Even among the hardest-working and most experienced service agents, there’s always a danger that the word “customer” will eventually be equated with the word “enemy.”
To employers, this is the absolute worst-case scenario. Most businesses recognize that without their customers -- even the challenging ones -- they wouldn’t have a reason to exist. A strong customer service program should be designed to ensure that those customers not only have their problems solved but feel valued and appreciated before and after every service interaction.
In practice, however, service teams are inevitably dealing with negative situations in which customers are annoyed, frustrated, upset or downright enraged. When you hear bad feedback all day long, it’s understandable why service agents feel they’re in an us-against-them situation. They might begin rolling their eyes that the basic fundamentals about a product or service that they feel customers should already know, for example. They might exchanging knowing looks or make cracks with their co-workers about simple troubleshooting mistakes that customers often make. When it gets really bad, service teams might even have cruel nicknames for certain categories of customers.
Even if the service teams in question manage to address all the issues that come their way, there’s a risk that those negative attitudes will somehow creep into the interaction. Customers can pick up on tone or other qualities of a particular response to their question or complaints. Companies need to combat this by making sure service teams feel genuinely inspired to help -- and data is one of the best ways to start.
While tools like Service Cloud allow companies to track the volume and nature of various customer difficulties, they also have a lot more information that could be shared with the team. This is an often untapped area in organizations, maybe because it’s not a standard form of training or oriented around a particular service metric.
As customers reach out through myriad different channels, however, establishing and maintaining a positive outlook towards customers is vital. It doesn’t matter whether customers are calling into a contact centre, sending a message through social media or firing off an email. They should feel that service teams are not only respectful but “on their side” in the best sense of the term.
These are five different ways companies can use information to shift the thinking -- and maybe even the culture -- of service teams towards their customers:
Service agents might see a customer’s name, title, company and other useful details, but when they’re in the midst of resolving a problem, they may not have an opportunity to really understand how their work is contributing to another organization’s success.
Think about the service team for a company whose products are used by hospitals, where getting a problem fixed could give doctors and other health-care professionals more time to treat patients. A government customer whose challenge is resolved may be able to move forward with an initiative that improves the lives of hundreds or even thousands of citizens. A customer in the startup space might call or email in with a question that, once answered, brings them one step closer to becoming the next Uber or AirBnB.
Far from being their enemies, service agents may not realize their customers are working in organizations whose work really matters. By telling those stories on an internal blog, through an employee newsletter or other channel, they may find a deeper meaning to the work they’re doing.
While the service team is busy putting out fires, the marketing team is probably trying to figure out what kind of fires customers deal with before they buy anything. In other words, a lot of content marketing efforts are designed to reflect the business challenges or obstacles that are common to other companies, which the products and services being marketed are designed to help them overcome.
These business issues may be highly complex in many cases, and may not get clearly articulated when customers contact the service team. It can provide better context to the service agent, however, when they realize that they’re not merely assisting when a product breaks, but are helping deliver on the promise originally made through those content marketing assets.
Since these assets -- such as blogs, white papers and infographics -- already exist to generate and nurture demand, it’s simply a matter of showing them to the service team and giving a synopsis of the issues they’re talking about. This is something that could be discussed immediately prior to the start of a shift. Whenever you do it, it will help drive home the reason why meeting customer expectations is not a battle to be won, but a cause to be championed.
In sales departments, it’s not uncommon to have a “leaderboard” of some kind which illustrates how well a particular rep is doing in terms of closing deals and reaching their quota. Among service teams, it may make more sense to look at successes across the group as a whole. Either way, there’s undeniable value in keeping positive signs of success front and centre.
Some of the data you pull from Service Cloud could be numbers-based, such as any reduction in the average time it takes to hear from a customer to resolving their particular trouble. This doesn’t all have to be directly service-related data, though. Think about getting data that shows the volume of customers renewing or staying loyal to the firm, which suggests a great service experience probably plays a role.
Other data here could be more qualitative in nature. It could be as simple as a roundup of the nicest comments from customers as a service engagement wraps up, whether it’s from a phone conversation, an email or a social media post. These might boost the morale of the agent who hears them directly, of course, but bringing them to the attention of the entire team underscores how much customers appreciate a job well done. Instead of key performance indicators, maybe you could call these “key progress indicators” and talk about them in team meetings or through enterprise social networking tools.
Customers really can’t be the enemy now that we’re living in the Age of the Customer. It behooves more organizations to make sure their service teams live and breathe that truth every single day.