Intention, technology, and people: the way to excellent customer service

Martijn Horsman

Many organizations struggle with their customer service, facing rising costs and unsatisfied customers. But with the right intention, the right technology, and the right people, you can change things around.

Oh, sure, customer service is essential. And, oh sure, it is an excellent tool for customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Everybody is parroting each other these days: customer service is not a cost center but a profit center.

In reality, or at least in our experience, companies still struggle with their customer service. Facing rising costs, they look for solutions like phone menus and rudimentary chatbots. Or they push problems back to customers, calling it self-service. This creates two issues: customer service costs are rising even more due to expensive experiments and solutions. Meanwhile, customer satisfaction goes down. So much for the profit center talk.

We need another direction. We all know what it feels like when customer service is a priority instead of necessity: Facing a problem, you are almost glad you had one. Because the way customer service treated you brightened your day.

Is it possible, excellent customer service without enormous costs? Yes, we believe it is. You have to do three things. And you have to do all three of them. Well, four, actually. Bear with us.

1. The right intention: helping people

The COVID-19 crisis taught us an important lesson: we are human beings in need of connection. There is so much talking about customer experience and journeys, touchpoints, and the like; one would forget it all begins with human beings that want to share and need your attention. Simply put: customer service is about helping people.

No, your company is not a charity. But people are your customers because you help them with a problem in the first place. They choose your solution because it is probably better than that of others. And they will remain your customers if your solution and service are better.

2. The right technology: unburdening human contact

So, how do you make things better? Well, in short: with the right tools and the right people.

Call us naif, but we genuinely believe that technology might save the world one day. But at least, it might help your company. The right technology for your contact center allows you to help your customers. The right technology supports the human connection.

That is why you should automate. Automate it all. It is cost-effective, future-oriented, and, in the end, customer-friendly. Use self-service, IVR, chatbots, and any other tool you can think of.

Automate everything.

And see what it does to customer satisfaction.

Soon enough, you will find out machines are great, but at specific tasks, humans are better. Much better still.

3. The right people: technical and interpersonal skills

Oh, those poor agents at customer service: underpaid, low-schooled, under-appreciated, poorly motivated, being yelled at by customers on one side and ever more demanding manager on the other. This cliché is about to disappear.

Have you ever been to an Apple Store? How do they call their customer service desk? The genius bar! Young, highly motivated folk, knowledgeable, friendly, human. They know their devices like no one else, those nerds with soft skills, who deemed me worthy of talking to them. They are the bright future of customer service.

This is what we mean with the ‘right humans’; highly skilled, both technically and interpersonally. They don’t need to type fast. They don’t have to be cheap and replaceable. In other words: they shouldn’t be machines. Machines will deal with simple, recurring, and repetitive tasks. All ‘edge cases’ will be for the human agents: the old lady with a hearing disability who can’t type, the man with the rare technical issue self-service can’t solve, the furious customer who has the same problem for the third time. A knowledgeable and friendly human being will make all the difference.

4. The right cooperation between man and machine: hybrid intelligence.

The big challenge here is: make sure machines and humans work together in seamless cooperation. This so-called hybrid intelligence also has a high potential for cost savings. For instance: with agent assist, human beings stay in charge of the conversation with the customer, while all redundant and time-consuming tasks are taken care of by a machine. The result is: happy customers and agents, with - in our case - reduced handling times, up to 50%.

With larger parts of conversations being automated, some customer service agents will become more like conductors than violin players: they monitor and orchestrate the conversations and intervene when needed.

You can call it whatever you want: cost center or profit center. In the end, you just want the highest value for the lowest cost in every department. So, invest now in the right technology and the right people.

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

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