How to Improve Your Customers' Service Experience with Effective Technology
Customers, especially customers that reach you over the Web, have come to expect decent customer service. Providing this service helps to ensure satisfied customers and it can also reduce your costs. According to Kate Leggett from KANA, you should be able to take many of the steps you need with some creativity, training and thoughtful use of software you probably already have.It is fair to say that customer service has changed since the Web 1.0 days. We know that the customers of today want to receive relevant information on their own terms, from peers, not companies, using their own terminology, displayed in the layout of their choice. At the same time, empowered customers want to make their own choices about the way they interact with companies that they do business with. That means that the company needs to provide not only the goods and services, but also the tools and culture to make the service experience one of paramount value to that customer and thus to the company in return. Here are some key steps to take in order to maximize the service experience for a customer:
E-mail has surpassed voice as being the preferred service choice. The SSPA (Service & Support Professionals Association) reports that customers expect an e-mail response within between 20 minutes and 2 hours. Yet, as Jupiter Research reports, e-mail response performance on the whole falls short of consumers' response time expectations-only 42 percent of companies responded to e-mail inquiries within 24 hours in 2006, down from 54 percent in 2002, while the number of unresponsive sites increased to 41 percent.
Even with these statistics working against you, there are basic steps to take to ensure that your customers know when their questions will be answered.
Auto-acknowledgements are a failsafe way to manage the conversation that you have with your customer, and establish service expectations-for example by letting your customers know that they will receive an answer to a question within 12 hours, or that their answers may be slightly delayed because the company is experiencing a higher volume of traffic than anticipated. Yet Jupiter Research tells us that only 39 percent of companies actually use them! If you do implement auto-acknowledgements, personalize them with the customer's name and include a greeting and your branding, as well as any pertinent order information. You can even include links to related products for purchase in auto-acknowledgements for cross-sell opportunities. Answer your customer's question According to Forrester Research, six in 10 customer service e-mails do not answer the customer's original question. Teach your agents to write useful e-mails. The first two lines of the e-mail should acknowledge the customer's question, and the message should be formatted for easy scanning, by using bolding or highlighting, for example. All questions that the customer asks-direct and implied-should be answered up front to help reduce follow-up questions from the customer. For example, a customer asking whether shuttle service is available should receive an answer answering this question, as well as giving the cost and schedule of the shuttle service. Follow up by asking whether the customer's question was answered, and give the customer alternate contact methods, such as by providing a pointer to the frequently asked questions section on the corporate Web site, a phone number or access to a chat link
Never force your customer to use a particular communication channel, or get stuck with a single communication channel for the duration of the service experience. Allow customers to choose the channel that works for them at that particular time. For example, a customer should be able to follow up an e-mail service request with a phone call if he is away from his desktop, and the agent should have access to the customer's information across all contact channels. Lastly, allow customers to give you unsolicited feedback-both good and bad. E-mail messages containing feedback can be categorized as such and routed to a queue designated to handle such contacts. As most of this feedback tends to be negative, strong focus should be given to addressing this feedback. Such interactions can be used as triggers to target consumers for proactive outreach. These strategies put you on the path to engaging in a successful two-way conversation with your customer base. Customers will still influence the relationship that they have with companies. Yet companies will have a greater success in creating a loyal customer base if they respect their customers. Kate Leggett is the director of e-Service Product Strategy at KANA. Her 10-plus years of experience as a senior engineering management professional in the enterprise software industry have been instrumental in allowing KANA to consistently deliver robust and competitive Knowledge Management products. Prior to joining KANA, she spent a decade working in many diverse areas of the eCommerce and CRM software industry. Kate uses her experience to help deliver world-class customer service solutions.