By Eric Johnson
The customer care agent is the lifeline between the organization and people it serves, and should be viewed as such
Customer care is the first line of customer interaction with many organizations and not surprisingly is the source of many customer complaints regarding service or other aspects of an organizations’ business model. Ironically, within many customer-facing organizations, customer care is considered the least “valuable” regarding position, salary, expectations, and a host of other metrics both internal and external.
Based on our experience, this approach should be updated to reflect the growing level of information consumers have and the swiftness at which they expect resolution to issues. Customer care should be looked at as not only an asset, but as a goldmine of customer information that can be used to develop the strategic focus of the organization, gain insight into the performance of products and services, and establish the brand as a place where the customer is always first.
To achieve this point of strategic customer care, many organizations will need to adopt the following approaches:
1. Embrace the customer care agent as the professional point of first reference for the customer
Customer care agents address customers first hand and as such, they receive a wealth of information on what customers are looking for and available solutions to their issues. By establishing a data strategy to mine this information, the organization can swiftly react to market pressures and consumer sentiment, while satisfying customer issues. One mistake organizations make is to try to “control the message” at the point level. In our experience, organizations that give a certain level of decision-making responsibility to the agent increase their success rate at solving issues. The goal is to treat each customer problem in a case management
fashion. In this type of environment, each initial customer issue is treated as the beginning of a case, and the case is not closed until the customer indicates the issue has been resolved. This accomplishes two things: first it ensures that the customer’s issue has been rectified. Second it allows a tracking of level of involvement and effort used to solve a customer issue. Over time, if certain issues indicate repetitiveness, then they can be further analyzed for root cause.
2. Develop the infrastructure to get employees the information they need
Data is the key to unlocking the potential of customer care. Employees are only as powerful as the information they can provide to customers and customers are increasingly well-armed with information after a few google searches. Coupled with social networking sites where people can share information, there is very little few customers cannot find out via their phone. This level of ease of access to information should be a model for customer service organizations. By developing the systems and processes to access customer information at a relevant point with in conversations, the customer engages a more personable agent, which can reduce the level of animosity that can present itself in many calls. The customer views the agent as not only having expertise, but also having insights into what their needs and issues are to a much greater degree.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
The ability to capture the most important information largely depends on recognition of what is important, processing it into a form usable to others, and sharing it amongst those who can best convert it to value. Therefore, establishing a robust communication system is vital to any organization. Often, agents are positioned at their desks on calls for most of the day, with breaks and top-down meetings interspersed. A newer solution is to establish communities of agents, where best practices can not only be shared, but also adapted into organized business practices to apply to the customer across platforms.
By applying these three tacit approaches, organizations can transform their customer care groups into first line “brand defenders”, that transforms from a group that simply handles problems into a strategic competitive advantage in the marketplace.At Propulo, we work hand in hand with companies that understand the importance of effective customer care. In industries as varied as hotels, underground mining, retail, and banking, our team has helped to unlock the innate excellence of teams and the incredible potential that they have beneath the surface. If you’d like to understand how our innovative People Meet Process approach can help your team, we’d love to chat.