A couple of generations ago, when most retail transactions were conducted over the counter of your local store, and much business-to-business commerce was managed if not in person, then by formal letter (who remembers the old abbreviations for last month, this month, and next month? Answers on a postcard, please!), it was easy to maintain a relationship with your customers. Mail-order and telephone services changed all that, and with the loss of face-to-face communication the nature of a customer relationship also changed.
Today, of course, there are myriad different ways a customer can let you know that there’s something wrong or that they need help. And research shows that customers actively dislike almost all of them. Why is this? Why do disgruntled customers not enjoy their interactions with customer service people.
1. The hold queue. Yes, everybody is busy. And, sometimes, customers will really believe that “your call is important to us.” But it’s an enormous frustration to be left hanging on hold, with no clear idea when your call will be answered. It’s hard to commit to another task, so customers are left in an unproductive limbo in the hopes that their call will be answered by the next available agent. And when that agent needs to go and check something, or confirm a data point with a colleague, the customer is put into the audio purgatory of looping hold music once again.
2. Having to explain who they are and what they want, over again. If the first person a customer reaches isn’t in a position to answer their question, it’s reasonable to refer that customer to a colleague. But if the entirety of the first conversation doesn’t come along with that referral, a customer is left having to start again from the beginning of their story. That’s not good for anyone, is a waste of time for both parties, and will only serve to increase frustration.
3. Robot conversations. You see this all the time on social media channels, where are number of customers are pitching in to discuss an issue. The form response from an automated agent in the channel, inviting the customer to DM more information for a personalized answer. While that may placate one customer, it can send everyone else further into the red mist as they see preferential treatment given to the customer who complains loudest. When this works well, it makes news – but the very fact that successful outcomes of twitterstorms are newsworthy should be a good indication of how rare that is.
What do all these have in common? They’re all synchronous (or, in the case of a social media robot, pseudo-synchronous) communications, that suck up as much time for the customer as for the agent trying to resolve the issue. More often than not, the accuracy of the reply is more important to the customer than having the answer right here, right now. So why not concentrate efforts on the single most ubiquitous, convenient and familiar asynchronous communication tool we all use daily? Email ticks all the boxes here – yes, email…
In a properly managed customer service email inbox, the hold queue (the as-yet-unanswered inbound emails) is invisible to the customer. Agents get to answer emails in turn, so that no customer is left behind, and your organization can make promises for service levels that you know you can keep.
There’s no need for a customer to repeat an explanation of an issue if the email can be directed to the right person every time. And even when a third-party opinion is needed to provide a complete answer, the message is right there for the subject matter expert, with no requirement to speak to the customer again until the issue is resolved.
And, of course, you can ensure that every single customer receives the same attention. There’s no need to ask for communication through a different channel, there’s no perception of favoring the squeaky wheel. Although, of course, it’s important to ensure that your VIP customers still receive VIP treatment where necessary.
If this sounds like a good way to keep your customers happy, please let us know!