With digital transformation and unexpected events such as the current pandemic, customer service calls’ volume keep increasing. Companies that get caught into obsessing on costs invest in strategies that will back-fire and miss out the major opportunity that human customer service is for CX (customer experience).

The ones that recognise the value that volume represents and seize the human customer service opportunity are well positioned to differentiate.

Recognise the value within the volume of calls reaching your agents

Human-powered customer service should be a priority for companies thriving for improving customer experience as:

Customer service quality boosts loyalty

Forrester’s CX Index data shows that high quality customer service quality boosts loyalty. And if we take a close look at the main drivers for customer service quality, two of the three are directly connected to the human delivering the service, the agent. Those main drivers are:

  • Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) answer all customers’ questions;
  • Company resolves customers’ problems quickly;
  • CSRs have the authority to solve problems without a supervisor.

Customer service representatives have first-hand knowledge of customers’ needs

Customer service teams interact daily with customers. This gives them the privilege to hear first-hand unmet customers’ needs or expectations and to gather actionable insights for all your business or product lines. Think of your front-line agents as a dedicated user research team or a real-time VOC monitor.

The human interaction itself is valuable

In our digital world, the human to human connection happening during a call is valuable in itself. Each call is an opportunity to demonstrate to your customers how well you understand them, how much you care about them and how much you value them. This is even more important for companies who have few interactions with customers or limited to negative emotionally charged ones such as insurance claims or utility outages.

Seize the human customer service opportunity for CX

The strategy to transform customer service into a competitive advantage requires a collective effort and CX professionals must help their firms to:

Just meet customers’ core expectations for starters

Delivering a customer service experience that is as close as possible to customers’ expectations seems obvious… but too many companies still struggle with it. You need to align with the customers’ basic expectations that match your industry and your brand promise and ensure that your CSRs are competent on both aspects of their role: they are knowledgeable about your products/services or processes, and they have the necessary emotional intelligence to handle any kind of call.

Find the right positioning for technology in the customer service journey

By revisiting your customer service journey end-to-end, you will be able to uncover where some obstacles exist, where you are sending customers to dead-ends and where automation and technology can have a positive role. Prioritise implementations that lead to positive outcomes on both customers and agents. For example when it supports agents work, taking over low-value or repetitive tasks freeing time for them to focus on the ones that require their human touch.

Mine your customers’ feedback to uncover what they say about times you wowed them

Consumers who had a positive experience with customer service highlight the importance of the human-touch. This human-touch relates to agents’ genuine empathy and their ability to understand customers and providing a solution without judging them. It also relates to their ability to “go the extra mile”, generally a small gesture that supports the customers’ next step. By conducting a bright spots analysis of your customers’ feedback, you can find when and how you went the extra mile. This will give you a new perspective on their expectations which you can build on.

Start recognising customer service as an opportunity for CX differentiation. Stop obsessing only on volume and costs and make room for human to human connections that will be meaningful for your customers, for your customer service agents and for your business.

Karine Cardona-Smits is Senior Analyst Serving Customer Experience Professionals at Forrester.

Learn about the topic in the upcoming CX EMEA 2020.

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