3 Ways Contact Centers are Shooting Themselves in the Foot

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Superior customer experiences that are simple, fun, personalized, and actionable are one of the few ways companies can differentiate their brand and retain customers. Yet, in many cases, companies undermine these efforts by cutting corners or superficially pursuing better experiences. Here are three examples of how companies are shooting themselves in the foot and what they should do instead.

3 ways contact centers are shooting themselves in the foot1. Offering a loyalty program but failing to provide better service

Returning customers expect to be rewarded for their loyalty. And while companies understand the value of offering discounts and other perks in a loyalty program, they often drop the ball when it comes to the contact center. For example, a hotel brand charged me twice for a reservation that I made with loyalty points..

A week had gone by and the company had yet to resolve the issue so I called customer service. The associate assured me he would take care of the problem and proceeded to put me on hold for 20 minutes. I was about to hang up when the associate came back and told me the problem had been solved. Am I relieved that the issue had been fixed? Yes, but did I feel good about the experience? No.

Associates have no choice but to place customers on hold otherwise they’ll get pushed to another guest. In other words, it’s a tech issue. If a company wanted to provide better service, especially for its loyalty or high value clientele, it should allow its associates to work on the problem and call the guest back before assisting the next member. Why wait on hold while the company fixes a problem that was “self-inflicted?” Makes no sense, right?

An even better approach is to let me know, “Hey Ray, you know what – I’m going to solve this issue and personally call you back once I have final confirmation – would that be OK? I’ll call you on your mobile number or can send you a text message with confirmation if you like. How does that sound? Give me about 20 minutes and you’ll be hearing from me.”

2. Over-relying on scripts

Scripts offer plenty of benefits: they help associates adhere to policies and provide consistent service. But unless it’s a highly regulated sector, over-relying on scripts can also undermine the customer experience. In other words, forcing employees to use a script when responding to customers creates an inauthentic conversation. We all know what it sounds like when an employee is obviously giving scripted responses. It’s off-putting and often frustrating. This also holds true in digital conversation—engage me like we are communicating face-to-face and not from a distant land.

Trust your people and empower them to be your “ambassadors of Quan,” as Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character tells Tom Cruise in the film Jerry Maguire. (Gooding Jr. plays a football player who explains to his associate, Cruise, that quan is more than just “coin”—it's about love and respect AND money.) In other words, after receiving the proper training, employees should be trusted to interact naturally with customers and deliver a great customer experience.

New hires might feel more comfortable sticking to a script or defined process but we all learn best when the training wheels come off. Companies can help speed up the learning process by optimizing ways to transfer knowledge (e.g., coaching) and reinforce ownership of the knowledge.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to let your new team make mistakes – it’s how we all learn most effectively. Let your team know it’s okay to go off-script and trust them; otherwise why did you hire them in the first place? That said, fail quickly and improve. This approach has been found to increase employee retention and customer satisfaction—therefore everyone wins.

3. Expecting employees to adopt an omnichannel approach without the right resources

It’s not a secret that customers don’t think in channels; they expect to interact with a brand at any time through the communication channel of their choice. Delivering a great experience can be costly, though. Companies therefore try to do more with less. In the contact center, for example, it’s common to ask employees who handle phone calls to switch to email or chat during slow periods.

The problem is that an employee may be great at one task but doesn’t necessarily perform as well in other tasks. During the recruiting phase, make sure to assess the employee’s multi-tasking skills in any channel as well as his or her expediency with today’s most common CRM tools like Salesforce and Zendesk. Taking shortcuts to hire faster often leads to disappointing results. Leverage technology to vet your hiring decisions to go faster and prevent future mistakes.

If hiring more associates or investing in more training is out of the question, companies have other options. Consider offsetting costs with a robust self-service knowledgebase and easy-to-navigate customer forums. In some cases, customers prefer interacting with fellow customers. For instance, gamers often have highly specific questions that are best answered by those who spend as much time as they do on a game. Dedicated gamers are often willing to serve as brand ambassadors in exchange for exclusive access to upcoming releases and other special offerings.

All it takes is a willingness to explore creative options.

Claiming to value one’s customers is one thing, and actually acting on those values is something else. Truly customer-centric organizations base decisions on how they affect the customer and avoid mistakes like the ones outlined here. To do otherwise gives competitors an easy advantage. Which approach describes your company?