And Accenture recently found through surveying consumers in the United States and United Kindom, 56 percent of them said they would be more likely to shop in-store and on-line at retailers that recognize them by name.
That's it - it's recognizing and greeting a person by his or her name. It makes customers more loyal.
In today's world of robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence, it seems so ironic, if not trite, that a technique predating our great grandmothers can have such a significant impact on customer loyalty.
It seems every time I take my car to the dealership, they have trouble finding me in their system. That’s because their system can only access a customer record under the customer’s full name. Not the last name, not the phone number, but only by the complete name. So if your name is Robert Jones, and you tell the service agent you’re Bob Jones, she won’t find you.
“I’m sorry sir, we don’t have any record of you in our system.”
“Hmmm, that doesn’t make much sense – I bought the car from you, and I’ve had it serviced here at least six times since then. Can you try looking it up by my last name?”
“No, unfortunately, our system won’t let me do that. I have to look it up using your full name.”
Don’t blame the system for delivering a bad customer experience.
It lowers the customer's confidence.
Your objective as a customer service representative is to deliver a great experience. If the system makes it difficult to do that, the customer doesn’t need to know. If the customer is told that their records are managed by inferior technology, that lowers their confidence in the service provider.
It doesn’t speak well for the company leadership.
When an customer is told that the system is preventing them from receiving the quality service they deserve, the indirect message is “Someone in a leadership position chose a system that doesn’t treat me well.” That doesn’t bode well for the customer’s perception of their company’s leadership.
The system is 33% of the service experience.
A service experience is comprised of people (the customer service representatives), processes (those processes followed by the CSR’s) and technology (the systems used by the CSR’s). When a CSR discounts the quality of the system, they’re indirectly discounting the quality of the service.
How to overcome the system deficiencies
No system is perfect. So it’s important for CSR’s to understand where the deficiencies lie, and establish work-arounds. In the example at the beginning of this article, that may mean the following:
Don’t say, “I’m sorry Mr. Jones, we have no record of you in our system.”
Instead, take it upon yourself to employ a “silent workaround.” Try searching for the record again using the common knowledge proper name for Bob Jones – “Robert Jones.”
Common sense? Absolutely. But common sense is violated every day.
The Key Point
The key point here is to never blame the system for delivering poor customer service. Doing so sends unintended negative messages to the customer, which compound a poor experience. Instead, know where the system deficiencies lie, and establish ways to work through them; ways that are invisible to the customer.
Your ultimate goal is to deliver a superior customer experience, whatever it takes!
An article in the January-February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review says that “Across all industries, fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.”
If you’re running a Service Center, that should be music to your ears.
If you don’t already have a fully equipped customer Self Service Portal with access to a well-curated knowledge base, that statistic should be your motivation to make 2017 be the year you make it a priority.
And if you’ve already put a portal and knowledge base in place, but are not seeing results above 50%, perhaps it’s time to take a step back, reevaluate, recalibrate and put some more rigorous processes in place to drive higher results.
But let's go back to the key findings in the article.
2 Dynamics that Affect Service Quality delivered by Service Center Reps
The article goes on to point out two dynamics that result from this high use of self-service:
As customers handle more of the simple issues themselves, front line service center reps get increasingly more difficult ones.
While companies have invested heavily in self-service technologies, they have not invested proportionally in training reps to handle this higher concentration of complex issue.
So, here’s the challenge: You’ve been successful in driving customers to self-service. Customers are using it, and solving all those easy problems on their own. So now, when they need to speak with a live rep, it’s because the problem is more complex. Consistently resolving more complex issues requires a team of Tier One service center reps with a different set of skills than before the days of dominant self-service.
What's the right type Service Center Rep to hire in in the Age of Self Service?
To determine the optimal service rep profile to address the challenge, CEB conducted its 2015 Frontline Workforce Fit and Engagement Survey. The survey results found that reps fall into one of seven profiles listed in the graphic at the end of this article. Then contact center managers were surveyed to determine which of the seven types they preferred to hire.
What types of Service Center Reps do Managers Prefer?
42% of managers interviewed preferred to hire and manage Empathizers, with their empathic and sympathetic demeanor with customers, and their service orientation.
Each of the seven rep types were also rated on their ability to make service interactions as effortless and painless as possible for the customer. Customer satisfaction, and productivity measures were also factored in to the ratings.
There's another type of Service Rep - the Controller - who tend to be more outspoken, don't follow scripts, but are very solution-oriented. As you'll see, these reps were not exactly preferred by managers, despite their high scores in productivity and customer satisfaction.
Are those Managers Getting it Wrong?
Here’s the big surprise: The “Controller” reps – those who are outspoken, and more solution-focused than empathy-sympathy-service focused – were the top performers in terms of bottom-line results. Yet service managers prefer this profile less than all the others. In fact, only 2% of all service managers said they would hire Controllers ahead of any other type of rep.
Here’s the point: While an increased use in self-service has changed the requirements for Tier one service representatives, most managers have not changed their hiring practices.
What type rep are you most likely to hire, and how well will they do in resolving today’s more complex customer requests?