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Mar 13, 2018

How the Best Brands Improve Customer Service: 5 Expert Tips

leading brands improve customer service by focusing on optimizing call centers

[Estimated read time: 5 minutes]

If you're reading this, you're likely already aware that CX has taken center stage in strategic discussions at companies all over the world. In the age of the customer, the experience that brands offer their customers has become a major differentiator. And for many, it's a primary component of their competitive advantage.

A critical element in any CX strategy is improving customer service. While customers may interact with your brand in a variety of ways throughout their journey, some of the most high-stakes interactions take place when customers are seeking help and support. They're expecting to be able to find a resolution quickly, easily, and conveniently.

However, even though 80% of companies say they provide "superior" customer service, only 8% of people think these same companies actually deliver it. As a crucial component to your overall experience, customer service improvement initiatives should be treated as a priority.

Strategies to improve customer service

There are many ways to approach improving customer service, including delivering better customer self-service via web and mobile, focusing on in-store experiences, and optimizing your contact center. This post centers on the front lines of customer support: the systems and processes that call center agents use to serve customers every day.

What do leading brands do differently?

There are several call center best practices that the world's top brands prioritize as an integral part of day-to-day operations. Here's how leading brands offer superior customer service experiences:

1. They centralize all communication channels into one system

The past several years have seen increasing proliferation in the types of channels consumers prefer to use to communicate with companies. Consumers now expect to be able to call, email, text, live chat, message on social media, and more. Best-in-class contact centers integrate the management of all these disparate channels into one agent interface, which enables faster, easier resolutions.

For example, The Cheesecake Factory began using this centralized approach and found that, not only was it easier for agents to provide more personalized, accurate responses to guests, but their average handle time fell by 20%, and their average days to resolution was cut in half.

2. They provide in-context guidance for their agents

The average call center experience often involves a highly scripted interaction, wherein agents ask customers to provide information they've often already supplied and spend an unnecessarily long time searching for the pertinent account information. Leading brands address this annoying trifecta by supplying agents with onscreen guidance, which leads them through each interaction based on what the system can already infer about the consumer and their issue and offers in-context information alongside the case. For example, agents are able to see the details of recent purchases, previous service interactions, the customer's location, and other helpful information.

As a result, agents are equipped to provide efficient service without asking the customer to needlessly repeat information -- a better experience for all involved. For instance, Bush Brothers & Company® was able to improve their response time from three to four days to same-day resolution using the automation and integration provided by Astute's software.

3. They leverage knowledgebases integrated directly into their CRM

Training new call center agents can often take several weeks, in part due to the need to memorize all kinds of product information, policies, and resolution processes. However, companies can drastically reduce this training time (and increase resolution accuracy) by embedding an agent knowledgebase directly into the case management interface. Instead of requiring memorization or asking agents to spend time hunting through documentation, an integrated agent knowledgebase is able to locate the correct answer with a few keystrokes.

Aer Lingus has used their integrated knowledgebase, along with other productivity-oriented software features, to shave two minutes off their average call time and reduce cost-per-call by 35%. B&G Foods has seen similar results, cutting average response time from two days to mere minutes. In addition, nine out of 10 of their consumers say that their questions were answered thoroughly and that agents were knowledgeable.

4. They automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks

In the world of customer service, there are two extremes: on one end, agents perform every task associated with serving customers, and on the other end, companies do away with human agents entirely and fully rely on automation. The first extreme results in long wait times and handle times, as well as stressed-out agents. The second extreme often leads to customer frustration for the simple reason that machines simply cannot do everything that a human can do, and some customer situations will always require a human touch.

Best-in-class companies blend the best of automation with the best of their human staff to provide a balanced experience. When a process benefits from automation, they automate it; when it doesn't, they don't. For example, B&G Foods and Bush Brothers & Company® both leverage automation to process customer responses, including email and paper mail, because machines can handle those tasks in a fraction of the time. Astute customers also save time by automating elements of case data entry, like pre-populating reason and product codes and automatically re-configuring case screens accordingly.

However, when consumers engage with a company's contact center, leading brands recognize that they're seeking conversational, human responses, and are often frustrated by IVR menus and automated interactions. That's why they use a blended approach, automating many behind-the-scenes functions and equipping agents to do what they do best -- engage with customers person-to-person.

5. They mine customer feedback for valuable insights

Customer insight can come from many sources. Meaningful insights start with a complete view of customers, connecting data across contact centers, store locations, and online interactions. Analyzing this data allows savvy brands to improve their products and the overall experience they offer throughout the customer journey.

Darden Restaurants recognized the value of the feedback they were receiving, and wanted to be able to do more with it. Astute equipped them with an integrated customer feedback loop to continually capture important information for process improvement. In a similar way, Vera Bradley uses Astute's software to give them unprecedented visibility into potential e-commerce buying obstacles, trends in purchase behavior, and customer experience feedback.

 

Take note of what top consumer brands are doing differently, and use these five valuable call center customer service tips to provide a more seamless, efficient experience for your customers.

Want to learn more about how Astute's software can drive similar results for your company as we have for prestigious brands across the globe? Request a personalized demo of our solutions.

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