Online call center software has come a long way from being an archaic bag of tools, each of which performed a few basic tasks. The cutting edge cloud-based software of today is the “New Call Center” – mobile, efficient, and utterly indispensable.
Here is why the seamlessly integrated cloud-based call center software solutions are taking over the industry and why we think they will continue to do so in the days to come.
With the onset of technology and its rapid integration into all aspects of our lives, we now live in a global village that gets smaller by the day.
This also means that, from a business perspective, our marketplaces have become highly competitive, and with time, they will continue to be even more so.
With increased competition comes the continually more difficult task of establishing and maintaining market shares, revenues, and leadership positions.
To add to that, companies and brands – whether in B2B or in B2C markets – also know that it is nearly impossible to rely on purely ‘functional’ differences to maintain an edge over the competition.
The chief cause for this dynamic nature of the market is the age of technological diffusion that we live in. For the most part, unless protected by patents (or the like), one can hardly expect to defend marketplace positions purely on the basis of pure functionality, or even pricing for that matter.
Soon enough, there comes along someone that is better or cheaper, or likely both.
In this scenario, increasingly under focus are the measures that companies take to win and retain customers with “all else that matters”. These include functional and largely, the intangible or “emotional” aspects of managing your brands, companies, and customers.
A good example would be technology companies such as Samsung and Haier. These consumer facing companies have increasingly been shifting to a more “lifestyle positioning” versus a purely functional one.
As sellers, we need to keep reminding ourselves that ultimately, we sell to people, people with emotions and feelings. They like feeling assured. They like their voices being heard and opinions being taken.
They like being taken care of. They certainly do not like feeling as if your only interest in them lies in the profit they generate, after which you disappear.
Given this way of things, the Customer Service aspect of business, regardless of whether it is for a B2B or B2C brand, becomes even more critical.
The importance of right tools in delivering an amazing customer service experience cannot be overlooked. The use of cloud based technology in call centers, like everywhere else, has revolutionized the way we do business.
This has also led to new and innovative ways of helping customers as well as improving the efficiency of internal processes.
As far as the marketplace goes, cloud technology has leveled the playing field somewhat, in that it now allows small and medium enterprises to compete with global leaders for market share.
The trick lies in a business’ ability to fully exploit the potential of this new technology as well as finding new and innovative uses for it that enable you to deliver the best user experience possible.
Customer service is increasingly less about ‘simply service’ and more about the ‘service experience.’ And that is why, our customer service tips today are focused less on the operational aspect and more on the “emotional” aspect of your brand experience.
1. Know your product inside out – Start by ensuring that service reps have received thorough product training. Build on their knowledge with regular updates. Keep them on their toes with initiatives such as pop quizzes or reward-based assessments.
Your employees’ ease with the CRM tools is essential to their ability to do their job well. Equip them with tried and tested methods from experienced employees, such as organizing and managing multiple windows.
Thoroughly trained service representatives are confident while providing support and in turn, inspire your customers with confidence in your product and support.
2. Get in your customer’s shoes – Gather effective intelligence about your customers. It is important to understand who your customers really are and what they are looking for in a product/service.
Identifying your target customer base accurately helps you develop a more focused product/brand strategy. Data can be obtained from a number of sources. However, the trick lies in knowing which data to rely on and on analyzing it correctly.
3. Focus on user experience – It is no longer enough that you product/service solves a problem or fulfills a need. Nor can customer service be defined anymore through your ability to simply resolve issues pertaining to your product.
Customer service and customer experience are two different concepts, and both are important when it comes to customer satisfaction. The whole user experience matters with increasing prominence being given to the customer’s emotional experience.
To maintain your edge in the market, you are required to understand the customer’s pain points and monitor each level of customer interaction to understand what frustrates them and what delights them.
Work on issues that take away from their brand experience – issues such as lack of adequate information, language barriers, inaccessibility to live support, etc.
4. Don’t lose touch with ground zero – The service representatives are your front line. Take regular feedback from them. They talk to your customers every day and can gauge the customer’s moods and their responses to products, updates, promotions, etc.
They are able to tell you what is bothering your customers on a day-to-day basis, e.g., longer hold times, repeat problems with certain products, etc. Sometimes, it takes extensive research and market surveys to gather intelligence that could have been found out by simply asking the agents.
5. Collect data on every call – Use your most valuable customer touch point to collect relevant data. Formulate questions about products/services to be included at the end of every call.
It is important not to overdo this one. Formulate only one question at a time or provide customer service reps with a list of questions categorized by issues/products.
Questions which are closely related to the customer’s issue will be more easily answered than questions less relevant to the reason for the call.
6. Share feedback and survey data with the team – Sharing the feedback data with the team puts them in touch with the tangible results of their efforts. It reminds them of the appreciation they receive when they have gone the extra mile and the obvious missteps that could have been avoided.
This initiative on your part will make employees feel more a part of the holistic customer service experience rather than just a cog in the wheel and can be a motivating factor, if used right.
7. Use the right etiquette – Emphasize the importance of etiquette. Make it a part of the work culture and encourage its use in day-to-day interactions even within the team.
If good etiquette becomes a part of their natural demeanor, rather than an act they put for the customer, it will come more naturally and sound more sincere.
Besides basic responses such as congratulations, condolences, etc., teach employees the value of an empathetic manner. When unsure of how to respond to customer’s statements/questions, ask questions and summarize conversations to highlight mutual understanding.
Punctuality and reliability are two attributes that are often neglected. However, they could go a long way to earning a customer’s trust and loyalty towards your brand.
8. Promote active listening and understanding – Active listening with verbal nods and without interruptions gives the customer the feeling of being heard.
Emphasize understanding of the issue and the acknowledgment of customer’s feelings regarding the same. Listen carefully and address each point brought up by the customer.
If a customer goes off track, it is important not to entirely ignoring the irrelevant conversation. If done right, small talk can become a great took to build rapport. At the same time, practice maintaining control of the call and politely guiding the conversation back to the relevant topic.
9. Instill cultural sensitivity – The significance of cultural knowledge cannot be emphasized enough. Cultural knowledge is vital, not just for building rapport, but indeed even to prevent misunderstandings as well as to avoid giving offence unknowingly.
Being aware of someone’s cultural norms displays respect for them and their customs. This counts in your favor, as it projects the right image of your brand as being flexible and inclusive.
Employees should be aware of the common dos and don’ts pertaining to the client’s culture. Cultural knowledge can be encouraged through activities such as quizzes, games, and special celebration days.
10. Use simple language – Train your reps to stay away from jargon and technical terms/abbreviations on the call, whenever possible.
Educate them on what constitutes “talking down” to customers for their lack of knowledge. Lay emphasis on educating the customer, wherever possible. Explain company policies and procedures clearly and completely.
Tip: Give each employee access to a cheat sheet with technical terms explained in lay language. The cheat sheet should be easy to access for every service rep in case the need to explain a term arises in the course of the conversation)
11. Don’t bind too tightly to the script – Instead, train them to conduct conversations, and be flexible but be efficient on each call. Agents that can conduct a conversation build better rapport, which results in a higher level of customer patience as well as a better customer experience overall.
Emphasize the importance of sincerity in communication. Stress on clarity in communication and a positive attitude.
12. Equip with EQ – EQ skills such as patience, a calm voice, being a good listener, and maintaining the right boundaries can improve communication and lead to a more positive customer experience.
The right EQ skills will help your agents to build rapport faster and establish trust with the customer. Use strong positive words on the call and stay away from phrases with negative connotations.
Asking the right questions will enable employees to be efficient without being abrupt or discourteous. Be sure to equip them with the necessary information required to deal with specific instances of customer dissatisfaction.
13. Understand the importance of history – Discourage reps from giving in to the temptation to respond based only on the current question/query in order to close the call quickly.
Encourage them to go through the client’s history with the company and provide contextual assistance, especially for long standing issues.
Emphasize on detailed and correct documentation for future reference. Customers whose issues are addressed holistically feel valued and are likely to feel more positive about their service experience.
14. Let employees take ownership – Encourage and appreciate instances of employees taking ownership of the issue. Put a process in place that ensures regular follow ups until the issue is satisfactorily resolved.
Give credit where due when taking ownership has led to appreciation on customer’s part. On the same note, discourage the ‘passing the buck’ mentality by flagging repeat calls pertaining to the same issue by the same customer.
15. Nurture an environment of service excellence – Excellence in customer service is not an occasional venture to be undertaken during slack periods. Rather, it is an attitude to be cultivated and integrated in every aspect of your customer service operations.
When customers learn to expect a certain level of service, they expect that level in all their dealings with your company. This consistent level of service can only be achieved with an environment of service excellence.
Make sure your key people believe in service excellence. When the top management believes in it, the right priorities are set and the positive effects trickle down through the ranks.
16. Keep the bottom line in mind – Don’t get caught in the numbers game. Understand that happy customers stay with you. The way you handle a customer complaint can mean the difference between losing a customer forever and having him become your brand advocate.
One way to ensure that the customer is the focal point of ‘customer’ service is to base the scoring system of your call center monitoring software on parameters that affect your customers, rather than those that affect internal processes.
You can also make it easier for your employees to give their best on each call by setting achievable targets and keeping their stress levels low.
17. Make learning an on-going process. Help your employees do their jobs better by constantly upgrading their skills and updating their knowledge. Training can take many forms. Exhaustive re-trainings for new products or updates to products will help them stay on top of things and will prevent them from getting flustered on calls.
Five minute sessions with real time feedback from customers can be used to highlight instances of good service and challenges met, emphasizing and reiterating the right concepts.
Training can also be used to equip employees with the information that gives them that slight edge to help them perform better.
For instance, keeping them apprised of the current events in the customer’s part of the world enables them hold up their end of the conversation and build better rapport.
18. Be easily accessible to your customers – Provide your customers with different ways to reach you. At the same time, ensure that your customers are not endlessly looping in the IVR by making it easy to reach a person with a handy option.
Make sure transfers are done correctly and to the right department. Have agents flag long wait time complaints from customers and act on the data. Forecasting software can be used while scheduling shifts so that enough agents are available during periods of high call volume.
19. Keep raising the bar –Continued pursuit of excellence is the only way to stay on top of the game. Companies that fail to evolve eventually lose the edge in the market. Don’t settle for a set standard of customer service, however good it may be. Try to get a little better each day.
20. Leverage talent – Train your agents to upsell/cross-sell/generate leads. Train them to handle sales queries effectively even without the prospect of an immediate sale.
On the other hand, ensure you don’t over serve. It is important that the customer feels assisted rather than feeling harrowed and plied with offers. They should feel informed about their buying options without feeling pressured to buy.
21. Employ work at home agents – The use of virtual call center software enables managing work at home agents with ease. Employees that work from home help reduce overheads. It allows you to retain talent that may otherwise be lost due to maternity, illness and other such common causes for attrition.
You empower your employees to keep working for you even when they cannot make the trip to work, thereby reducing the loss of trained agent.
The use of flexible policies such as work from home has been known to increase employee satisfaction and encourage loyalty towards workplace.
The convenience of work at home option can work both ways by allowing you to broaden your horizons and enabling you to employ talent from different cities, rather than restricting your recruitment to the limited pool within a geographical area.
22. Stay ahead of technology –The future is going to be radically different from the present. It is a changing market with rapid technological advancements.
Keep looking for new channels of reaching out to your customers. Don’t be afraid to use cutting edge tools to make the user experience better.
Businesses, that failed to grasp the importance of social media to branding and customer service initially, have had to work extra hard just to catch up and stay in the game. Don’t be the last player in the market to adopt new methods or ideas.
23. Monitor each customer touch point –Each channel through which you maintain contact with your customer is a touch point. This encompasses everything from chats to calls to onsite technician visits.
Touch points also include marketing initiatives such as ads, social media accounts, promotional events, etc. All of these touch points can be valuable sources of data, which when properly tracked and analyzed can provide valuable insights into your customer’s brand experience.
For instance, social media is often found to be a good indicator of customers’ moods. It is an invaluable source of information when it comes to customers’ reactions to say, a new product, a new marketing strategy, or a customer service initiative, among other things.
24. Use data wisely – Every customer touch point is a potential source of precious data – data that could help forge more and more effective brand strategies. Building data collection into your customer service helps identify and monitor the parameters that genuinely affect customer experience.
It is no longer enough to build strategy based on real time data. It is becoming increasingly important day by day to stay ahead of the customer’s needs, to predict trends and to find quicker, more efficient solutions. Exploit the full potential of real time data through predictive analysis.
25. Be proactive – Use data analysis and forecasting to find proactive solutions to recurring issues. Put procedures in place for follow ups and feedback for longstanding cases, rather than waiting for the customer to call back each time.
Train agents to address the foreseeable issues before they arise, on every call. For instance, is the customer’s subscription about to expire or are they reaching the end of warranty?
Is there a new update to the product that the customer does not know about? Empower them to go the extra mile and resolve customer issues before they arise.
26. Empower customers with self-service support – According to recent study, a staggering 72% of the customers said they preferred accessing the self-service support option. Self-service support, if done right, can increase customer satisfaction while reducing the burden on your customer service departments.
Provide conveniently accessible information for known issues that is properly categorized and easy to search. Don’t forget to make available a handy option to quickly reach customer service, in case it fails to resolve their query.
Take regular customer feedback for the self-service system to gauge its effectiveness in solving problems and its continued relevance to your customer service strategy.
27. Make it seamless – Use collaborative tools within the team such as internal chats, message boards, shared calendars, etc. to rope in the different sections of the process and provide the customer with a seamless user experience.
Using call center management software for this purpose can also be a great way to quickly solve problems or ask for support in the middle of a call. Pooling information can also help identify trends and catch product-wide issues before they get out of hand.
Case Study 1
Improving customer service by using a competent call center software solution to retain customers in a competitive market
· Insurance4U.com, a reseller for Insurance Products, has grown rapidly over the past two years
· With a strong management team, efficient systems and well-trained staff across all functions (Sales, Admin, Fulfilment etc.), they provide all types of Insurance Products including Personal, Medical, Life, Corporate, and Disaster.
· They are the official DSAs (Direct Sales Agents) of several Insurance Principles and market themselves through a heavily promoted portal as well as through direct outreach via a Sales Team.
· The Online Sales team, which drives maximum revenue for the Sales Team, responds to Inbound Leads (inbound calls, website enquiries) and also makes Outbound Calls on a vast database of potential customers. The Onsite Sales team is comprised mainly of independent people that work on commissions.
· The onsite Online Sales Team uses an indigenously developed in-house call center solutions to manage sales calls in order to get in touch with the prospective buyers who might be interested in buying insurance policies.
· Insurance4U.com runs several promotions to generate leads and also has an efficient Omni-channel strategy. They use a call center software system to communicate with the customers.
Since the software is also embedded within the website of the company, all website visits and signups are automatically fed directly into the customer service software application. The customers then receive a call from a sales agent for further dialogue.
· The lead generation activities of the company were effective since there was always a healthy stream of clients in the pipeline. With great products and a good number of prospects, the company fared well initially.
Initial sales targets and revenue figures were met and it seemed like they were on their way to developing a large and loyal customer base that would generate significant amounts of repeatable revenue for them.
· However, the company soon realized that they were getting very few, if any, “repeat buyers”. While the customers made a “first-purchase”, they rarely ever came back and enquired or actually renewed their policies or made another purchase from the site.
· The company decided to conduct an extensive Customer Feedback Survey and also engaged an independent research firm to get to the bottom of this mysterious customer behavior. The findings suggested that:
P1: The respondents felt that the company had a strong product offering, a good sales pitch that communicated the benefits effectively, and competitive pricing to match.
P2: However, the Order Fulfillment and After-Sales Service was regarded as “inefficient” and “weak”.
P3: Customers felt that “they were only there for the company to make a sale and profit”. Most of them felt that once the “sale was closed,” the company “probably didn’t care a whole lot about the customers.”
P4: Customers also perceived a “sense of arrogance” on the part of the company salesmen. The Management felt that this could be a likely result of the competitive prices that the firm could offer, which in turn, gave the Sales Team the confidence that their offer was the strongest in the market.
P4: As part of the study, the strategies of their competitors were studied, as were the methods of firms that had extensive customer touch points.
P5: It was evident that the standards of Order Fulfillment, Customer Service, and Post-Sales Service maintained by Insurance4U were far lower than those maintained by the other firms that were studied.
· The company then decided to devise and rapidly execute an extensive Customer Service strategy
· The main objective was to make sure that customers renewed their policies when they were up for renewal. In addition to the “minimum target” of renewing the existing policy, further effort would be made to Upsell and/or Cross Sell other company products as well, thereby increasing the profitability per customer.
This would act as a barometer for how the company was faring with regards to the Customer Service and Satisfaction Index.
· The existing Retention & Renewal Team was a small one and did not have a very organized method of working. This team was expanded and provided with specific guidelines on the procedures to be followed in specific instances.
· In studying its internal customer service procedures, the company was able to identify shortfalls in several areas including, importantly, the telemarketing software that the company had installed.
While the current telecalling software supported the basic functions of making calls, the company discovered that many features such as List Management, Call Recording, Customer Interactions History, Customer Details, and, overall Call Management that would actually help in improving the CSAT were missing.
The company further discovered that most competing firms were already using more advanced software that included all these features.
· The company immediately conducted a call center software comparison and based on the results, installed a new software. The telecallers were provided with extensive training and the new software was rolled out across four phases to ensure that the daily activities of the company were not disrupted.
· The scope of the new software was enough for it to be used as an entire call-center on the cloud, with many features and strengths that supported the entire process of interaction between customer and agent.
· For example, the telecallers could access the entire historical interaction (and, purchasing) history of the buyers via its stored database. As a result, the agents were advised to contact the buyer keeping in mind his/her previous interactions.
Hence, when a “first-time” customer had bought a standard medical insurance, the agent was trained to offer an upgraded policy with more benefits.
· Other examples included when the customer had claimed some insurance during the previous year of tenure…
· A “90 day” policy was adopted wherein gentle reminders were sent 90 days ahead of the renewal date. This meant that the customer did not feel that the company had contacted them at the very last minute and did not “take them for granted.”
· The callers were advised to use the first name of the buyer in mail, calls, social media interactions, as well as live chats. The communication would also include the name and direct contact details of the agents so that a “personal” connection could be established and the buyer would know who was on the other side of the line.
· Feedback was collected right after the fulfillment was done since the interaction was fresh in the mind of the customer. In case any of his suggestions were implemented, he was informed and a XXX was provided to him. He was also thanked for taking this extra initiative.
· Personalizing the entire process was an important part of the new strategy. E-cards sent on client birthdays, general information related to the type of insurance taken was sent regularly (e.g. health related information for those that had taken medical insurance).
· The company was also active on all social platforms so that the buyers could contact them through their preferred medium. The packaging of goods was personalized and a thank-you message included with each package.
· As a result, it was decided that a little bit of humor and personal touch should be added to all the interactions irrespective of the channel.
· With constant efforts from the caller, the clients started to feel special in the long run. With customization brought into the picture, the company observed that it was able to retain its buyers and consumer loyalty was on a constant rise.
With automation and digitization taking the communication industry by storm, change in technology should not change your outlook towards the buyers.
– In the today’s competitive world, it is how you treat your clients that will take you places.
– Customer experience is no longer something that simply adds value to your brand strategy. It is vital now, more than ever, to make it the foundation for all service decisions.
– This means that the customer service group has gone from being an expense to an important asset for every company.
– How well you equip, train, and manage this part of your business is going to affect your company’s bottom line in a big way.
One of the ways to empower your customer service group is to ensure that they are equipped with the right tools and systems, such as the best call center software customized to your business needs.
Hence, it is essential that you utilize cloud call center solutions that not only makes connecting with the consumers a simple process but also one that makes room for giving the customers a personalized experience.
This is especially true for small and medium businesses that wish to compete on a global level. And this means, that your choice of call center software for small business now, is more important than ever.