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What 2014 Taught Us About Customer Service in the Call Center

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Contact Center service
With 2014 officially behind us, now is the time to decide what kind of year you want your call center to have in 2015. What are your call center resolutions? Does your contact center have certain metrics you are trying to improve? Are you implementing a new agent training program? Do you want to invest in multi-channel customer service options? Well one way to have a better 2015 is to look bad and see what worked and what didn't in 2014.

Here are three things 2014 taught us about customer service in the call center:

 

Bad service can and will go viral.

Did you hear about the Comcast customer service call from hell? A man tried to cancel his Comcast subscription and spent about 20 minutes being legitimately badgered by the Comcast call center agent about why he would want to cancel. “Why is it that you’re not wanting to have the No.1 rated Internet service, the No. 1 rated TV service?” the representative says over and over again. “What about those savings, those services, are you not wanting?” While most call center agents are trained to find out why a customer is leaving, perhaps saving the business in the end, this agent is essentially bullying the caller! The customer recorded his experience and threw it up online, where it quickly garnered hundreds of initial retweets on Twitter and was eventually picked up by sites like Forbes, Gawker, The Verge, AdWeek and more. This story of customer service, or lack thereof, went viral overnight!

A study by NewVoiceMedia found that 31% of people post online after they have a bad experience with an organization, which means your call center and your company's reputation is under constant social scrutiny. And bad news travels fast. Reportedly, news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. A friend of mine opened a restaurant, and the best advice he got was "serve one good meal and that person will tell one person, sell one bad meal and that person will tell 10." So even if your contact center has done a great job with callers A and B, caller C's social media critique is what more people hear about!

Live chat gives agents more ways to create a positive customer experience.

Many call centers are adding live chat features to the company website in an attempt to become a true multichannel customer service center. Not only does it cut down on call volume (thereby decreasing hold time), it gives customers the ability to choose how they connect with your company. Even though the voice channel is still the preferred form of contact, many  customers are choosing live chat to resolve their issues. In fact, 79% said they did so because they get their questions answered quickly and 46% agreed it was the most efficient communication method.  Plus, one agent can be managing multiple chats at the same time, providing excellent customer service 2-3 times as fast as they can on the phone! In 2014, a Netflix live chat turned into comedy gold when a customer and a service agent start talking to each other like it's a Star Trek episode. Not only did Netflix resolve the streaming issue, but the customer told the agent that it was the "best customer service experience I think I have ever had."

Live chat options give customers the ability to carry on with their online lives and not feel like they are on hold, even when the agent isn't actively writing to them.

Don't let metrics dictate what a "good" customer experience is.

Zappos is known the world over for their excellent call center customer service. And just like any company, they track how long their agents spend on the phone with each caller. But in this great overview by Ashley Verrill, she explains that the Zappos team actually ditches a superficially faster ticket time in favor of something less tangible:

Zappos uses call center technology to track average call time per agent. But the goal isn't to reduce this average... "It's more important that we make an emotional connection with the customer, rather than just quickly getting them off the phone."

Instead, Zappos created a point scale called the Happiness Experience Form, which encourages reps to make a personal emotional contact, create a "wow" experience, and address unstated customer needs. They don't care how long an agent stays on the line with a single caller. In fact, in 2012 one agent spent 10 HOURS with one customer. Talk about skewing your metrics! Most call centers pressure agents to get customers off the phone as quickly as possible and move onto the next call. Faster means better customer service right? Yet Sseventy-eight percent of consumers say that a competent service agent is the most important part of a happy customer experience, yet they feel that agents only answer their questions 50 percent of the time. They don't care about speed as much as they care about resolution! So take a look at your metrics and decide what really matters to creating a better customer experience.

Do you have any customer experience stories from 2014 that will shape how your call center runs in 2015? What did you learn this year about your agents, your technology and your customers that will affect how your company manages customer service this year?

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Antonio Gracia, Product Evangelist, Presence Technology twitter.com/antoniojgracia