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How can you unlock the salesperson within your service agents?

13th Jun 2014
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Positive relationships are often based on common knowledge and shared interests. Which is precisely why it’s not a given that your average customer will hit it off with your average service agent. Think of all the different demographics – both traditional and not so traditional – that your customer base is made up of. Think of all the products or services you offer. Think of each of the issues that each of your customers could have with each one. Oh, the possibilities.

Just for fun, let’s add in the fact that this customer-agent relationship – at the moment between two strangers who may or may not be able to engage effectively with each other – is going to start off kind of shaky. At the end of the day, the customer has had to call up because they have a problem, a problem which is likely the fault of the company – or so they see it. And it may even be that the customer didn’t want to call – they wanted to self-serve or talk through live chat but wasn't aware of their options. Then imagine they have to wait in a queue before explaining their whole issue only to find out the agent who answers isn’t actually equipped to help them…

In a bid to find out why the traditional service desk approach is no longer working, and how businesses can support their customers in more efficient ways, MyCustomer caught up with Ann Ruckstuhl, CMO at customer service solution provider LiveOps. She had some interesting thoughts on how positive consumer relationships can be generated through contact centres, and what the effect of this could be. 

Customer service inefficacies are clashing with the modern customer’s sense of empowerment, making the traditional call centre no give and all take when it comes to profit. “Companies usually spend between 7-12% of their earnings or revenue investing in customer service and in contact centres,” explains Ann. “Yet they’re not seeing the ROI on this.”

She continued: “Look at this craze called customer experience; because of customer switching, everybody is one click away from being dismissed – that’s any business – and that’s the way we work nowadays. We’re all getting tougher on the brands we do business with – I, as a consumer, want three things from any brand: know me, serve me, and don’t waste my time. And those are the three things I think brands absolutely need to pay attention to.”

This is precisely why learning solely from past experience is so limiting. It’s becoming so that waiting for breakages to emerge or customer issues to be reported before going back to fix them is not enough. Now, these breakages need to be fixed when, or preferably before, they trip anyone up. One way to do this is to try and determine what the customer needs help with, and how they would like it delivered, before they are forced to seek it themselves. As Ann noted, “Everything is real time while the customer experience is insight.”

The route to success

“Allow me to explain,” she said. “One thing that a contact centre should do is routing, which is looking at an incoming consumer and matching them with the best possible outcome. The best possible outcome could be self-service or it could be a live service, but you’ve got to make that determination sitting there, with the routing engine in the middle. There’s now something called real-time contextual routing, which is a new development in the marketplace made possible by the Cloud.”

Forcing the customer to phone up, then listening to the their story before figuring out who they should be speaking to just isn’t an efficient process, and it’s not washing with today’s time-strapped, channel-agnostic customers. This is where that router can lend a serious hand.

“For example, you’re looking for a new credit card and you decided that the one brand has a wonderful offer for you. You’re a current customer; you have a bank account with them already. So you start filling out the application and you get confused, you aren’t clear on the terms, how much they charge and the penalties for this and that, so you abandon the application form. Then you attempt to call the phone number that they show on the application, because that’s what they want – they don’t want you to leave. So you call them and the voice comes on and says there’s a five minute wait, but you don’t have five minutes so you hang up. Now you’re getting a little frustrated.

“But imagine this process with the contextual routing engine. It sits there and goes into your cookies – that’s all permission-based – so the agent knows who is on the line, and knows you spent about five minutes on this credit card application. They know you started the application form but did not complete it, and can see that you called but abandoned the call in the last minute. They know you’re a customer because they have your CRM data – they know you’re a valued customer. So at that time there’s a decision point.

“Most brands will have no idea what’s happening, I would say 99.9999% of brands today. With this real-time contextual routing though, what’s happening is it’s listening and gathering all of this data and it’s detecting the pattern (every brand I work with knows exactly what the breakage points are in terms of what’s hurting them – they’ll know that this pattern means a save). So the router triggers the best possible action with a real-time window which will pop up on your screen so the agent can say:  ‘Hi, we noticed you’re having a problem, my name is Ann, I’m here to help you, please click to call or click to chat’.”

From service to sales

Such efficient service is surely going to help get your customer relationships back on track. And with positive customer relationships leading to increased customer loyalty (we all know what customer loyalty means for revenue) then we may have just found one way the contact centre could transform from a money pit into a money tree. “Most companies, especially the ones that are very much doing business online, if they can save their customer churn rate by even just 5% that’s millions of dollars per week,” notes Ann. 

So, the best and most lucrative way to serve the empowered consumer? Empower the service agent. Give them the tools and the channels they need to create a service experience around the customer, and both your business and your employees will thank you for it. “In many ways, we believe, these [agents] are probably your best sales force,” agrees Ann. If they are empowered collectively and are getting the right information, the right technologies and tools then, oh my goodness, you can unleash the potential and get such an ROI on that particular function.” 

After all, we’re all sales people, Ann asserts. “There’s this old saying that we are all in sales. We are. Anybody who deals with a customer, I don’t care if you’re the marketing person, the sales person who manages an account, a customer service representative or a technician – it doesn’t matter. We are all in sales.”

So a routing system that acts in real time and makes decisions based on individual context is one way to ensure successful customer experiences and build relationships positive. “I call it the real match.com in the sky. It’s eHarmony for consumers and brands, only in this case it’s matching people to customer service. It’s making sure that you, as a unique person can be matched with the right help.”

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