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Future of Customer Service: A roundup of key highlights from our latest Customer Forum
At Gladly, our customers are our lifeblood. In fact, twice a year we bring our inspiring customers together in what we call our Customer Forum —a closed-door session where they’re encouraged to exchange ideas and thoughts on the future of customer service, as well as their own best practices and other types of thought leadership.
It’s been truly amazing to see the Forum grow into a real community of innovative, forward-looking thought leaders in the customer experience space, where inspiring conversations are shared—along with a lot of raw honesty, learnings, and laughs.
The theme for our latest Forum was a forward-looking one, titled Driving the Future of Customer Service. Right from day one, we had our customers zipping along the race track in some of the world’s most famous high-powered cars (you might say we took our theme quite literally)—but more importantly, we discussed the upcoming trends in customer care, and how our customers were preparing to meet them.
And while we won’t be mentioning specific names (after all, it was a closed-door event), there were some really intriguing insights that we felt were too great to not be shared.
The Future of Customer Service
#1 Creating a Culture Focused on Customers
While a customer-centric culture has been top-of-mind for today’s companies, many struggle with the reality of actually implementing a customer-centered model and putting it into action in their own organizations.
For one of our customers—whose successful implementation saw them catapulted up the JD Power Satisfaction ranking—it was three main factors that turned out to be key to their success:
Instilling a common purpose. According to our customer, the first step was to create a north star for their company: a simple message that an employee could turn to whenever they made decisions involving a customer. But the focus wasn’t on remembering the exact words of the message, but more that their team internalized the spirit of it. And that they lived it and practiced it in every interaction, whether it was with a customer face-to-face at a store, or less directly over email or phone. At a higher level, it also influenced their decision-making when it came to choosing technologies that would affect the day-to-day experience of their customers.
Invested leadership. Besides having a north star, they also stressed the need to have the investment and buy-in of their leadership with an eye towards the future of customer service. Because customer-centricity involves considerable resources at the outset—for training, staff incentives, and even hiring for new, customer-focused positions—it was critical that the executive team be on board and ready to make these investments, rather than to just talk about them. Too often mission statements that address changing the customer experience across the company are spoken, but fail to deliver in actions because when it comes to allocating resources, budget and time, they don’t make the cut. Apart from that, having the message come from the top-down also helped set the tone for the entire company that this would be a long-term, organization-wide priority.
Employee engagement. Last but certainly not least, it was also key that they had the support of their employees too. Because as important as the messaging and leadership is, it would be all for naught if the very employees who drive and deliver five star customer service to your customers weren’t fully bought in.
After an initial customer satisfaction survey they performed revealed a worrying trend of high disengagement amongst their customer-facing teams, our customer was spurred to re-evaluate how they engaged with their customer-facing teams.
One of the first changes they made was with the outsourced customer service teams they worked with. While before, these teams worked in rather generic spaces, our customer made it a point to bring the culture of the company alive for them—decorating their offices with company-related paraphernalia that would help to make them feel a part of the larger organization. And continuing on from that, top-performing agents are also regularly invited to the company headquarters and awarded perks in recognition for their efforts.
#2 Getting Leadership Buy-In Isn’t Always About Numbers
A sound cost-to-benefit ratio is usually key to securing leadership buy-in. But as one of our customers shared, there are some cases that don’t always fit neatly onto a balance sheet.
What did work for her, however, was putting their leadership in the ‘driver’s’ seat.
Having found no joy building a business case for why her remote Chat team needed an extra monitor, it was ultimately a shadow session (in which her CEO fielded a number of customer requests) that made the case for her.
[Learn More: In App Chat Support]
Sometimes it’s actions that speak louder than words—or numbers.
#3 Making Agents Feel Empowered to Act Empowered
There was certainly a lot of head nodding around the room when it came to the topic of empowering customer support agents. And while most had training and policies in place to encourage empowerment, a big hurdle for some was that their agents were still hesitant about actually exercising that power.
To that, some of our customers shared their tips to help reassure and embolden agents:
Celebrate the wins. One big learning was the power of story-telling, and the open and public celebrations of the ‘wins’. That means when an agent does exercise the power to go above and beyond with a customer, shout it from the rooftops (or at least during group trainings, email blasts or even internal newsletters). Hearing those examples (and seeing the praise that comes along with it) goes a long way towards emboldening other agents to follow suit.
Setting a ‘drift circle’. It might seem counterintuitive, but often, setting some guidelines or boundaries can help nervous agents feel safe to exercise their discretionary powers. In other words, once they know what they shouldn’t do, it makes it easier to figure out what they can.
#4 Owning the Conversation
Because our customers have transitioned off of legacy technology platforms, their agents and teams are typically organized to handle issues on a channel basis—one team handles chat, the other handles voice, and so on.
And while some have been happy to take the leap and have their agents make the switch from a single channel to going full omnichannel, others have chosen to take a more incremental approach to organizing their agents to manage omnichannel conversations.
[Read More: Omnichannel Customer Experience]
For one of our customers, it meant that while most of their agents were still tasked with handling just one channel, they were now expected to ‘own the conversation’.
For example, if an agent that’s predominantly responsible for helping customers on the phone sees that the customer they’re talking to has an email pending from 4 hours ago, they’re responsible for answering the question in that email too—which is something that Gladly’s consolidated timeline makes easy to do.
It’s a small step towards omnichannel, but a big leap towards improving the experience for the customer, and providing them the consistent and seamless experience they desire.
Final Thoughts: Future of Customer Service
While the Forum may effectively be in our rear-view mirror, we’re fortunate to leave with some great insights and stories from these incredible leaders in the CX space.
But the biggest lesson that we walk away with is that while our customers may sell vastly different products and services—in fact, most are in vastly differently verticals altogether—at the end of the day, they still have very much the same issues, concerns, and most importantly, the same passion towards driving a future of service where the customer can truly be at the heart of it all.
There’s always room for more. See how today’s leading companies are driving the future of customer experience with Gladly—join a Demo today.