It seems like everywhere I turn these days, someone is trying to help me unlock the door to finding happiness with a book, seminar, inspirational quote or a cheeseburger. It makes sense. For the vast majority of people, achieving genuine happiness in their lives is one of their primary goals. But for customers who are calling into your contact center on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis, that’s not the case.
Today’s customers don’t want “happy” at the end of the day, they want their interactions with you to be as painless and easy as possible. More importantly, they want their problems solved by way of the path of least resistance; the lower the level of effort required the better. It sounds simple in theory, but the reality is that most companies don’t measure the success of their investments by looking at those being served. Instead they examine those agents handling calls. Or worse, their IT department.
For those who are looking in the right place, common indicators like Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores are a great measure of how well your contact center is performing. However, they still don’t provide a complete an accurate picture of the overall effectiveness of your customer engagement.
Consumers Have Options, and They Know It
In 2010, the Customer Contact Council, part of the Corporate Executive Board, published an article in the Harvard Business Review called “Stop Delighting Your Customers.” Their conclusion was that customer effort in service interactions was a leading indicator of disloyalty, a more predictive indicator of customer defection than CSAT or NPS.
Simply put, consumers today know they have options and are far less likely to be forgiving under the banner of “brand loyalty.” This is especially important to keep in mind, as most people are almost exclusively interacting with brands through customer service channels once they make a purchase or establish a service. That means they’re only contacting you when something goes wrong.
So when they see you as a barrier, making it harder for them to solve their problem, and they believe you should be happy to have taken their money, they won’t think twice about going to a competitor who they think can make their lives easier. To them, the product or service you provide is a commodity, and the customer service they receive will be the differentiator.
How You Really Increase Customer Retention
So how do you get there? The first step is surprisingly simple: Put yourselves in the shoes of your customers. It shouldn’t be that difficult. We’ve all had to call customer service at one time or another, so you know the pain points they experience first hand.
Next, say goodbye to your status quo by removing the current internal political and cultural barriers – that often deeply entrenched “But we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. Also get rid of any perceived limitations in the current automated systems and data availability; those are tactical challenges which can easily be overcome today, more than ever before.
Here are four other important key concepts to keep in mind:
Proactive customer engagement. Don’t make your customers put in the effort to contact you in the first place, contact them. Engage them with an issue that requires resolution, or key-event status update.
Self-service. Done right, most customers welcome the efficiency and autonomy of a well-designed, self-service application. Don’t believe me? Consider what the ATM’s did to banking. Not all self-service concepts are as aggravating as self-checkout lines at the grocery store.
Multichannel. The web is pervasive, but the voice channel isn’t going away, Moreover texting is rapidly becoming a mainstream form of expected communication. You must support all channels, outbound and inbound.
Agent visibility. Empower your agents with the tools they need to see a customer’s entire history of interactions, across all channels and self-service opportunities. With this information, they can see the full picture and lend a sincerely empathetic ear in resolving their issue, rather than inflicting additional effort on the customer to recount history.
Follow-up. Customer surveys should be more than “feel good” data gathering. They should invite hearing the negatives, and you should immediately follow-up on that kind of feedback. But remember, don’t make the follow-up more effort still on the customer.
When you’re measuring the success of your contact center, key performance indicators such as agent efficiency and IT impact are only going to tell you how you’re doing not how your customers feel about your service.
So if your goal is customer retention, focus on reducing their effort and look to them for feedback on their satisfaction. The increase in customer retention and loyalty will follow, but you need to make a commitment to getting results by putting the needs of your customers first.