4 Things That Frustrate Customers - And How to Fix Them



Brian Cantor
04/09/2015

The customer experience presents businesses with a myriad of uncontrollable variables, risks and challenges.

Systems can fail for reasons outside of the organization’s control. Unanticipated product challenges can render existing knowledge bases and technical support training obsolete. Natural disasters can place unexpected burdens on the contact center.

Given the tax unforeseen anduncontrollable challenges can place on the customer experience, organizations cannot afford to let known, controllable factors wreak additional havoc. If business spots a known, readily resolvable problem on its radar, it must work diligently to resolve it.

Businesses that honor that imperative will optimize their customer experiences, demonstrate their customer centricity and reap the associated rewards. Businesses that ignore it will cripple their experiences, demonstrate their disregard for customer centricity and endure the associated long-term costs.

In the spirit of resolving what is well known and readily resolvable, here are four points of customer experience frustration that need to be fixed right now.

Hold Times

The combination of human nature and connective technology produces a societal thirst for instant gratification. People want what they want right now.

Hold times, consequently, are the enemy of customer centricity. Bloggers and keynote speakers can call "efficiency" metrics extinct all they want, but they cannot change people. People do not like to wait, and a business that makes them do so is not being customer centric. It is not adhering to the new normal of customer care.

Your customer might have the friendliest, most resolution-oriented agents in the world. But if you are asking customers to endure an extended wait before communicating with those agents, you are creating a point of frustration.

How to Fix: Numerous action points will enable you to reduce hold times:

1) Assure self-service systems are customer-centric and resolution oriented. If the IVR allows a customer to make progress while he waits for an agent, the sting of waiting will be considerably less severe.

2) Offer competent alternatives to telephony. Many customers who wait for a live contact center agent do so because no viable alternative exists. Assuring that alternative channels—from social media, to live chat, to email, to virtual agents, to mobile applications—are functional, intuitive and full-service (where applicable) will alleviate that concern. Customers who would rather be elsewhere will engage elsewhere. In addition to improving their own experiences, those customers will free up agents to interact with those who truly prefer the phone.

3) Minimize red tape. By empowering agents to resolve problems on their own, businesses will dramatically improve efficiency. Calls will move more efficiently—and more successfully—and agents will be more readily available to assist the next wave of callers.

4) Optimize staffing. By using a more intelligent approach to staffing, businesses can better prepare for volume surges. A combination of careful volume analysis and scalable staffing options (with at-home and remote agents), will assure a business is in position to address actual customer demand rather than projected customer demand.

Repetition

Demand for efficiency does not end once the agent actually picks up the phone. If the agent does not provide a swift, focused, pointed and personalized experience, he creates a point of frustration for the customer.

One of the biggest elements of frustrating inefficiency is repetition. A customer that calls – and especially one that already provided information in a precursor channel (such as live chat or IVR) – does not want to restate his information to the agent. And in the unfortunate event that he is required to do so, he certainly does not want to repeat the same information upon being transferred to a specialist or manager.

How to Fix: Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.

When an agent accepts a call from a customer, his screen should provide him with access to everything the business knows about this customer. From the information he shared with the precursor channel to his buying habits to his previous support interactions, the agent must have access to everything he needs to create a seamless, personalized experience.

When that happens, the need for repetition will evaporate. And when the need for repetition evaporates, calls will end more quickly and more successfully – which will also help reduce the aforementioned hold times.

How will it happen? Proper dashboard and knowledge technologies are essential, but nothing can occur without a robust means of acquiring and communicating the information. Channels must be capable of listening to customer behavior. They must also be integrated to assure a seamless transfer of data.

Scripts and Policies

There is more to the notion of personalization than knowing the customer. Agents must also be able to adapt to specific issues and emotions.

Far too often, an interaction will end with a "no" – or with an insufficient or inappropriate form of resolution. These unfortunate call outcomes emerge not necessarily because the customer was wrong or because the agent and business couldn’t do anything more but because they believe they either did not put themselves in position to do more or believed they were not supposed to do more.

This point of customer experience frustration emerges due to overreliance on scripts and policies.

Scripts damage the call by attempting to fit specific customer issues into generic boxes. By adhering to a designed procedure for addressing interactions, agents deafen themselves to the nuances and emotions associated with each caller’s inquiry. They thus blind themselves to the specific nature of the issue, the specific emotion associated with that issue and the specific outcome truly required of the situation.

Even when agents do establish the right context, their effort can still be compromised by systemic rigidity. Led to believe outcomes must be issued based on policy, businesses forget that customers develop expectations based on situations. Unless those situations precisely mirror the ones used to establish policy, they will doubtfully admire businesses that attempt to shoehorn blanket procedural outcomes into their unique issues.

How to Fix: There is nothing wrong with a sense of structure in the contact center. Agents should adhere to a general call flow, and decisions—in the interest of expediency and completeness—should be rooted in some sort of procedural approach.

What businesses need to do, however, is assure scripts and policies are designed based on the notion of flexible customer centricity rather than business imposition.

An ideal script, for instance, might provide agents with a list of questions to ask – and background information related to common issues. Since no two customers feel or communicate exactly alike, it should not tell agents exactly what to say—or exactly how to code answers.

An ideal policy, meanwhile, recognizes that satisfying the customer is the top priority. The policy should provide the agent with a list of approved options for compensation or issue resolution and then allow the agent to rely on the context of the call and his own judgment when choosing which one(s) to present.

Scripts and policies should provide agents with assistance in saying "yes" to customers rather than with an edict to say "no."

Hassling

Businesses are not wrong to think about the concepts of sales and support in tandem. The customer experience, after all, refers to the totality of interactions between a brand and customer. Sales and support interactions both fit into that framework.

They are, however, wrong when they attempt to conflate the two. Providing support can lead to making a sale – and vice versa – but they are not inherently the same process.

Annoying in-store representatives help underscore the problematic conflation. They ask if they can help – as if they are there to provide support – but then quickly attempt to shift the conversation to one of sales. They make the "help" about shilling products rather than about figuring out what the customer wants and providing the corresponding response or value.

If a customer says, "Yes, I’m looking for a good multi-vitamin," then it is appropriate for the agent to direct the customer to a good multi-vitamin. Supporting the customer will, ultimately, involve selling the customer.

If a customer says, "No, I’m just browsing," then it is inappropriate for the agent to attempt to launch into a product pitch. The best way to support this customer is to leave him alone, and if the agent does otherwise, he is no longer supporting the customer. He is burdening the customer. He is hassling the customer.

How to Fix: The key is recognizing the inherent value of customer support.

Far too many businesses see support as the cost and sales as the benefit. They truly believe that a support interaction as a net negative if it does not directly and immediately lead to increased business, and they allow that flawed philosophy to drive the customer experience. They build it into their training. They build it into their workflow management strategy. They build it into their compensation plans.

They consequently condition agents to conflate sales and support. They condition agents to hassle.

They need to, instead, recognize customer value as the ultimate objective of customer experience strategy. The approach that will best drive that value – providing customers with information, answering their questions, fixing their broken products, advising them of new products, upgrading them to new subscriptions – is the thing that is best for them – and best for the business.

If a situation calls for support rather than sales, the agent needs to believe he is doing more for the business by supporting than he would be by selling. He cannot see the former as a toll on the road to the latter reward.

This approach does not vilify or dismiss the importance of sales. In many situations, the best way to create value for customers is to sell to them.

It is the other situations—the ones in which customers are just browsing or in which customers are calling to quickly confirm product information—in which sales efforts manifest as hassles.

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