I was set to write a blog about ‘The secret sauce of good customer service’, and then I was told to stay at home and not meet anyone for the foreseeable future, and the world changed.
During this time, I’ve had to contact four call centres, and the experience has been uniformly awful.
As a customer, their websites still work fine, but getting through to a real person has proved difficult, time-consuming, and pretty annoying (one supplier kept me on a queue hearing background music for two hours).
So, I know that the virus is causing real hardships, but companies still need to keep the lights on, and find positive ways to deal with the surge of demand that is happening now.
The importance of reacting positively…
So, I thought I’d shift this blog and talk instead about how companies need to react positively to the impacts of the Coronavirus, and how they can best use technology to improve the customer’s experience.
When your customer needs to call you in this time of crisis, it’s highly unlikely that it is over anything run-of the-mill. They’re phoning you to deal with something that is definitely an issue for them.
For me, one critical call was to renew the motor insurance premiums for cars that were about to expire. Sitting for two hours on the phone was not a positive experience for me and this is being replicated in different situations across the country right now.
There are much more critical calls going on around the UK involving call centres, and some companies are being swamped. Their current infrastructure is not able to cope, and at the end of this crisis, it will be the companies who have put in the right support infrastructures who will come out with more customers, and an increased set of customer ratings.
So, let’s look at the ways you can improve on things in the next few months:
1. Increase your call centre headcount
Call centres can have high churn rates but guess what – there are more people now looking for a role to get themselves paid and get them through this crisis.
Even though investment in many companies is restricted, I’m sure a lot of the bigger companies still can invest and could increase headcount to get them through.
One well-known flower company grows its call centre to about five times its normal size over the peaks of Mother’s Day and Valentines. This is an option to relieve the pressure and support your clients better. This would buck the trend of most call centre strategies “to make existing staff even more efficient”.
2. Bring in shifts (or more shifts)
Increase your support times and run more than one shift to support your clients for a longer period. This will give your clients a bigger time window to work with you and resolve their issues.
3. Be positive
This one might seem pretty simple but it can go a long way. When your support team is feeling pressured, it’s common to default to negative language such as, “I can’t get you that product until next month.” While that may be true, it can cause increased tension and concern for your customer.
Try using positive language instead.
For example: “That product should be available next month. Would you like me to order it for you right now to make sure it’s shipped to you the moment it’s available?”
This small shift in language can result in calmer conversations and happier customers.
4. Gear up your technology
Both phone and webchat channels have good support now for automated Bots. Use these to help qualify the support requested.
Some client requirements can be fully responded to by your Bots, and they can handover to a real call centre agent for those more critical issues where the Bot cannot close the issue.
5. Use call back technology to call the client back
So, use the bot to offer your customer a call back service and then call them, rather than them waiting on the phone for you to become available.
6. Don’t offer a webchat service if the services are being swamped
Centralise the channels back to phone and email where you can consolidate and effectively manage your enquiries.
7. Use PowerApps technology
This can help to make your call centres faster and easier to use for your call centre agents. I’ve seen lots of call centres where the agents are using out of date technologies and this adds a lot of time to the job of dealing with the customer issue.
Sometimes, putting a better and more automated skin over this using PowerApps can help a lot.
Big businesses are offering you support NOW
There are companies that are already being more proactive. Working in the Microsoft space, I’ve seen that, for instance, Microsoft are offering a free six-month trial of their communication and collaboration platform, Microsoft Teams, to any company that wants it.
Cisco have also added additional features to the free version of their Webex software to support the skyrocketing number of people working remotely. They’re also offering free 90-day licenses to businesses who are not existing customers.
Going above and beyond
There are some secrets to exceptional customer service, but these take more time to implement, so I’ll focus on these in a separate blog once this crisis is over.
Good luck and best wishes to everyone at this time of crisis and remember, don’t let this situation negatively affect the customer perception of your brand.
Alternatively, if you'd like to delve deeper into the world of customer service and experience, why not check out this resource? There are many factors to consider when improving your customer service and experience so we created this ultimate guide.
It encompasses all the useful content we've ever created on customer service and experience, such as the areas of your business to look at and the technology you could be using.