Every caller, every time
Remember the last time you felt someone had provided you really good service, in a store, at an airport, or during a phone conversation? Perhaps you needed to change a reservation, clarify some account details or negotiate a refund.
If you remember the service as being particularly exceptional, I’ll bet it was because there was one person who stood out in helping you. That person seemed responsive, tuned in to what you needed to do, alert to how you felt and what you needed. You went away with a good feeling and a positive view of the company, in addition to a renewed sense of loyalty as a happy customer.
That successful interaction probably depended very much on the attitude and the personality of the individual who dealt with you. And it could only happen in a situation when the one competent and helpful individual was able and empowered to solve your problem – however complicated. They took personal responsibility for making sure you were a satisfied customer. We call that kind of customer service agent a “hero agent”. Needless to say, they’re pretty rare.
Customer interactions that can be handled by just one person offer a fairly high chance of creating that kind of success. But what about the totality of your experience when you make a journey by air, for example? In that case, your satisfaction, as a customer of the airline, depends on consistently good performances by a whole cast of people, most of whom never even get to see or communicate with each other.
And any one of these people, at any time, through a misunderstanding, an abrupt word, or a failure to do the job exactly right, has the ability to sour one’s perception of the airline. If a flight attendant spills a drink over me, I may never fly with that carrier again, even though it was turbulence that caused the mess, rather than incompetence. The whole foundation that makes up the customer experience is a house of cards that’s only too ready to collapse any moment.
How often do they get it right?
It’s the same for all of us. When I call a contact center, I’m quietly praying the person I speak to first won’t have to pass me on to someone else. The fact is, as soon as several people or several stages are involved in a customer interaction, the potential for problems is magnified enormously.
That’s when process design, support systems, equipment, training and staff morale all have to be in near-perfect alignment. Handovers need to be managed, supported and automated, as much as possible. Agents need to be assisted, in real time, to react to situations and offer positive suggestions.
Believe me, I enjoy the occasional rare encounter with a truly efficient, friendly, responsive hero agent on the end of the line as much as anyone. But that doesn’t happen often.
It doesn’t happen often enough from my point of view as a consumer. And it certainly doesn’t happen nearly often enough for the businesses that run contact centers to be happy with their overall performance.
Intelligent guidance makes every call better
The old ways are simply not good enough. In the second decade of the 21st century, we shouldn’t need to rely on finding heroes, because you can’t staff whole contact centers with hero agents. We can’t build a scalable business on personal charm and individual initiative. Also, we can’t afford to have a few delighted customers but many more who have had a less than ideal experience.
That’s why NICE has invested so much research and effort into developing comprehensive, flexible and, above all, intelligent systems to capture customer intent and analyze it to impact customer service and enhance the customer experience.
A customer service operation is only as good as its most difficult moments. The aim must be to create a perfect, responsive, relevant and efficient customer experience every time a customer gets in touch. That’s where technology can help. Indeed, without it, there is no hope of providing 100 percent satisfaction 100 percent of the time.
At NICE, we believe in the mantra, “No interaction left behind”. We know that every interaction, for every customer, must be consistently good. So no detail must be left untended and no interaction must be left to chance. Heroes are great, once in a while. Our job is to enable contact centers make each of their agents a customer-focused, efficient, and helpful hero at the moment of truth. Only by doing that can we impact every interaction and make it exactly what the customer on the end of the line would want it to be.