Let’s set the scene of a typical customer support experience you’ve probably experienced many times. You use a product, encounter a problem, find a phone number to call for assistance, are put on hold for a few minutes (most likely, more), and speak to a busy customer service rep, only to maybe get a resolution to your issue. Not a very pleasant experience.
But there’s good news. Times are, thankfully, changing and businesses are shifting gears when it comes to how they provide customer support. Katie Wirka, Lead Customer Support Specialist at PrecisionLender, shares what she’s seeing in the customer support industry and how these changes will lead to an overall greater customer experience.
Most companies have begun the transformation from “reactive” support (what is described in the introduction) to “proactive” support, in which they make the first move to help the customer.
Companies typically start by creating a self-service training or support center filled with resources. These resources can be anything from “How-To” articles to recorded demos and guided walk-throughs of software functionality or product offerings.
Taking it a step further, mapping the customer journey has shown to be beneficial in proactive support. The customer journey map outlines the steps your customers go through in engaging with your product. With this information, you will be able to see the customer’s journey at every touchpoint and acknowledge hurdles faced along the way. Then you can proactively assist through popups or redesigning the process for ease of use.
For example, if a customer reaches out with a question about being unable to login to the application and the customer journey map indicates that 50% of users who ask that question are new or infrequent users of a software, you can build into your support process the suggestion to offer them an orientation or quick start materials to use on their own schedule in the future.
When a customer has a bad experience, companies must incorporate ways to proactively engage clients, by monitoring error messages clients receive and by actively reaching out to let them know the error has been seen and is being worked on. The customer doesn’t need to do anything, which is the best case for them. Other companies hire support reps whose sole job is to monitor social media for customer complaints or feedback and actively reach out to them to help resolve the issue.
- 6 Steps to Build an Amazing Self-Service Support Site
- Salesforce Desk – The WOW Guide to Self-Service Support
- 5 Essential Components of Effective Customer Journey Maps
- Smashing Magazine – All You Need To Know About Customer Journey Mapping
- The Next Web - 5 strategies behind awesome customer service on social media
There was a decades-old study on physician-patient communication, which showed that primary care physicians were sued less often if they exhibited more empathetic behavior with patients. These doctors spent time educating patients about their care, used humor and laughed, and asked patients and their families to speak their minds and freely ask questions about treatment.
While this study was about medicine, it relates to all fields in which people are dealing with people. Simply showing respect and understanding at the start of a client relationship will often prevent escalations in the future.
To start on the path of empathy, one must speak like a human. This begins with slashing boxed, mechanical responses like, “We apologize for your inconvenience.” And instead responding with honesty: “We screwed up.”
And then it’s about making sure to give sincere and honest apologies. Effective apologies need to incorporate empathy and provide the customer with:
- An explanation of what happened
- How you’re going to fix the problem
- And a timeline for when the problem will be fixed.
It’s also important to remember that apologies lose their meaning the more times they have to be said for each particular one issue.
- ‘Customer service can’t always deliver solutions, but it can always deliver empathy.’
- Why Empathy is the Key to Excellent Customer Service
- The Art of Saying Sorry – How to Apologize in Customer Service
Our lives are impacted by technology on a daily basis, and that now includes Chat Bots, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Predictive Analytics. It is almost becoming a bit of an expectation that companies have some kind of automation or sense of who their clients are and what their preferences might be.
Using this technology in customer support can provide personalized or contextualized recommendations throughout the customer journey, quickly analyzing questions for effective triaging, and instantly surfacing data that will help customers and support reps make better decisions.
AI is helping customer service professionals by supplementing their workflow and, in the words of PrecisionLender CEO Carl Ryden, doing what machines do best so humans can do what humans do best.
Chatbots can recognize natural language to provide customers with information or services without the assistance of a support rep - at least initially. Chatbots assist support reps by answering what might be considered ‘softball’ questions so reps’ efforts can be spent answering the harder questions. These bots use modern technologies like Natural Language Processing and Predictive Analytics.
Natural Language Processing
Natural Language Processing is a field of computer science, AI, and computational linguistics that analyzes sentences for intent and emotion. This technology is being leveraged to triage phone calls and chat messages to the right person quickly and in a way that drives down cost.
For example, a tier 1 ticket could cost a company $1 to resolve while a tier 2 ticket costs a company $16 to resolve. If a tier 1 ticket was triaged to a tier 2 rep, the question would get answered, but it would result in a larger cost to the company that can add up over time and volume. NLP ‘s ability to correctly sort these tickets helps eliminate these types of inefficiencies.
Predictive Analytics is defined as ‘the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.’ This technology is being used by support reps to combine and surface relevant and timely customer data that is often siloed in big companies. With Predictive Analytics, support reps can identify clients and retrieve their records by just their phone number. Thus, reps are armed with the data they need to help the client before even saying ‘Hello, how can I help you?’
- AI-Powered Customer Service Needs The Human Touch
- Venture Beat - How customer service chatbots are giving businesses an edge
- TOPBOTS – 4 Approaches to Natural Language Processing & Understanding
- CMS Wire – Customer Service Becomes Predictive
In a perfect world, you’d never need customer support. But in the next best option, you’d get support that’s proactive, empathetic and tech savvy. Fortunately, that’s now becoming a reality for more and more customers.