How to use customer service to drive a better customer experience
Author: Paul Selby
Source: Customer Think
It’s not very common for customers to contact customer service when everything is going fine. No, it’s at times when something unexpected happens, situations like their order didn’t arrive when anticipated, the product is broken, or instructions aren’t clear.
When customers encounter an issue, the path they take to find a solution can take many forms. Many choose to start their search online, using self-service options like knowledge bases or online communities they can search for answers. Others might take a more interactive route, choosing to chat with a live customer service agent or a chatbot. And there’s always sending an email or picking up the telephone.
But no matter what the problem–major or minor–there’s an even bigger issue at hand. The customer didn’t want their day disrupted by this problem. They didn’t want to spend time searching for a solution online or contacting customer service. While receiving fast, high-quality customer service when issues occur is always appreciated, customers would just as soon avoid interacting with customer service in any way because it’s an uplanned interruption to their day.
This is not to say companies shouldn’t always be delivering the best possible customer service–far from it! They simply can’t stop there. They must focus on addressing the underlying problems that disrupt the customer experience and, when possible, proactively address customers’ issues.
Connecting customer service with other teams
A common challenge for companies is when customer service is isolated and working in its own silo. It answers the call for help from the customer, collects the details of the problem, and offers a workaround. Unfortunately, that is typically the extent of the fix, and that’s a problem.
Customers’ issues are rarely unique: a breakdown in business process somewhere outside customer service is the likely cause. Consider a scenario where product instructions are incorrect. Customer service is able to provide customers with the missing details (a workaround) so the customer can use their product. However, customer service is unable to address the underlying problem–the fact that incorrect instructions exist–and the impact this will have on other customers.
This is why connecting customer service with other departments is crucial. Customer service can inform the documentation team, determine the scope and potential impact of the issue, and work cooperatively on a solution: in this case, updating the instructions and reprinting them. From there, the revised documentation is placed into production by ensuring the manufacturing team is informed and prepared to swap out the incorrect materials.
What makes this possible is workflow. Using it, customer service is able to raise the issue to the documentation and manufacturing teams. All departments are on the same page and understand the nature of the issue. Tasks to address it are routed and assigned, and everyone is kept informed and accountable throughout the process.
Fixing issues proactively
In the flawed instructions example, customer service is able to work across the organization and issues impacting the customer experience are addressed. The root cause of the documentation confusion is treated, and future customers won’t suffer from the same problem. While this is a significant improvement in the customer experience for future customers, it’s not enough because products with faulty instructions already exist in the distribution chain.
In this example, companies have many options to consider to proactively notify customers. Notices can be placed on the service website. Automated messages can be played on the customer service line. Customers can even be contacted directly by sending an email, postcard, or text message. In situations where only certain customer segments might be affected, they should be targeted specifically so as not to confuse customers who are not likely to encounter the issue.
Remember, customers don’t want to spend time trying to find a solution to their problem. They will appreciate preemptive efforts to help them avoid an issue. The less trouble a customer encounters and the less time it takes to return them to normal, the better their experience.
Focusing on the experience
Delivering a perfect customer experience to every customer every time simply isn’t possible. That’s why customer service exists: to provide a temporary fix for when something problematic in that experience occurs.
But customer service can offer more than just repeating the same temporary fix hundreds or thousands of times. As customer issues are identified, they must work with other departments across the company to determine the best course to deliver permanent solutions that improve the customer experience. They must take advantage of the opportunity to proactively deliver solutions to not-yet-impacted (but likely affected) customers.
Customers want more than great service; they want a great experience. And when customer service does more than just respond to problems, they can positively impact the overall customer experience.