Once upon a time, customer service agents could blame a billing error, errant shipment or lost reservation on a "computer glitch." It did not take many years, however, before customers began to realize that computers did not make mistakes — humans were behind the problem, whether the mistake was caused by a data entry error or faulty programming. As a result, customers began to shift the blame to the person — regardless of job title or duties — who had the misfortune to answer the phone. Today, even though technology may truly be the culprit, such as when a server goes down or the agent cannot access data during an upgrade, many customers will still unleash a tirade on the hapless employee who is trying to assist them.
In fact, your customers are likely to blame your customer service representative for a bad experience and credit the representative for a positive experience. However, if you examine the points raised by customers in a recent study, you will notice that some of their complaints are related to technology.
- 35 percent reported that response times were too long.
- 31 percent complained that the employee did not have the authority to resolve the issue.
- 30 percent stated that the employee had not been trained properly.
- 29 percent said they received conflicting or erroneous information.
On the other side of the coin, customer service was mentioned 75 percent of the time as a major contributor to an excellent customer experience. If the representative was friendly, knowledgeable and had the authority to help, customers responded very positively.
Interpreting the statistics reveals that neither technology nor humans alone can provide your customers with the type of experience they want. What is needed is a seamless blend of the "human touch" and the proper technology. In short:
- Employees need to be properly trained.
- Processes need to be clearly defined.
- Employees need the right tools to help your customers.
- Employees need to be able to access information quickly.
- Every technology used must be evaluated and optimized to provide the support that your people need.
- Each touchpoint, regardless of channel, needs to be analyzed for inefficiencies or weaknesses.
Everything has to work well together. Having a great online store, for example, is nice, but if you cannot link orders to shipping information so that CSRs can respond to customers' inquiries, you risk frustrating your buyers. If your CSR cannot help customers by issuing a return authorization, guiding callers through the product assembly or finding a local retailer who carries your products, your customers will likely rate the experience as unsatisfactory.
If you are wondering whether delivering a great customer experience is worth your effort, consider the following statistics discovered during a recent survey. When customers felt that a brand had "done them wrong," they responded by:
- Looking for an alternative, i.e., your competition — 30 percent
- Ceasing to recommend your brand — 22 percent
- Spreading disparaging comments by word-of-mouth — 10 percent
- Taking to online channels to make disparaging remarks — 2 percent
In other words, 64 percent took an action that could impact your profitability. Depending on age and location, the numbers could be even worse.
- In the United Kingdom, 25 percent said that they would use online channels to post negative information about your brand. In Australia, 20 percent reported the same sentiment.
- Baby boomers are likely to "hammer" you twice — through word-of-mouth and online.
- The youngest millennials, despite being the most easily offended, are also the most likely to do nothing about it.
- Older millennials and Generation Y will take to the online channels.
You might not realize it, but of all the actions a miffed customer could take, airing their grievances online has the potential to do the most long-term harm. The 2 percent who stated that they would post disparaging information online averaged more than 1,500 connections who would see the negative comments — and possibly repost, retweet or otherwise help share the news. The resulting cascade of negative information floating around the Internet about your brand could be difficult to overcome.
The chances are high that some of your customers will have a negative experience. You can reduce the risks of long-term damage, however, by doing three things.
- Analyze the differences in customer behavior in the different markets you service around the globe and plan strategies that are tailored to each market.
- Be responsive and act quickly. Communicate with customers on their preferred channels and in their preferred languages to avoid adding insult to injury.
- Track social media and customer journey analytics by region. The information you obtain can help you address problems on a large scale and assist your future planning.
In conclusion, technology can assist your marketing efforts in a variety of ways. However, it cannot do the job alone — and neither can your employees. The best results will be obtained when you blend the best of each seamlessly.