s important for companies to appreciate their team members. Make sure your customer experience (CX) representatives know how much value they bring to the company in their role. From the very first day of onboarding, give them opportunities to experience your company culture, including interacting with upper management. And talk through your CX department’s vision statement and various culture programs, such as a recognition program that rewards employees for going the extra mile to solve a customer’s problem.

When your employees feel acknowledged and valued, they will naturally pass those sentiments on to the customers with whom they interact.

Data from the Sitel Group tells us that customer service is the main determinant of customer contentment and retention, so it should be a company priority to continually measure and adjust your strategy. In the world of constantly “new and improved” products and the rush to find the next big thing, it’s easy for customer service to become an afterthought. Don’t let it. Commit to making customer service a core component of your brand’s offering. By anticipating needs, analyzing your current customer and using your employees to extend company culture, you are on the fast track to creating a customer experience that will convert to a stronger bottom line for your business.


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