Opinion: Why quality = efficiency when times are tough
How many of us have opted for the cheap option only to regret not spending that little bit extra -- whether that be on a washing machine, a car or a holiday? So often in life, the less your initial investment, the more you end up spending in the long term.
The challenging economic climate is likely to see more brands look for cost-saving quick fixes for their customer service function. Let this be a word of warning -- more often than not, quality leads to efficiency, and cutting back on quality customer service could be cost prohibitive in the long run.
These are some classic mistakes that brands make when looking to cut costs. If any of these scenarios ring a bell, then think carefully before you proceed.
Losing the Human Touch
Of course, the computerised operator has long been the cheap replacement for real life agents.
The fact that a recorded voice is less expensive than a human being who is trained to empathise, listen and then react is a complete no-brainer, and should come as a surprise to no-one.
But the truth is that the recorded menu may actually be costing you money. We have all been frustrated customers, desperate to speak to a person at the brand we are buying from. And undoubtedly, we have all felt an innocent enquiry turn into an angry customer complaint as the barriers between us and the brand are put up at every juncture.
How ironic that the technology that was developed to enable people to connect with companies only serves to create a huge disconnect.
Think carefully before you replace an agent with a voice recording. At best, it may prolong the journey to customer satisfaction. At worst, you may lose that customer completely.
Finding a resolution
Think carefully about how your contact centre agents are incentivised. Are they tasked with getting through a certain amount of phone calls, web chats or SMS chats per hour? Or are they tasked with resolving every customer communication that comes through the door -- whatever the nature, whatever the channel?
It might look cheaper initially to just get people off the phone -- but it is a false economy. Just like the nurse who sees the patient quickly, but who can't administer the right medicine, a customer who is rushed off the line will only come back, angrier and less in love with your brand.
Or even worse, they won't come back at all. And we all know that cost of finding a replacement can be up to five times as expensive as just holding onto that one customer.
Your objectives should be resolutions and happy customers, not snappy communications.
Cutting back on training
So, as we've already established -- a piece of technology is no replacement for a human voice when it comes to handling customer communications. But ensuring your customers can speak to a human being is only the first step.
You must also ensure that those people are adequately trained to empathise, understand and resolve customer service issues.
It's tempting to axe training budgets when looking to cut costs, but essentially, your people are the last line of defence between your brand and your potential and existing customers.
If they aren't true brand ambassadors equipped to resolve customer queries, then it is unlikely that you will hold onto those customers.
For example, we invest in psychometric listening tests for all our agents. This initial investment up front allows us to understand the type of listeners our agents are, which brands they would be best assigned to, and where they need development and support.
Essentially, committing ourselves to quality up front empowers us to deliver efficiency later on.
The war on recession will not be won by cutting back your customer communications or by erecting walls and walls of technology between you and your customers. It will be won by ensuring your customers feel more listened to than ever.
Investing in first class contact centre operations now could be the most prudent financial decision you ever make.
Neville Upton, CEO, The Listening Company.
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