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Prior to the 20th century, ‘customer support’ was strikingly different from what we’re used to today. Forget UPS pick-up, returning something or getting it fixed meant having to physically go down to a store yourself—which might have entailed traveling hours or even days—and having a one-to-one conversation with the shopkeeper (who might also have been the one and only ‘employee’ of the store).
But while getting that ‘customer support’ may have been harder, that one-to-one interaction meant customer and shopkeepers had a relationship with one other—they’d know your quirks (that your left foot was just a little bit bigger than your right one), your habits (that you always pick up a roast on Sundays), and your history with them (that you came down last weekend to get your dress mended).
Back then, customer service was…well…personal.
Technology has undoubtedly made it easier for us to get the help we need—and thank goodness for that—but it’s also had the effect of distancing companies from their customers. And while I’m not advocating we go back to the days before the telephone, I do think there’s still an opportunity to bring some of the magic of the personal touch back into the customer relationship, even at the contact center level. Below you’ll find some tips for how you can rethink your contact center strategy.
Contact Center Strategies Cannot Rely on Transactional Approaches
Customer Retention is Key in Your Contact Center Strategy, But Often Overlooked
Traditionally, contact centers have been regarded as more of a ‘complaints department’—a place to direct irate customers in those unfortunate situations when something goes wrong.
Companies instead pour their relationship-building efforts into their sales and marketing initiatives, to try and attract more and more customers into the fold.
And while attracting new customers is key to a company’s survival, this approach overlooks an equally important component to continued success: customer retention.
At the end of the day, no matter how much money and effort you put into your sales and marketing efforts, the math will break if there isn’t enough attention paid towards proactive efforts of making sure your existing customers are happy with the product or service you sold to them.
[ Read more: Anticipatory Service: How it Shapes Footwear Brand KURU ]
Like pouring water into a leaking bottle, you won’t be able to realize the full ROI of your sales and marketing efforts unless you give equal attention to your customer care and call center strategy, and stem the inevitable churn.
Move Your Contact Center Strategy Beyond ‘Satisfied’ Customers
Customers today have a lot of options when it comes to making a purchase. That means companies need to give them a reason to keep coming back when it comes time to make that purchase again.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, the best reason a customer has to return is an emotional one. When a customer feels truly emotionally connected to their brand, they’re 52% more valuable than a customer who is just ‘highly satisfied’, accounting for 37% of a company’s revenue despite making up just 22% of their customer base.
That means your modern customer experience strategy has to move from just being about solving problems and sending customers on their way—your customers know that they have options, so being able to deliver a great customer experience just isn’t enough anymore. It’s the relationship piece within that service that will keep loyal customers coming back to you instead of your competition.
Goodbye ‘Contact’ Center, Hello ‘Connection’ Center
So how can companies create a contact center strategy that shifts a customer from just satisfied to truly connected?
Well, there are a lot of parts to it. You could have a company mission your customers can get behind (like Native Shoes’ environmentally-friendly approach to shoes), or foster a shared passion and community (like JOANN does with its community of crafters from 13 – 80+).
But on top of that, it’s about making a home for your customers with your service, and moving from a ‘contact’ center—focused on one-off, transactional interactions with customers—to a ‘connection’ center—where agents are encouraged to build relationships with your customers that keep them coming back.
The 3 Steps to Elevate Your Contact Center Strategy
#1 Rethink your metrics
In most cases, contact centers (and agents) are judged by metrics like average handle time (i.e. the amount of time an agent spends to resolve a customer’s question) or first contact resolution rate (i.e. how often an agent is able to resolve a customer’s question or issue the first time they reach out).
No doubt, these are important metrics to track—there’s certainly nobody who’d say their service was improved because it took longer, or required them to reach out multiple times—but they shouldn’t be the determining metrics for your organization or call center strategy.
Instead, your contact center strategy should judge your agents’ performance on metrics that focus on the customer’s happiness—their Net Promoter Score (i.e. how likely a customer would be to recommend you to a friend or family member on a scale of 1 to 10), CSAT score (a customer’s satisfaction with your product or service), and customer loyalty (whether they return to you the next time a need arises).
[Read More: Customer Satisfaction Survey]
Shifting the focus of your metrics from speed to customer happiness encourages your agents to build relationships with customers. By giving them the runway to take a little longer when speaking with customers, they can move past the purely transactional, and into conversations that build those connections that keep customers coming back.
#2 Make your customer feel known
Do you find yourself going back to the same coffee/bagel/boba place where they know your name, and have your usual order going as soon as you step through the door?
Well, it’s easy to see why.
As human beings, we have an innate desire to feel known and valued. And when a person (or company) can make you feel remembered, you’re more likely to want to give them your time and custom over another store that treats you like a stranger.
In the context of the ‘connection center’, every time a customer interacts with you, they give you information about themselves that you can use to personalize their experience.
For example, if a customer reached out to about a dress they wanted to order, don’t make them rehash their conversation if they reach out again a week later. Or make them recite their order number again.
Which brings us to the next step of your contact center strategy, empowering your agents to help customers feel known.
#3 Empower your agents
Your agents are helping hundreds, if not thousands, or customers a day. And to ask them to personalize the experience for each of them—even customers they’ve never spoken to—would be asking for the moon.
But it’s not such a stretch if you provide them with the right customer service tools to help them deliver that level of personal service as part of your contact center strategy.
Final Thoughts: Contact Center Strategy
With so much technology at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important not to lose your customer centric culture in the process. And having the right customer service software to organize a single place or “customer profile” to maintain information is a big piece of that. This way, when a customer calls, it’s not a new ticket for every interaction, but a personalized experience that picks up right where it left off on the other end.