Much has been said about the importance of customer support services when it comes to strengthening brand loyalty. Today, with UK consumers finding themselves amid a cost-of-living crisis, gas and energy firms are facing the brunt of multiple customer requests for new deals that better suit their preferences. However, most consumers don’t feel they are receiving the personal service they require.
This customer dissatisfaction is not limited to the gas and energy sector. Last year, customer service complaints reached an all-time high. Due to this, the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) highlighted the importance of shifting from “service recovery” to identifying and finding solutions to the root cause of these problems.
This is where proactive customer service has stepped into the fray. The ICS encourages businesses to make a personal connection and respond to individual customer needs, demonstrating local relevance and efficiency in their interactions while understanding the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on customers, among other recommendations.
However, Capterra’s recent customer service and help desk survey shows that 45% of UK consumers usually feel they are bothering customer support when contacting them. The fact that only around half of UK consumers felt valued by customer support raises the issue of how to improve the rapport between customers and support services.
Human agents play a pivotal role and should receive the proper support
There is a justifiable focus on the customer when we talk about support services. However, this does not mean that customer support agents should be excluded when it comes to developing strategies to improve services and user experience. On the contrary, businesses should set their sights on improving the employee experience and supporting staff too.
There is a three-way relationship between brands, consumers, and support teams regarding customer service, and human agents play a pivotal role. These agents are often on the front line of customer queries and hold a high responsibility for safeguarding a brand’s reputation. More importantly, human agents are people too. They also suffer the effects of the current crisis, are susceptible to burnout, and can experience mental health issues that hinder their productivity. Consequently, employers should support and protect staff to enable them to focus on delivering quality customer service that can help nurture relationships with clients.
To support staff and help them do their jobs more proficiently, brands should optimise the relationship between human agents and consumers and between human agents and the company they represent. Technology can be a helpful asset on both fronts.
Proactive customer service can alleviate pressure on customer support teams
If brands take measures to deliver proactive rather than reactive customer service, this can reduce the strain on support staff. One way this can be achieved is by providing alternative support channels for consumers who want them. These can include knowledge bases, chatbots, and self-service tools that can reduce repetitive tickets and free more time for contact centre teams to create more qualitative interactions.
Even when human agents need to intervene, technology can help avoid pain points that might affect how customers interact with support staff. Some solutions include:
Chatbots and conversational artificial intelligence (CAI). These interfaces that use natural language processing can collect personal and historical consumer data and then provide this information to agents as a briefing. This saves time by not having to repeat information when cases need to be escalated to other departments.
Voice technology. Customer support teams can use technology that detects phrases and tones of voice to evaluate whether a customer is frustrated. An automated message with updates on how a customer query process is progressing may diffuse frustration and help make consumers feel more valued.
Survey software. Businesses can leverage survey tools to receive valuable customer feedback that can then be deployed to improve customer service and respond to ICS’ request to get to the heart of a problem before it gets out of hand.
How can managers turn to technology to help their customer support staff?
Optimising the flow of communication between consumers and customer support is half of the puzzle. If consumers perceive they are bothering support services, it may be because these employees need some additional help themselves.
While proactive customer service can help reduce churn and improve customer loyalty, businesses must also seek to provide proactive employee assistance. Employees require support and investment from their managers, and this can be done by equipping them with the right tools to carry out their responsibilities efficiently.
Businesses need to look out for their employees, ensuring they assess:
- The quality of support staff’s interactions with customers
- The ease with which they solve tickets
- How valued they feel as a member of the support team
The first step to supporting customers is to support your staff. There are multiple ways to help employees, but these must be tailored to each business and work environment. Remote work, new technologies, and a shift to digital-first mindsets have all presented challenges to teams. Especially those who need to learn about new systems, skills, and processes.
How managers can optimise the employee experience:
- Embrace an agile approach to employee needs. Invest in tools that improve remote work, and update software to ensure staff always use the latest, improved versions.
- Use collaboration tools to keep teams connected and to share knowledge.
- Invest in training and learning management software to ensure staff are in the loop with software updates and new features. This can prevent employee frustration and encourage them to use tools regularly.
- Create an internal support system to help employees troubleshoot issues.
- Gather employee feedback to help improve workflows and processes and address issues affecting employee morale.
- Leverage team communication software. Open channels for employees to talk with their managers as well as their peers if needed.
- Deploy workforce management tools and other software to automate repetitive tasks. This includes email confirmations. This will enable support teams to work on more complex issues.
- Extend AI and machine learning capabilities beyond focusing on customers. Employees can also make the most of chatbots – they can help customers with straightforward tasks, or support human agents. Internal chatbots can also be linked to knowledge bases to help staff find information more quickly.
- Use customer relationship management (CRM) software to help employees track customer interaction and manage relationships from one platform.
- Incorporate customer service and help desk tools to manage tickets, complaint resolutions, and self-service portals. This will help to monitor the quality of customer interactions.
Providing professional support requires ensuring a smooth experience for both employees and customers. To enable employees to focus on delivering great CX, managers should provide their teams with resources needed to work efficiently.