6 Steps On How To Close The Biggest Problem In Today's Contact Center
The Communication Gap
“Truly listening to understand your customer is one of the most important [and underutilized personal] tools that most brands aren’t doing today,” CX Journey CEO and Forbes Councils member, Annette Franz, recently told me.
You might think that’s a bold statement but there’s a reason why her name carries weight in the CX space.
According to Psychology Today, research shows that about 10 percent of us listen effectively, creating a growing disconnect in business communication.
Listening to a customer seems like a relatively simple task, but whether it’s analyzing consumer data trends or literally listening in one-on-one conversations, many contact center agents are botching communication in customer experience.
The listening gap and how it’s effecting consumer behavior
According to a CCW Digital market study, a mere 11% of consumers believe brands take their feedback very seriously. A staggering 14% believe brands do not listen to their feedback at all, while nearly 37% say brands only “slightly” value their input.
Recent research conducted by the AI and machine learning software company, CallMiner, shows that less than a quarter of consumers (23%) reported they felt listened to after contact with a call center agent.
Keep these stats in mind when seeing the customers’ expectations going into the interaction:
In terms of the customers’ expectations, almost a third (36%) say they arrive annoyed; a third (33%) arrive hopeful; one in six (16%) arrive angry, and the same number arrive ready for an argument.
When you look at the customers’ expectations versus the feedback they’re giving us, you can see a vast communication problem in the contact center, generating poor experiences and driving “serial switchers” (as Shep Hyken calls customers who switch brands after 1-2 bad interactions).
The same study found that 68% of consumers are very likely to switch after a bad call center experience. Customers are demanding more and switching brands if their demand isn’t met.
That can be a horrifying stat to come to terms with. But sometimes, your biggest critics have the potential to be your biggest advocates.
In fact, 74% are very likely to stay loyal if they have a good call center experience.
You can see from these statistics that if you make listening and effective communication a part of your company’s DNA, you will create a powerfully positive experience that sets you apart from script-reading competitors.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Enhance customer-agent interactions through empathy training
The way to train for situational empathy is to solve the most common barriers that are blocking it in your employees.
The first of these challenges is when customer-facing employees have never experienced the situation in which the customers at the other end of the phone, email, text, social media channel (or face to face) find themselves.
Simulate experiences using role-playing, micro-coaching (real-time one-on-one coaching), gamification (increasing agent engagement) and video demonstration to provide a “what it feels like” to be that customer with the specific inquiries, that derive the most pain points.
Strike away demanding language
When there’s a need for you to ask a customer for information, be sure to phrase your request so it doesn’t sound like a command. Poorly demanding authentication like their “Date of Birth?” is less than ideal; “May I have your date of birth?” is a simple fix that resonates with angry customers.
When a substantial percentage of customers report that they’re looking for an argument in the contact center, you need to control the emotional factors (like empathy) within your power.
Mimic the customer
Studies show that people who mimic the language of the person they’re interacting with are trusted and liked more. Why? It forces you to listen, lets customers know you’re listening, and generates better responses because you are listening.
According to a study in the University of Chicago Press Journals, mimicry is a key performance indicator in relating to other people and creating quality consumer experiences.
For example, a customer in a restaurant might ask a server “Will my food be ready within the next 20 minutes?” The server is more likely to get a better reaction from the customer, as well as deliver a better-perceived experience if he or she definitively says “Yes, your food will be ready in about x minutes,” rather than an ambiguous “Yes, it’s being prepared” or “Yes, we put in the order.”
By giving a definitive answer and repeating customer language, they know their inquiries are being properly dealt with.
Is your language putting the customer down or lifting them up?
It can be easy for front-line employees, or any employee, to forget how they are coming across when their sole focus is on giving customers the service they’re paying a business to carry out.
Thoughtless use of language is one of the most common pain points in customer service, driving memorable negative experiences.
Read More: Putting Employees At The Heart Of Your Business (With Annette Franz): A CCW Digital Exclusive
For example, in a restaurant context: when you begin the seating process for a solo guest you should never ask the demeaning question, “Just one?” “Will anyone be joining us?” proves much more effective in the mind of a customer.
They may not consciously hold the business accountable for such trivial interactions. However, they will remember how the experience made them feel.
Speak as an individual, not as part of a company
There’s a common misconception when it comes to talking to customers or clients. Many companies teach their employees to refer to themselves as “we” when closing deals or answering customer service inquiries.
The Harvard Business Review conducted a controlled study on the topic, where company representatives who referred to themselves in the singular voice (I, me, my, etc.) were perceived to be acting and feeling more on behalf of customers than those who adopted less personal plural pronouns (we or our).
For example, “How can I help you?” outperforms “How can we help you?”
“For one company, an analysis of over a thousand email interactions with customers found that switching to the first person singular pronouns could lead to a potential sales increase of over 7%,” the study reported.
Avoid unneccessary banter
According to CCW Digital consumer research, for 75% of customers, (contrary to popular belief), personalization is NOT about in-depth conversations and extensive banter with customers. It is about proving you know the customer – and then using artificial intelligence (or any consumer behavior metric available) to educate human intelligence, generating better decisions by businesses for customers.
Unless your listening to consumer feedback through AI or consumer metrics (providing customers with predictive services and products), avoid ungenuine banter that can waist a customer’s time.
One of the biggest problems in not just customer experience, but generally accepted corporate practice, is poor communication as a result of the listening gap.
As Annette says, “Truly listening to understand your customer is one of the most important [and underutilized personal] tools that most brands aren’t doing today.” Practice these controllable techniques to be the exception.