Anyone who has taken a finance course has heard the phrase Time Value of Money. It’s the notion that a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar in the future because of its interest and earning potential. That same concept applies when you flip it over – in that valuing your customers’ time today can increase customer retention and revenue tomorrow.
What’s most important
In its “Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service,” Forrester states that 73% of online consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. First call resolution is a great example, where the end goal is to eliminate the need for a second or third call for the same reason. And though the activities that go into getting the problem resolved that first time are well intended, they can often result in a lengthy phone call.
We’ll look at some of the ways contact centers may be unintentionally showing that they don’t value the customer’s time, and how to address each.
The culprits that slow it down
Here are the offenders that most often cause well-intentioned customer care organizations to waste their clients’ time.
- Slow, incapable systems
When customers interact with you, they want to do so at a time that’s convenient for them and in a manner they prefer. This is the new reality that’s driven by millennials and their always connected arsenal of tools and applications. According to Frost & Sullivan’s “Enterprise Priorities in North America,” 2014, less than one-third of small and mid-sized contact centers have the capability to integrate across channels or business function. And those that don’t could find themselves in trouble with the generation that’s making up more and more of your customer base and workforce. If this is your situation, it may be time to reinvest in the systems that directly impact your customers.
- Quick and easy access to the guy or gal who can resolve it
Whether you’re a small business or a larger enterprise, it’s nearly impossible for your call center agent to know everything. The ideal is to get them connected to that subject matter expert (SME) right away, knowing for certain that they are available. Everyone across the enterprise should be able to search for persons with the needed know-how, see their real-time status (ex., at lunch, available, in meeting), then reach out in the most optimal way – chat, phone, video or conference. And when you add cloud-based document sharing, you’re on track for first call – or first contact – resolution.
- Keeping customer experience top-of-mind
We all have personal horror stories of a bad customer experience – on hold forever, transferred 27 times, unhelpful agents, etc. – but there are also ones that don’t get as much news play. They are well intended, though still highly frustrating because they waste time. Here’s a couple of examples:
… The caring IVR that keeps repeating that you are “so very important” and that they “value your business.” Perhaps so, but it seems that’s not true for valuing your time.
… The service call to your internet provider, that forces you to listen to an advertisement for the upcoming Pay-per-View series. Then near the end of your call (and before your problem is fully resolved), the agent who spends time talking through all the services they want to upsell.
…And finally, agent training that’s well intended but misses the mark. In one instance, I had called our insurance company to report a fender bender. The agent asked if everyone was OK then said she was sorry to hear it happened, which was appreciated. Then throughout the call she restated over and over again how sorry she was. “Good grief” I thought – can we just get this call over with? (I assume she was coached to show empathy, but it came across as insincere and a waste of time.)
Time to take a fresh look
That said, it may be time to relook at your customer’s experience as they interact with you. Take the time to act like a customer – call your phone systems, send an email, start a chat – and walk thru their treatment, all the while asking if you’re making the best use of their time. Take a fresh look at your policies and procedures as they pertain to first call resolution and make sure you’re not taking more steps than necessary when the customer is on the line.
Looking at it holistically, it’s a win-win when you take the approach of valuing your customers’ time. They win by feeling satisfied, and you win by not frustrating them, which can lead to improved customer retention. And who knows… those satisfied customers may be left with enough time to share with their friends just how much they enjoy doing business with you.