This guide is part of the 2018 Customer Success Toolkit. You can download the full resource here.
Strategy for improving customer service processes generally centers around two things: using better technology, and finding agents who have the correct blend of hard skills and personality traits necessary for the job. But it’s not just about finding the right people and gear, it’s also about ensuring their continued success. As consumer expectations rapidly advance, technologies evolve, and best practices change, keeping your agents up-to-date and equipped for success should be a priority.
Recent Helpshift data shows that over 94 percent of consumers dread contacting customer service. To make matters worse, consumers report that customer service agents fail to answer their questions 50 percent of the time. That’s why it’s more important than ever to empower your agents with tools that allow them to exceed extremely high consumer expectations.
Through a marriage of emerging technologies and evolving best practices, you can set your agents (and customers) up for success. By leveraging your agents’ strengths through new technologies, you can decrease ticket backlog and help agents grow within the field. Here’s how to utilize the latest technology to ensure your agents’ success in the coming year.
1. Play to Your Agents’ Strengths from the Beginning
As in any area of business, each employee has unique strengths within their broad area of expertise. While some agents may be particularly adroit at high-touch, VIP treatment, others may be more suited to step-by-step instructions for highly technical issues. These differences go beyond subject matter, and have more to do with an agent’s personality than their area of expertise. Do not treat different strengths such as these as equals: place your agents where they will be most successful, and triage tickets accordingly.
2. Develop an Internal Knowledge Base and Make it Easy to Navigate
In the same way that you create FAQs and knowledge articles for your customers, you should also create them for your agents. Many customer service solutions will suggest customizable quick replies or unpublished knowledge articles based on key terms and initial ticket data. This enables agents to rapidly respond to queries without searching around a cluttered knowledge base for an answer. Pre-populated responses also help decrease the amount of time an agent spends on each ticket, and helps standardize responses across your team.
3. Deflect Tickets With Self-Service to Reduce Backlog
Ticket deflection is one of the most salient ways to reduce backlog and get your agents responding in near real time. That said, having an updated knowledge base alone is not sufficient to deflect a significant number of the tickets you receive — particularly if it is not easily searchable.
There are several more active ways to intercept tickets with self-service before they reach agents. One is to have a self-service bot suggest knowledge base articles in response to keywords or menu selections within a chat exchange. For instance, if a bot were to say “What method of payment are you trying to use?” and then present four options, it could offer a knowledge base article about using whatever payment type the customer selects.
Some companies opt for forcing customers to go through self-service routes before being allowed to contact customer support — for instance, having the customer search the knowledge base and then allowing them to start a chat after they mark an article as “Not Helpful”. This strategy can be effective, but can also result in frustrated customers who don’t appreciate the labyrinthine process for contacting support.
4. Preemptively Collect Initial Customer Info
Your agents spend an inordinate amount of time collecting basic information. From asking “What is your username?” to “What can I help you with?” it’s often several minutes before the agent can even begin to address the customer’s problem. Talk about inefficiencies! But what if we told you that you can free up your agents’ time by collecting all that information before they ever start talking with the customer?
You can do this through simple menu-based chatbots.
The customer enters information regarding the nature of the issue, the chatbot asks follow up questions based on the type of issue, and once the agent gets involved, all the information is already there. This is also useful for those unfortunate instances when a customer has to be transferred to a new agent — rather than the customer being forced to re-explain the issue, the new agent can seamlessly resolve the customer’s problem right from the get-go. So if chatbots significantly reduced the time it took agents to resolve their issues, it would benefit both the customer and your agents.
5. Include History and User Info in Ticket
While a chatbot can collect contextual data, you should also give your agents basic user information inside the ticket. Include details such as device type, loyalty status, how many times the customer has contacted support before, and demographic information. This data — that you probably already have! — can help your agents make rapid deductions and give customers superior support. Many customer support solutions will integrate with your CRM to get customer demographic data, and can provide these details inside the ticket through this integration and through data collection throughout customer service interactions.
6. Get Your Agents Talking With the Right Customers
As your agents can probably attest, there’s nothing a customer hates more than being transferred to another agent: in fact, 15 percent of consumers say that being transferred from agent to agent and having to repeat the issue is what they dread the most about contacting customer service, according to the 2017 Helpshift survey. But you can eliminate this problem by utilizing AI to intelligently route tickets in the first place.
Based on keywords, AI can route a user’s problem to the agent best equipped to handle it. For instance, if a user says “I need help troubleshooting a system-wide bug that appeared yesterday,” the machine can identify that the user has a technical problem, and route them to an agent with an engineering background. This not only improves the customer experience, it also saves your agents time and improves their experience — after all, happier customers make for happier agents.
7. Do Everything Possible to Collect Feedback and Share it With Your Agents
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to customer service. Help your agents out by getting as much feedback as possible from customers. Traditionally, most organizations collect CSAT ratings by asking users to take a survey at the conclusion of an interaction. That said, most businesses only hear from four percent of their dissatisfied customers — the others simply don’t come back.
That’s why many businesses are now opting for CSAT collection chatbots. Instead of the user having to stay on the phone for a slow, automated survey, or having to answer a separate email survey about the interaction, they get an instantaneous follow up within the chat. Because the survey occurs on the same channel as the interaction did, and because it can be completed rapidly, the user is much more likely to fill it out. This gives your agents a larger wealth of knowledge from which to extract insights.
8. Encourage Agent Collaboration
It takes a village to raise a successful customer support team. Encourage agents not only to collaborate within the team, but also to collaborate with other teams in order to be as transparent and informed as possible. After all, customer support is the customer-facing mouthpiece for the business as a whole. Because of this, it’s essential that agents have avenues through which to get updates from other teams, share customer feedback, and learn about the business.
Many customer service solutions include built-in feedback loops between teams and between agents. Managers can get insight into how information is disseminated, and agents can see the effects of customer feedback in other areas of the business. This helps foster a culture in which customer service is a valued team in which members work cross-functionally.
9. Promote From Within
With the rate at which technology is evolving, finding an agent who has the requisite technological skills can be difficult — it’s a small talent pool. When you promote from within, however, your agents are already familiar with your product and brand voice — which eliminates about half of the on-boarding process. Teaching new processes and tools is easier when there’s already a foundation of knowledge.
Promoting from within also gives agents a clear career trajectory, which helps motivate them to succeed. Demonstrate to your team where success leads and what skills you can teach to help each agent meet their career goals.
10. Implement a Continued Learning Program
Chatbots may be the latest technology that is disrupting the customer service industry, but it’s certainly not the last. From phone, to email, to social media, to chat, the industry evolves rapidly and you need to make sure your agents are at the forefront of each new technological innovation.
One of the best ways to promote continued learning is through “Continued Learning Programs”. Invite agents to a free meal and an informative lesson about something related to the customer service industry. These sessions can be led by managers, by agents, or by thought leaders in the space.
Make Customer Service A Desirable Industry to Work In
Giving your agents the tools they need to succeed is a gift both to the business and to the agent. The more successful your agents are, the more they will enjoy their job — which decreases agent turnover and helps your team attract more top talent.
Start 2018 off right by leveraging technologies to improve CSAT ratings, decrease ticket backlog, and gain a competitive edge. Keep your team at the forefront of innovation, and remember: when your agents are successful, you’re successful.