Back to the Basics: Customer Service 101

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The job description for a contact center agent has certainly evolved over the last few years. Today’s agents are now wearing several hats –support, retention, lead generation and even brand ambassador. The question is whether juggling these roles has caused some agents to lose sight of what should be their number one goal – providing the best possible customer service interaction every time.

Providing the best possible customer service should always be a brand’s first objective. Everything else is secondary. However, recent news has shown that this concept was recently lost on one agent in particular and a brand was embarrassed by the agent’s behavior.

In case you’ve missed the headlines, a former-Comcast customer went public with an audio recording of his conversation with a Comcast agent. This customer, Ryan Block, simply wanted to cancel his cable service. Instead Block was hassled by the agent for more than 18 minutes before finally ending the call without a clear resolution to the issue. Tom Karinshak, senior vice president, Customer Experience, Comcast Cable, quickly issued a statement apologizing for the agent’s treatment of Block.

The question is whether this apology is enough.

What brands must realize is that there has been a power shift. The Internet has given customers an influential megaphone. All it takes is a tweet, a comment on Facebook, or a tech-savvy customer posting his experience online to draw the attention of thousands, perhaps millions. We live in a world where word-of-mouth trumps all. Today’s consumer is more likely to look at peer reviews and social media for information when making a purchasing decision than any other source. It is imperative that brands manage their image on all fronts.

Comcast has gotten negative publicity in the past on their approach to customer service, but this story doesn’t have to have the same old ending. This is in an opportunity for all brands to reevaluate how agents are trained. Customer retention is important, but you catch more flies with honey. As the significance of customer experience continues to rise, all employees that communicate directly with customers at any touch point must ensure that the entire customer journey is a positive one. Ultimately, the way to customer retention is through customer satisfaction. This means satisfaction with the product or service, and satisfaction with brand interactions.

Here at LiveOps we know customer service. For more than ten years we’ve been developing and nurturing a community of 20,000 home-based, independent contractor agents. Sustaining a successful, home-based community of this magnitude is only possible with a lot of two-way communication and continuous training. We encourage companies to maintain constant insight into their contact centers by taking advantage of management tools to quickly identify teachable moments. Voice and screen recording enable companies to quickly check their agents’ performance and the quality of service customers are receiving, while post-call surveys allow customers to give immediate feedback on their experience. Companies can also benefit from real-time listening allowing managers to catch an issue before it arises. Finally, deploying a social listening tool is now an integral part of the contact center so that agents can engage directly with a dissatisfied customer before social snowball effect has the opportunity to occur.

It is time we got back to the basics. Forget about upselling, dollar signs and quotas for just a moment. Let’s treat our customers, our fellow human beings, with respect. This is customer service after all.

Image courtesy of  jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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