The concept of collaboration is not just something you should communicate to your employees. Collaboration is something that we should incorporate with our customers as well. It is important to be reliable and this is our responsibility. But if we really want to collaborate with our customers, trust is the fundamental component that will enable us to perform consistently well. Customers need consistent and reliable service from their providers. When customers deal with unreliable providers, they are going to jump ship. So, to improve your collaboration skills with your customers, you’ve got to spend a lot of time, incorporate due diligence, and address the root causes. So with this in mind, how can we be more reliable and increase customer collaboration?
As simple as this is, many businesses do not find communication to be so straightforward. This is especially true in smaller businesses that are struggling with budget or a small team. Communication isn’t just about speaking to customers and keeping them informed. Communication is something that you can implement in every part of their journey. Many medical companies send text messages to customers for appointment reminders. And this is one of the best methods of communicating with a hands-off approach. A customer needs to know where they stand in the process, and the only way that we can keep them abreast of any changes is to ramp up our communications.
Tracking Issues as They Happen
Problem-solving is a key skill for any customer service agent to have. But when there are breaches of trust, and a customer is not feeling like you are operating with their best interests at heart, tracking problems in real-time can be a logical extension to communicating more effectively. This is something that works very well in delivery companies. And tracking is something that will benefit from the administrative perspective, but it is vital to track the internal issues as well as the customer ones. More often than not, internal problems are customer issues that have not been handled so well or are early warning signs of a customer problem. Tracking these issues in real-time doesn’t just give you a perspective of the situation, but it makes for effective damage limitation when it comes to going back to that customer. One of the biggest problems customer service agents experience is having to relay information back to the customer with only half a story. This means that the customer gets annoyed, but it also fills them with doubt. The upshot of this is that you will very likely not have this customer in return. Being able to track everything in real-time is easier than ever, with a number of supply chain tools, and mobile scanning equipment that can be installed on cell phones.
Understanding the Root Cause of a Problem
We need to follow an issue with a keen eye. Half of the problem customers experience when there is an issue is that the customer service representative or the business has skipped a number of steps, or the customer service rep has made the assumption that they know the answer when they aren’t 100% certain. There are many reasons why something can go wrong, and the key to solving any problem is to identify the root cause. Sometimes, there can be multiple parts of the process that have failed. It is vital for us to know each individual component. There can be problems with the system, human error (from the customer or the organization), or administrative error. Identifying the root cause means that everybody is clued up in the process, and when a customer is aware of the problem with a 20/20 vision, expectations can be managed.
Taking Actionable Steps to Reduce Future Problems
This is a natural part of any business, but learning lessons is harder than we think. In customer service scenarios the representatives can fail to pass the information on because of the workload. Call handlers in a retail environment can find themselves with call after call, especially during peak seasons like Christmas. This means that they are feeling the pressure, and are happy to get off their phone as soon as the working day is over. But when employees are faced with certain problems they need the time to actually fix the problems. In addition, leaders need to implement a process that ensures it will not be done again. This boils down to effective internal communications.
Customer service contact centers are focused on the numbers more than anything. Focusing solely on this data means that they never get to the root cause. Thus, they do not prevent this issue from happening again, because of a number of reasons. Firstly, the employee feels pressured to carry on with the job rather than putting the customer first. Secondly, they are very likely in a workplace culture that encourages self-centered thinking. Thirdly, the role is not recognized as an important one. This last point is endemic in many large customer service organizations. The representatives on the phone are the frontline, but they are treated like lesser people. And this should not be the case.
If you really want to increase your business’ reliability and collaborate with a customer, these people need to be recognized as the heroes and heroines of the business. These are the people who bear the brunt of so much and, as easy as it is to communicate practices to these call handlers or customer service representatives. The reality is that we do not allow them the time to develop their skills. Contact centers are the factory line of the modern world, and it is easy to see why.
Believe in Accountability
Customer service representatives are not happy to take the blame, nor should they. But we have to enforce accountability in order to embed change. In order to reiterate accountability, we’ve got to allow workers to develop their skills in a natural way. This means giving them breathing space, flexibility, and the opportunity to develop their skills. And in any customer service environment where a call handler is expected to deal with a wide variety of conflicts, all with many subtle nuances, is it hardly a surprise that there is significant turnover? When we tell employees that they need to “own a problem,” we are essentially telling them that they’ve got to fall on their sword, call after call, day after day. And this is only going to wear them out. So how do we encourage accountability? We make sure that our workers are developing their abilities to foster relationships with customers. We can instigate performance-based rewards, but we have to make the environment a less stressful one. Tension is always in the air in a contact center. In order for customer representatives to feel like they are not walking into battle every single day, we need to give employees the skills in which to handle the problems they are being faced with, rather than demanding that they own a problem. Because this is only going to reflect poorly on you, and the customer will not like it so they will just find someone that is not you.
Customer collaboration is about building the human relationship between the business and the customer. But in order to do this effectively, we have to remember that we provide support for the people that are delivering our services. Additionally, we need a number of problem-solving skills. If we want customers to rely on us, and we want them to be reliable customers, the ball is in our court.