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How To Make Your Customer Service Agents Seem Omniscient

How To Make Your Customer Service Agents Seem Omniscient

Go to the counter at a coffee shop or fast food restaurant and you’ll occasionally see an employee looking slightly nervous and wearing a badge that says “TRAINEE.” These people usually aren’t left completely on their own. There’s often a more experienced team member showing them the ropes.

Go to the counter at a coffee shop or fast food restaurant and you’ll occasionally see an employee looking slightly nervous and wearing a badge that says “TRAINEE.”

These people usually aren’t left completely on their own. There’s often a more experienced team member showing them the ropes. Sometimes, though, everyone else is too busy to oversee things and you find yourself stuck with the trainee and their learning curve.

You might have to wait, for example, while they figure out which buttons punch in on the cash register before you can pay for your order. Or they simply don’t understand the order you’re making in the first place.

This can be frustrating, but most of us tend to give trainees a little patience and grace. After all, we all had to start somewhere.

In a customer service scenario there are plenty of trainees too, but there are also a few key differences.

For one thing, you can’t see someone’s badge when you’re reaching out to them over the phone for help, or via email or social media post.

There’s also a different sense of urgency when you’re approaching someone for service — sometimes the problem is critical and you lack patience to deal with someone’s learning curve.

In fact, customers who come to a company with service issues want the exact opposite of a trainee: they want staff who are so knowledgeable about products and service and are so good at their jobs that they know what customers want without being asked.

To be omniscient means to “know everything,” which of course is not possible for even the best customer service agents.

The goal, however, should be to use technology, data and processes to generate an appearance of all-knowingness within the context of a service issue. Doing so builds confidence in your brand and helps keep customers loyal over time.

1. Omniscience requires omnichannel availability

Lots of organizations established their customer service operation by first setting up a call centre. This made complete sense when the primary mode of customer communication with a company was via telephone. Not anymore, though.

Today, customers might not be in a position to make a call to ask a question or deal with a troubleshooting issue. Something might come up when they’re in the middle of a meeting, for instance, where sending a discreet text might be the better option.

There may be other instances where a customer is travelling or attending an event. Reaching out via Twitter or Facebook might seem more logical than being kept on hold for an agent.

When customers try these channels and can’t get through, it’s like shutting the door in their faces and pointing them to the one marked “call centre” as their only option.

Omniscience begins with recognizing that customers will want (and should get) their choice of medium to ask for assistance, and making sure you’re ready to respond. This notion of “omnichannel” started with sales and marketing, but it’s equally important in customer service, too.

2. Omniscience requires organization and orchestration

There are six words no one seeking customer service ever wants to hear: “Let me look up your account.”

You don’t see a lot of surveys about this, but it’s safe to say that most people would probably prefer, upon first connecting with an agent, that all they would need is their name in order for all their details to be brought up on the agent’s screen.

Worse is when the agent pulls up the account and the information is inaccurate, or somehow incomplete. Worse is when the customer is put on hold or left hanging while the agent does detective work, scouring across disparate systems for key details.

“Why can’t they just get it together?” customers fume. Without necessarily knowing what applications are running behind the scenes, they mean the agent should have a dashboard that integrates CRM data, marketing automation data and other sources of information.

Data and systems, in other words, should be orchestrated so that it can seamlessly become part of the agent’s toolset. That allows the agent to be organized from the moment the customer interaction begins and they can focus on the issue, rather than the surrounding background details.

3. Omniscience requires ongoing analysis and optimization

Those “TRAINEE” badges we mentioned earlier are part of the employee onboarding experience, and pairing them with their manager or a buddy is intended to minimize any hiccups. Customer service onboarding should work the same way.

Although agents may be helping customers during a moment of crisis, it’s important that the data about each issue becomes almost like a library of knowledge that the team can collectively use. The technology should not only automate tasks but offer a way to analyze trends in customer service so common issues can be prevented.

This not only helps make newer agents more knowledgeable, but shifts the customer service operation from a “break/fix” mentality to one that aims for continuous improvement. It’s not just addressing a question or complaint, but trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again with other customers.

Once you reach this point, customer service can become not just a necessary evil but a source of potential new revenue generation or increased customer satisfaction.

When agents are aware of the anniversaries customers have with the company, for instance, they could offer a special discount or promotion as a thank you.

When a new item comes in that could bring something extra to an existing purchase, agents are in a natural position to upsell or cross-sell. Customers might have been wishing for just such an offer, and as a result the agent’s seeming “omniscience” has been achieved.

None of this means you won’t occasionally have challenging issues facing your customer service team, or that you’ll reach a point where there is nothing left to learn about your customers.

Quite the opposite, in fact: this is about creating a disciplined effort to keep getting better. The quest for omniscience is an ongoing one.

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