4 characteristics of good customer service in 2021
The last year can, at best, be described as tumultuous, with many organisations disrupted by the mass move to remote working. For contact centres in particular, it has been quite the upheaval, as many have had to rapidly adopt a multitude of different customer service avenues – primarily on a cloud basis – enabling customers to contact them, for queries and complaints, on the channel of their choice.
While many contact centres were already anticipating the move to this new cloud-based, omnichannel environment before the pandemic, the overnight change to a new type of customer service came as a shock to many. Even a year on, the effects of the changes are still being felt as contact centres figure out how to move forward in this new customer service era. While the technical and logistical particulars are still being determined it’s important not to neglect the customer experience in the meantime. Below are some of the characteristics of what good customer service will look like in the year to come.
1. Proactive communication
With customers spending more time at home, online and on their devices, it’s never been a better time to ensure that they are being kept proactively informed about any changes to services and products, and that their needs are being anticipated. Not only is it good customer service, but it also prevents costly inbound contacts from customers who may feel left in the dark.
Targeted SMS, email or in-queue messaging can provide customers with updates on any issues with their order or changes to delivery times, for example. Proactive customer newsletters related to products or services being offered are also a great way to add value – these might be blogs or articles, or simple bits of information about service and product changes. This pre-empts customer queries by keeping them informed before they even ask a question.
2. More intelligent call flows
Customers don’t like to be kept waiting or be sent through to the wrong department. Each new generation of consumer entering the market is increasingly tech-savvy, is accustomed to instant responses from consumer technology, and wants queries to be resolved quickly and efficiently.
Consider incorporating more intelligence into your IVR and call flows. For example, start by capturing the reason customers are calling through your IVR – this means customers get put through immediately to the right department. This not only puts the customer at ease but also ensures agents’ time is being used effectively.
It is also worth letting customers know when your contact centre is busy – offer to call them back at a time that’s less busy or to keep their place in the queue virtually, allowing them to get on with their day and get an automatic call-back when they reach the front of the queue rather than having to wait.
Another marker of modern customer service is offering a more personalised approach, a trend that’s growing in strength everywhere, from promotional birthday vouchers to targeted online ads. As well as these typical incentivisation tools, contact centre operations play a key part in creating this personalised experience for customers who expect nothing but the best. Indeed, according to Salesforce, 64% of customers expect tailored engagement based on past interactions.
To achieve this level of personalisation, contact centres can use the likes of Caller Line Identification – which enables agents to have a customer’s account information and history at the ready – to greet a customer by name, adding that extra personal touch. This can also be used to send customers through to an agent who is familiar with their case. For high-value customers, their calls can be identified so that they can be routed through the system more quickly to avoid long wait-times. Managing wait-times is also an essential strategy for improving customer experience and enables contact centres to offer personalised messages, call-back options or alternative channels to customers in a queue.
In 2021’s highly competitive market, personalisation in customer service can help companies to differentiate themselves from the competition.
4. An improved customer journey
Customer complaints cover all sorts of topics – e.g. limited or poorly implemented self-service options, late deliveries, product issues – and, for the most part, it’s up to the contact centre to handle these incoming queries, whatever the channel. As a result, it can be difficult to wade through complaints in order to see where exactly improvements can be made.
Voice of the Customer tools, like email surveys and speech/text analytics, can help identify issues by aggregating topics and sentiment across a wide range of platforms. By looking at customer journeys first hand, complaint trends can be identified and mitigated. In this new multi-channel customer service era, customers expect to be able to reach a company through the channel of their choosing, so remember to prioritise and act on these valuable insights to improve the customer journey across the board.
Customer expectations are changing rapidly
The future of customer service has not yet been set in stone, but there are already some clues out there as to what’s in store. More efficient and personalised customer journeys have been a while in the making, but the past year has advanced the timeline for changes in customer expectations – and they will likely continue to evolve as the world as a whole adapts to an ever-shifting way of life. While the above are by no means definitive answers, hopefully it provides a glimpse of what the remainder of 2021 will look like.
With over 20 years’ experience in contact centres, I spent the first half of my career in operational roles across the contact centre industry, with a particular focus on technology, workforce engagement and leadership. Since then, I’ve worked with leading brands across the globe, helping them utilise the latest technology and optimising their...