In my 20+ years working in marketing and customer service, I’ve heard it all – customers are stupid, they don’t read our emails, they just call up for a chat. Unless you’re a bank teller on pension day, your customers do not want to contact you.
There are only three reasons a customer is contacting you:
Regardless of the reason, it’s your fault. Start from this point of view and you’ll be better able to empathise with the customer and work out the root cause of why they’ve had to get in touch.
Through better customer experience journey planning, you can eliminate the majority of contacts through personalisation, self-service tools and using good old fashioned simple language.
Every business will have outages, service issues and disruptions – unless it’s scheduled maintenance it’s unlikely you’ll be able to predict them. However, through a better understanding of your data and working with your Tech / Operations team, you should be able to get a good enough measure of which customers were impacted.
Let’s say a customer didn’t follow the instructions properly, and now wants a replacement.
Do you have unnecessary approval steps, sucking up multiple peoples time or are you empowering your frontline teams to make decisions quickly? Are you making refund or replacement decisions based on the lifetime value of the customer?
Take Uber as an example, they worked out it is better to automatically credit your account with £5 (note, it isn’t a refund) than to have an agent personally involved in the process. It is a much better experience for the customer and much more cost-effective than hiring teams of people to deal with people being charged for a missed pick-up point on a Friday night.
During one client customer service audit I was investigating why really basic queries were reaching the care teams. The pre-event email was 6 pages long, and they wondered why key messages weren’t getting through.
Check the length of the copy you are sending in emails, within instructional how-to guides, instructions on your website. Check how it reads on a mobile, if you have to scroll and scroll, your customer will likely scroll straight to the bottom ‘Contact Us’ option.
Years ago, I was involved in a project to understand why people were calling the care team about 2-3 days after they’d received their mobile phone for help setting up their voicemail (remember those days?!). Turns out, people were so excited to receive their phone they threw away all the packaging, including the very clear set-up instructions. The solution, timing the instructions to arrive +1 day after the phone. The reduction in care costs far outweighed the additional postage cost.
Through centralising your data and mapping out customer journeys you can identify common issues and anticipate consumer behaviour. Anticipating their next step and providing relevant information only when they need it will reduce confusion, customer contacts and churn.
HBR notes that over half of your customers have likely already been online to resolve their issue before contacting you.
If the information isn’t consistent or easy to understand they’ll just head to the ‘Contact Us’ button.
In an ideal world, your website should be so simple that your customer doesn’t have to consult the FAQs. However, sometimes it is unavoidable, but there aren’t hundreds of “Frequently asked questions”, minimise the number of articles in your Knowlegebase / FAQs to help your customers quickly find what they need.
I’ve written previously about Platform, Process and People.
If you have something already, changing your platform isn’t going to magically improve your customer service, it is likely the process or people part isn’t working. Check these before investing any time into researching alternatives.
If you don’t have anything (ie you are all sharing a group Outlook or Gmail inbox, you’re all chipping-in to ‘help’, or your FAQs is a single long page of text), it’s time to level up and invest in something like Zendesk (I’m a Zendesk Partner if you want to know more) or Freshdesk.
I get it, it’s tough convincing the finance team to spend money on some backend thing that no one is going to see. I have had my fair share of struggles getting projects to ‘improve customer satisfaction’ prioritised.
If your customer base/ sales are growing by 10% you have to expect your contact volume to grow by about the same amount – is it better to spend money on acquiring more customer care agents to handle the volume or to fix the problem in the first place?
Measure these things to help build your business case:
Most of the advice outlined above doesn’t have to cost money as the improvements largely come down to the way you communicate with your customers. With a bit of planning and focus, you can dramatically reduce the volume of contacts and improve customer satisfaction. Start with your top 10 contact reasons, and make a plan to chip away at the root causes.