Allow Your CSRs To Be the Best They Can Be
Most management teams recognize that customer service is an integral element of the total customer experience. Customer service plays a critical role in determining how customers regard a company and its products. The initial contact with a customer service representative (CSR) can decide if a customer continues to trade with a company or finds a new supplier. According to a Microsoft Customer Service report, six of ten customers switch suppliers after a single bad experience. A lot rides on a CSR’s ability to respond to complaints and questions quickly, accurately, and satisfactorily.
While the importance of the customer service function is more likely to be recognized, managers continue to discount the difficulty and associated stress of a customer service representative (CSR). Training is usually incomplete, expecting a CSR to "learn on the job." The knowledge necessary to resolve a customer's issue may be incomplete; technology often challenging to master, while measures of a CSR's production often conflict with customer expectations.
High CSR Turnover
Customer service representatives spend their days answering questions, resolving complaints, and taking orders. In today's digital marketplace, they are usually the primary public-facing employee of a company, interacting with active and prospective customers by phone, email, or live chat. A CSR's workday is a combination of boredom and gut-wrenching anxiety, heavy workloads, and constant management monitoring that adds to their stress. No wonder they burnout.
A study by the Customer Contact Council found that companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily. Failure to do so leads to an angry customer and a demoralized CSR, leading to turnover rates more than double other occupations.
Some companies replace one-third to one-half of their representatives each year with an average expense of $10,000 per replacement. Inevitably, the quality of customer service suffers until new CSRs reach competence, then mastery of customer service skills. The cost of lost customers and future sales is unknown but likely significant.
Lack of Support
According to the Microsoft report, the two most frustrating aspects of dealing with a customer service department are their representatives' lack of knowledge about specific issues and having to repeat the problem again and again. These complaints persist, even as technology - the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning software - has advanced in recent years. Companies that exploit the power of AI in their customer service departments improve client satisfaction, lower costs, and reduce CSR turnover.
Despite the benefits, many companies have yet to update their CSR operations with new tools and systems. Over 70% of CSR directors in one poll cited system and tool inefficiencies - not the effort of the representative - as the primary cause of departmental failures and stress. Another study found that 60% of CSRs admitted that they didn't have the right tools or technology to handle complex problems.
Improving the Results and Satisfaction of Your Customer Service Representatives
AI-driven software improve customer service departments by
- Reducing representative workloads. Diverting routine, repetitive inquiries - an estimated 30%-40% of CSR interactions - to self-service channels (website, phone, and email) allows human representatives to concentrate on more complex issues.
- Improving the recommended solutions. AI-based knowledge systems, properly designed and managed, continually expand so that searches of the information yield up-to-date and relevant results, whether a customer accessing a webpage or a CSR reviewing the latest innovations to a product.
- Extending representatives' capabilities. Even the most capable CSR can be quickly overwhelmed by the pressures of time and workload. Providing each representative a full-time virtual assistant that functions in the background, anticipates a customer's needs, and provides an accurate response quickly. Digital buddies will be the norm in customer service departments by the end of the decade, reducing costs and enhancing the overall customer experience.
- Increased representative and customer satisfaction. The deployment of AI and machine learning reduces service failures and escalates customer satisfaction levels. Easily-accessed, pertinent information will be available over a full spectrum of media.
Current applications of AI in the customer service space handle the monotonous work while human agents deal with difficult issues. As the systems learn, they will process more and more requests without human involvement. This additional capability means companies can provide their current level of service for less money or provide an improved experience without additional costs.
Almost a decade ago, the consulting firm Gartner predicted that "by 2020, we can expect to see 85% of all customer interactions handled by AI without the involvement of a human support agent." Today, custom, self-serve chatbots automate repetitive processes and routine customer queries.
As researchers gain more experience, AI-enhanced, natural language processing (NLP) applications will appear, eventually leading to proactive customer service programs. Imagine a future where bots reach out to customers with solutions for problems not yet identified.
Is your customer service department operating effectively? Do they add to your customer's experience? Are they equipped with new tools and systems? Are you considering updates or investigating uses for AI or machine learning in your company?