In recent years, companies have been noticing a meaningful shift in how customers reach out to get a question or problem resolved. While telephone used to be king, organizations from every industry are noticing customers are increasingly choosing digital channels to contact them when they have an issue. Whether customers contact a company through email or a contact form on a website, or use instant chat functionality, customers are increasingly choosing to forgo the ‘one on one’ interaction that takes place over the telephone in favor of digital contact.
Digital Contacts Can Be A Win-Win For Customers & Businesses
This increased use of digital contacts is often a benefit to both sides of the equation, with customers being able to resolve their issues with less effort and companies being able to save time and money through the use of bots to answer standard questions and other techniques that allow agents to resolve certain issues quickly and efficiently. One of the most common techniques employed by contact centers is the use of standardized email replies for web email contacts based on key words or subject lines.
A typical problem that can readily be resolved through online contact would be when a customer is unable to access their online account. Sending an email via the website saying, “I can’t login” allows an agent to read the email, copy and paste instructions for resetting a user password and send those standard instructions back to the customer. The customer follows the instructions to reset their password and access their account. Simple and less time consuming for both parties, hopefully inviting a positive customer experience and eliminating the possibility of customer rage that may occur with phone wait time or otherwise.
Yet, what happens when the customer’s issue is more complex and the standard copy and paste answer isn’t what they are looking for? What if the customer was not only unable to login, but also no longer had access to the original email address they linked to the account? Or, what if they were unable to login to their account not because they forgot their password – but because they were using the wrong user name?
These scenarios would require an expanded and personalized response from the agent. Careful review of the customer email and an understanding that there are instances where the boilerplate ‘here’s how to reset your password’ response would be insufficient to help the customer fix their problem is often essential in managing the customer experience to ensure a robust and sanguine customer experience. This is, in fact, a key voice of the customer best practice.
Four Signs Of An Insufficient Response
Not surprisingly, when customers receive a response that doesn’t solve their problem, they become more frustrated than they were at the onset of the issue. Their frustration can turn into customer rage when they must send additional emails or turn to a different contact source to get help, such as calling a 1-800 number after they sent an email.
When you look at customer experience research, specifically contact handling satisfaction data from these types of contacts, you are going to see four common sentiments emerge:
- Dissatisfaction with the overall contact handling experience;
- Conclusion that additional action needs to be taken to resolve the issue, and it’s still an ‘open ticket’ as far as the customer is concerned;
- Dissatisfaction focused around three areas of the response: relevance, helpfulness, and the content; and
- Use of strong language and phrases like “I was given a BOILERPLATE response that didn’t have anything to do with my problem” or “did anyone even READ my email?” to express their discontent with the response they were given.
Whiles some email contacts are likely satisfied with the standard template response, there will always be instances where the customer requires more information than the template can provide. In these instances, the agent replying will need to provide a more personalized and thoughtful answer to ensure the customers needs are being addressed properly and in full.
To well manage the customer experience, it’s of paramount importance that agents are given the freedom and latitude to respond in a personalized way when warranted, and that they are also able to recognize when these types of contacts are in front of them.
Identifying Contact Types That Warrant Personalized Responses
There are two ways you can go about choosing which types of contact may require a personalized response.
First, if you are lucky enough to have post-contact data to look at for a variety of contact types, use that information to look for the 4 Signs of An Insufficient Response and allow your agents to personalize responses for those types of contacts that show any of the signs. If you do not have access to this type of data around contact handling, you can train the front line to look for signs in the initial customer request.
There are three key indicators that should signal to an agent that the standard template won’t be enough to appease the customer:
- Multiple Requests – whenever a customer is asking for more than one action or information in a single email, the response that follows requires personalization for voice of the customer best practice;
- Not My First Contact – when a customer says directly that they have contacted previously to try and resolve their issue, the response that follows should be personalized;
- When The Answer Requires A Phone Call – in any instance where the answer to an email contact says “please call,” the response should be personalized and Voice of the Customer best practices suggest you should offer two options to the customer:
- Offer to call the customer directly, so that the customer doesn’t have to take the effort to make the call; or
- Provide a direct line to a specific agent to handle the call, so the customer doesn’t have to wait on hold.
A Final Take Away: Don’t Let The Ease Of The Digital Age Become A Burden To Your Customer
Advancements in technology have revolutionized the way organizations are able to conduct business and interact with their customers, everything from ordering a product or service to recommending a company to family and friends can be done digitally. But, sometimes technology becomes a hurdle rather than an advantage for customers, and there will always be some scenarios that require a personalized approach, which cannot be replicated through email templates or website bots.
By training your front line to identify these circumstances and empowering them with the flexibility to abandon template responses when appropriate, you can avoid technology becoming an obstacle in your customer experience strategy and better ensure a satisfactory customer experience.
Director of Research Services
A more than seven year veteran of helping clients create an extraordinary customer experience, Katie values most sound survey methodology, data management and analytics in directing clients on how to improve the customer experience.