Customers don’t just look at a product’s usability or the brand behind it anymore when they’re making a purchase decision. Business reach, after-sales and support are all critical elements that play a vital role in today’s buying process. Knowing how you will treat them post-purchase, how quickly their issues will be resolved or their questions, answered, can be the differentiator between you and your competitors.
Even today, however, most customers are just lost when they try to get in touch with a business through the simplest and oldest of support channels, the phone. You pick up a phone, dial in the number and voila! you’re in touch with a human being who’s going to make your problem disappear, right? Sadly, too often, wrong. There are so many ways in which the customer’s experience can go wrong, so many ways in which it could leave so bad an aftertaste that they might choose to switch to a competitor rather than ever call you again. A lot of these problems can be blamed on the kind of software you use to offer phone support – legacy systems don’t offer the kind of simple yet powerful capabilities that a cloud telephony system can. Some, on process.
Here are some essential things to keep in mind when you’re on a quest to offer the best phone customer experience possible.
Make getting in touch easy
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems are a godsend. A self-service option that allow users to navigate themselves to the right team? No wonder they’re a staple of every phone service offering there is! However, IVRs are a double-edged sword. If done well, they can bring your user to the right agent in a matter of seconds. If done poorly, it can cause the unfortunate user ping-ponging between levels, with no end in sight.
Sometimes, it could be because of too much branching – no one can be expected to remember the nine or so options the automated voice rattles off at every stage. Sometimes, it’s a flaw in the system. For instance, I’ve noticed that some businesses, mostly banks, have a voice-over option at a stage in the IVR. In the stage, I have to speak my preference to get past it. And for some reason, the IVR never recognizes what I want the system to do and I’m always stuck there.
So, if you’re looking to provide support over the phone, do set up an IVR. We’d never recommend against one. However, make sure that it’s a simple and smart IVR that allows your users to get to their destination in a minute. Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily, quickly and without any hassle.
Be available round the clock
When a customer calls in search of a solution, it’s not just an opportunity to solve a problem but also an opportunity to work on building a better relationship with the customer. If you give them a good support experience, they know they can rely on you again. They feel like a valued customer and are more likely to buy from you again.
That’s why it matters so much that you’re never unavailable. Customers shouldn’t ever have to call you frustrated about something only to find you out of reach. They should be able to let you know they have a problem, over the phone, even when you’re not there. This becomes even more necessary when you’re a business with a global customer base; it makes no sense for you to expect your customers, who are in other time zones, to reach out to you only during your business hours.
With a cloud telephony system, this shouldn’t be a problem. You can be there for your customers, even outside work hours, by setting up an auto-receptionist or automated voicemails to take their calls. Sure, it’s not an instant answer to their problems but they’ll know that they’ve caught your attention and that you’ll work on solving their problem as soon as you log in. Some cloud telephony systems also have mobile apps that allow you to take calls on the go – with solutions like that, you can be available anywhere, anytime!
Avoid making your customers wait
Customers are busy too. When they reach out to you via a phone system, they don’t want to wait on hold or have their call transferred multiple times or even be in a call queue for a long time. 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the number one thing a company can do to improve their customer support.
So, instead of frustrating your customers by making them wait, you can,
- Reduce call queue waiting time by setting up voicemail so that users can record their message and wait for agents to call them back when someone’s freed up. Another option is to have your users opt for a call: they can choose a time, say 2.30 PM to 2.45 PM on Thursday, to have agents call them.
- Reduce call transfers by having agents/employees conference with the customer. This way, it not only reduces back and forth with customers and increases first call resolution, but it also helps agents collaborate better. It can also serve as a learning tool for similar situations in the future.
Get deeper context when the customer calls
I don’t know about you but one of my biggest pet peeves is having to explain myself over and over again. Nothing makes my day like when the agent refers to a previous interaction when I call to talk about the issue again. Not only do I love not having to repeat myself but what makes the situation better is that the business is aware that my previous interaction yielded no fruit and they’re doing everything they can to make it better.
With a cloud telephony system, your agents can have a lot of context on why a customer is calling even as the phone rings. Looking over past interactions with your callers lets you get a sense of what the call might be about before starting to talk to them. You could connect your contacts database with your phone system and have an up-to-date contact information on any customer who calls. Agents could even refer to notes they (or other agents) have taken during previous calls for context.
This can also be of great use when VIP customers call in. Even before they pick up the calls, agents can get a sense of who’s calling and what kind of expertise they bring to the table and route the call to the right executive. This kind of context also goes a long way in making the customer feel like you know them personally and that you care about helping them succeed.
Don’t sell where you serve
It can be quite frustrating for a customer to call in for support and have the agent try to up-sell another product. It also gives the wrong impression to your customers: that you only care about how much money they can give you. Businesses often use inbound calls as opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell, and this does not convey to your customers that you respect them as consumers. It discourages them from calling you again and the relationship ends before it begins. Showing instead that you genuinely value your customers, will help you forge long-lasting loyalty.
So, to sum up, there may be a multitude of new channels through which you can support your customers, but they’re never going to beat the kind of personal support experience you can offer over the phone. If you’d like a closer look at the difference a cloud telephony system can make to your customer service, sign up here!