By Marilyn Tyfting, Chief Corporate Officer, TELUS International
With the holiday season upon us, consumers are looking forward to buying and receiving their new gadgets and gizmos. But what happens when those gadgets don’t live up to their promised expectations? Contacting customer support can turn the fun of receiving a new toy into a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
As Chief Corporate Officer at a global contact center outsourcing company, let me share a few tips on how to turn the need for customer service into an efficient and successful experience:
- Plan your “get help” tactic: As a consumer, you have choice when it comes to connecting with a company. Brands now offer numerous ways to get in touch – phone, email, chat, and social media. Pick the right channel for support that coincides with your service expectations, keeping in mind that each channel has its own set of response metrics. Companies often aim to answer calls within so many minutes while email may take a few hours. For immediate help, consider phone or chat, or take control of your own journey and engage in care through social media. But if you’re willing to wait a little longer for a resolution, email might be your better option.
- Make the most of your time on hold: During periods of high call volume, it’s hard to avoid that dreaded hold music. Believe it or not however, companies are not out to torture you with horrible wait times; in fact leaders in contact center environments are working hard to reduce hold times and create a great customer experience. However, trying to predict consumer behavior and plan for call volumes in advance is never perfect.
Besides making the most of your “on hold time,” by wrapping presents or hanging stockings, take advantage of any callback features if offered. These are handy notifications giving you the option to have the company call you back when your position in the queue is getting close. In many cases, you even get an approximate callback time, so you can attempt to plan ahead.
- Listen to the menu system: This tip has been debated for ages, with many suggesting it’s better to bypass menu options (press 1 for this, 2 for that) and go straight to hitting 0 to get an agent. In most cases, the menu system (known as the interactive voice response system – or IVR for short) has been carefully planned to connect people to the right department or contact center agent from the start. This skills-based routing ensures that if you want billing support, you are connected to a billing representative, and in many cases, engaging in an IVR will expedite reaching the appropriate agent to resolve your concerns.
- Be prepared: Many people call the call center ready to launch into their issues but fail to have all of the necessary information ready to verify their accounts, including PINs if required. In today’s identity theft environment, it’s crucial that contact centers verify with whom they are speaking and decline to assist otherwise.
- Consider having some fun: Imagine answering calls and supporting frustrated customers all day long. It is not an easy job – and can be repetitive. Why not make an agent’s day by presenting your problem in a more creative way? (But keeping clarity paramount in your request.)
You may recall the Netflix customer service story years ago where a Netflix support rep introduced himself as “Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix.” Although Netflix initiated the fun intro, the customer jumped right in responding as “Lieutenant” Norm, as if he was a ranking officer from Star Trek. While Netflix is not an outsourcing client of ours, the agent’s creativity caught our attention. In fact, we’ve also had customers contact us via chat or email support using poems to explain their issues, in which we’ve responded with similar prose.
- Escalate if needed: When your needs are not being met or when it’s clear that the solution may exceed what the agent can provide, be sure to ask to speak to the next tier of technical support. Ideally, part of training contact center agents is to give them a good idea when to escalate a customer’s issue as being the right thing to do. Companies have worked hard to earn you as a customer. And as many know, it costs far more to win new customers than to keep existing ones. As a result, if you’ve escalated things already, ask to speak directly to the Loyalty & Retention department to see what they say.
- Help yourself: Self-service is a growing area of customer support. This is where consumers can go online to find company FAQs, online tutorials, even help forums to solve their own issues. And brands love this because it avoids the need to contact the call center. If customers can take control of their own issues and feel empowered to solve them online or via social media, then brands can reduce call volumes, and it’s a win-win situation.
- Close the call properly: In the ideal customer service interaction, your contact center agent should provide you with a ticket (or case) number along with clear directions for follow-up should you need to contact them again. Ideally, they will also offer their own contact details, taking ownership of your customer satisfaction. If they fail to do any of these things, be sure to ask. Having a ticket number or contact will help the next support agent quickly access your support history to date.
Drawing from our experience handling over 175 million customers support interactions annually via phone, email, chat and social media customer support for some of the world’s top brands, we hope these tips contribute to your customer service success this holiday season.