Mastering automated customer service

March 15, 2017
As I sit and browse through the running list of content topics and best practices that I have written down in my notebook, I continue to gravitate towards one personal and recent encounter with an extremely sophisticated and modern brand. This is my second article regarding the importance of customer service in today’s world in just the past few months. In my last post, I acknowledged that this topic seems to be a redundant one. One that everyone has heard of or knows about. One that you would assume is a problem of the past. However, it seems as though this core value has fallen to the wayside. Organizations are balancing a tremendous amount of change with evolving technology, a saturated marketplace and more. Given these challenges, there’s no denying that there are many considerations and factors, which make it overwhelmingly difficult for companies to strike the perfect balance. With advances in technology and the business-to-consumer dynamic shifting in recent times, many organizations have chosen to lean on automation to assist. In fact, it’s become nearly a non-negotiable investment for some.

There are more communication outlets made available to consumers than ever before. Not only are there the traditional ways of contacting a business, like call-centers and email, but there are now hundreds and hundreds of properties across the internet and social media, which all have thousands of customers knocking on a business’ door pleading for support. It has become impossible for an organization’s internal resources to handle this volume to the capacity needed, without the support of CRM or Service solutions. With the help of solutions like these, there’s a much easier way to filter through and prioritize customer service requests. With that said, without a proper implementation or customer service strategy put in place, even the most sophisticated technologies (or companies) can fail in some instances.

Take for example, a recent encounter my husband and I had with an on-demand car service company. It was a snowy night when we requested a ride. Given the weather and recent issues with our personal car, we thought it best to rely on the professionals. We accessed the mobile application on our smart phone, entered in our preferred destination and requested our ride. Within seconds, we received a notification that our ride was three minutes away. We stood by the door as to not waste any time, when our cellphone rang and the driver contacted us to confirm our destination. We asked if this was an issue given the weather, however, he acknowledged that it would be no problem at all. The driver arrived shortly after the call and we entered the car. It wasn’t until we sat inside the vehicle and buckled up, that the driver turned around to express their dissatisfaction with our destination for several minutes. We were told to “get out of the car” and that no driver would agree to drive that distance. My husband and I stood in the snow to see if the driver would change their mind, however, we were left on the street. We immediately contacted customer service via the app and logged a complaint. We searched and searched to see if there was a number we could call to speak with a representative to no luck. In the interim, we downloaded a competitor’s mobile application and successfully traveled to our preferred destination with no issues at all.

Fast forward in time, my husband and I received an automated email without any personalization or apology for the matter. We felt unsatisfied with this level of response and personalization and submitted a second complaint via email. An “agent” replied back a day later with a second automated reply (which we denoted from the footer of the email). At this point, we sought out the channel best known for escalating support issues and turned to a direct Twitter message to contact the vendor. A representative saw our message and replied within hours asking for our names and the best phone number to reach us. We waited a few days and never heard back. We attempted to message again, but instead cut our losses and made the decision to not give our business to that vendor again. It has been several weeks since this shocking experience, and we’ve remained true to our promise and continue to leverage the competitor who has not let us down.

Donald Porter, an executive at British Airways, once stated, “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.” Today’s customers are sophisticated and smarter than ever before. They understand and acknowledge that businesses aren’t flawless and mistakes are bound to happen. Instead, it’s how a business makes right of a wrong situation when given the opportunity. That’s where the company in my example strayed. They relied too heavily on a technology that was failing them when they didn’t even know it. A few things could have gone wrong here. The technology could have provided minimal capabilities preventing the escalation of this issue, the vendor did not personalize their automated content enough, or perhaps their technology was implemented without best practices in mind. Regardless, with that methodology in place, it’s easy to imagine how many times this process has failed them across other customer experiences. When you multiply this, the result is a significant loss of business and revenue.

Customer service is an art form, as is automation. Not everyone does it right. It’s best for organizations to partner with a vendor who can not only offer the sophisticated technology needed to help strike that perfect balance referenced earlier, but also a vendor who offers industry-specific expertise and best-practices to assist with the definition of your customer service strategy. Often times organizations make a decision solely on the cheapest, trendiest or niche technology without considering that this is only one piece of the pie.

While automation technology is critical to increase efficiencies for companies, it’s also vastly important for these organizations to not lose sight of who they’re serving… The customer. Providing an experience that is far too automated and heavily restricts customer interaction with your organization can result in a negative experience for all. As it did in my example, the ability to strike a balance between automation and personalization can be make or break for a consumer. Customer service issues always occur, but it’s how you handle those occurrences and who you choose to partner with to help you handle them, that defines your brand in the end. I encourage you to ask yourselves the following the next time you’re evaluating or auditing your current customer service methodology, do you want create life-long customers or lose them forever to the competition?

Written by: Brittney Paone, Solution Consultant, Infor

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