It’s hard to imagine a scenario where a customer will ask, “How many people work in your customer service department?” before they make a purchase, or “How long will I be on hold if I call in with a problem?” Once they’ve handed over their money, however, the quality of their support experience becomes paramount -- and their expectations will probably be high.
That doesn’t mean you have to hire an army of employees to ensure that complaints or urgent questions are resolved. That may not be economically viable for a lot of organizations, and it might not even be the best use of human resources. Much like the old adage, “Work smarter, not harder,” companies should think about how they can satisfy or even surpass customers’ most demanding support requirements by making a strategic use of both human expertise and technology.
Consider this: in some organizations, the owner or CEO is the “face” customers recognize and may even imagine as the person who should be backing up whatever promises about the firm’s products and services that were made. In other cases there may be an employee who customers come to see as the expert or “go-to” resource whenever they really need help. Just as they want to be treated as individuals rather than just one among many customers, those who buy from a firm likely want to turn to someone specific when a service issue arises, rather than waiting for an overworked contact centre employee to respond.
What if that CEO/owner, or that other dependable team member, were actually able to act as a customer service department of one? This simply wouldn’t have been possible several years ago, but the increased digitization of customer service data, along with tools to help arm companies with insight, has changed everything.
Here’s how a single customer service rep could cover off anything that transpires, at least in some scenarios, and how they could decide when it might make sense to add more people to assist:
Sometimes organizations staff up their service teams as a sort of insurance policy against the unknown. It’s not always clear in the day-to-day running of a company, for example, how many customers will be reaching out, at what times and how long it will take to resolve their issues. The more agents you have, at least in theory, the better able you’ll be to deal with whatever comes your way.
Replace the word “agents” in the previous sentence with “data,” on the other hand, and everything will start to look at lot different. Tools like Service Cloud are primed to take in all the information that will answer the questions posed above. That lets you start to think about the ideal customer service experience you want to be able to offer as a company, along with ways to measure it. Even as a customer service department of one, you’ll be ready to see what’s coming in an orderly queue.
Lots of organizations will say they are “only a phone call away,” but that’s not enough in the Age Of The Customer. You also need to be just an email message away, a text message away, or even a social media post or direct message away. This is another reason companies frequently ramp their customer service teams. We live in a world of multiple digital channels, and you need to make sure you can greet customers wherever they may decide to reach out.
The other option -- and arguably the more cost-efficient and effective one -- is to take advantage of how cloud computing has let sophisticated applications work on mobile device such as smartphones. This has meant entrepreneurs have been able to manage their entire business, including key functions like marketing and sales, from something they carry around in their pockets. The same possibility exists for customer service, where a single rep can monitor and get back to customers in their preferred communications channel.
Companies always want to offer a personal touch, which is why large customer service teams are trained on how to deal with difficult or challenging situations in a compassionate manner. There’s almost no better feeling, however, than learning how to handle a difficult or challenging situation yourself.
Fortunately, there are lots of options for companies to deliver self-service choices to their customers today. These could range from FAQ sections on their websites to more sophisticated chat bots that can answer questions in real-time just like a traditional contact centre employee. This means the “real” rep, even if it’s only one person, can focus on the customer service issues that really require a more significant degree of hand-holding.
It’s not just a one-person customer service team who can use data to try and predict what kind of issues will emerge. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as Salesforce Einstein can crunch through massive amounts of data in ways that would take too long for human beings, cross-referencing and correlating information to detect patterns and trends. This can make it even easier to foresee what customers will need, and when.
AI could serve an important second purpose here: knowing when to staff up. After all, managing the entire customer service operation on an individual basis is a big job. It may be difficult to step back and have an outside perspective on when the workload becomes so large that it becomes unsustainable. AI, on the other hand, may be able to act as a trusted advisor here, offering signals on areas of growth or common customer service challenges that would necessitate additional hires.
In other words, one customer service rep may be enough to handle what an organization deals with today, but tomorrow might be a different story. Best to harness the power of technology to set yourself in a position for long-term customer service success.