From a customer’s perspective, they have a challenge, They want answers to, to them it’s simple, ‘sort my issue out’! The concept of loyalty is becoming a thin veil based around the success or otherwise, of a single interaction with a company, and less about the lifetime value. We live in a fickle world where customers move somewhere else if they don’t achieve fulfilment easily and quickly.
All too often, companies are reacting to demand that is generated not by consumers but by the gadgets they have at their disposal, that offer the promise of doing business easier. As technology, automation, AI, consumer commerce and such, continue to evolve, this need for companies to adapt and change will continue at pace. However, amongst all this change is one constant, that is all too often forgotten by companies, that can have a huge impact on loyalty and engagement, the conversation. Done well, it will always gain the customers confidence and add the edge to everything else.
Sadly, in an age of shorthand messaging, the art of conversation has suffered, and yet, it can communicate emotion, intent, belief and trust. No other channel builds loyalty more than the phone. So how do we systemically change our customer engagement strategies to ensure conversation is at the heart of everything? Also, how do we use all the new technology, to make conversations better?
In the first instance, we wanted a culture that would enable the conversation to be embraced and for our team to feel motivated to act differently. The best cultures start with leadership, enabling creativity and empowering staff, through training and insights, to deliver excellent customer engagements. Our managers positively motivate staff, creating a sense of common purpose, being part of something bigger. The environment fosters a creative and open thinking space to embrace new ideas, to improve the customer journeys and to seek to be the best. Finally, we have a culture of innovation and testing where new ideas are put forward by everyone. By fostering a belief in our company and aligning the way we act to the values we hold, we have a team who are emotionally bought in to achieving the optimal customer conversation that aligns to our business outcomes.
For many years, we sought to deliver contact centres via the cheapest locations in the world, in many cases, teaching people to speak English and giving a false sense of understanding about our culture. For the sake of the lowest cost, we spent many years patronising customers and failing in conversations and outcomes. In our company, we see the first stage of recruitment as the key to getting the conversation right. We operate persona recruitment models that seek to match our clients brand and culture with agents that demonstrate the right abilities to deliver compelling conversations and a willingness to engage. Each persona is personalised to our clients but mirrors key facets of our champion agents and leaders, to help identify the key skills required in new staff. Once we have our new recruits, they are trained in the art of conversation, moving away from metric models and refocussing on active listening to achieve knowledge and awareness of each customer interaction. We focus on changing personal behaviours of agents, looking at the end to end conversation flow rather than just the ‘problem’. In particular, treating customer how they want to be treated, using what we know to make them feel valued and always striving to do one more thing to help. The goal is, that our staff demonstrate a confidence to resolve calls, create a positive position with the customer that makes the journey seem easy and acceptable and articulate everything in such a way that even challenging conversations are positioned to deliver good outcomes.
We use data and technology to enhance the conversation, not to side line it. The right data driven insights, delivered at the right time and in the right way, empower agents for fast, effective and consistent responses across all channels. Combining insights with the conversational skills optimises the ability to deliver compelling and successful outcomes. Perhaps the most powerful example where we apply insight is in our sales through service operation. Gaining insight through data and knowing how to listen and probe customers, can rapidly create realisations and perspective on how best to serve the customer. It can also add weight to a situation by identifying problems, risks, opportunities while creating trust between with the consumer and agent through a better alignment to needs.
It is estimated that only 35% of effort in any customer contact is down to process. However, poor processes and excessive controls and scripting will stifle the conversation and make the customer feel like they are talking to robots. Processes must be fit for purpose and reduce customer effort.