Keep Your Customers Dialed-In

Posted: 1/2002

Your Customers Dialed-In

By Oscar A. Alban

In an ideal world, we could strike

the perfect balance between consumers calling us to purchase new products and those who need support or service issues addressed.

Unfortunately, it’s a tough balance to achieve. While we want our customers to communicate with us, we also want to ensure we provide them with as much information, detail and instruction so they can “help themselves.”

The good news for companies today is each time they connect with customers — whether it’s through the telephone, web or e-mail — new and valuable opportunities surface to sell and serve them.

According to JD Power and Associates’ 2001 Residential Local Telephone Customer Satisfaction Study, customer service, cost of service/value, and corporate image are all dominant factors determining overall customer satisfaction in local telephone service providers.

Customer service — and to some extent costs — are aspects we can control. In the telecommunications sector, in particular, approximately 90 percent to 95 percent of customers’ interactions with companies take place through their contact centers.

Following are some helpful hints on how to master the quality service angle to ensure your customers are satisfied and ready to turn to your organization time and time again.

* Monitor your service standards. Find out how your customers are treated. Strive to monitor a representative percentage of your company’s contacts to gauge service, quality and consistency. Capturing a sample of agent-customer interactions provides great insight and business intelligence into your campaigns, emerging trends, revenue opportunities and your staff’s training/development needs. By monitoring customer contacts, you can determine what improvements you need to make in customer service and in optimizing your customer relationships.

* Establish a thorough training and development program. In providing quality customer service, training is one of the most critical elements to success. Often, CSRs serve as the front line between your organization and consumers. If their knowledge, efficiency and skills aren’t up-to-par, customers can leave with a negative impression. In today’s Internet age, our competition is only a click away — reinforcing the need to foster continual training programs that allow CSRs to grow and develop in our organizations. Training increases CSRs’ productivity, efficiency and skills, which translates into higher levels of customer satisfaction.

* Provide your customers with the option of web self-service. Increasingly, consumers are taking the route of “self-service” to find answers to their questions, purchase goods and services and even pay bills online.

In fact, experts predict the number of individuals who seek online customer service will more than double in the next several years to about 70 million people. Therefore, now is the time to start taking action to improve your self-service channels.

Customer self-service via the web is the least costly way to provide customer service and a great way to help build loyalty, increase profitability of online relationships and reduce service costs overall. By capturing samples of how customers help themselves, you’ll improve web effectiveness and benefit from a much more cost-effective medium.

* Integrate all customer communications into one touch point. The customer service industry has dedicated a great deal of time and resources during the past several years, into expanding our call centers into multimedia contact centers, which handle consumers’ e-mail, web sales and service interactions and telephone calls. Many contact centers even have established benchmarks for responding to these types of customer contacts, such as e-mail response times and web callback standards. What we must now ensure, however, is that our customers receive consistent, personalized service across all communication channels. That’s where monitoring multimedia communications comes in handy.

* Simplify the sales process. The telecommunications industry is required to verify customer requests as CSRs sell products/services through the telephone, implement a recording solution that documents and acts as the customer’s “virtual signature.” By recording key interactions in the sales process, companies can retain the contacts for future reference or dispute resolution. Capturing vital portions of such interactions serves as an insurance policy for companies, as well as for customers.

* Share customer information throughout the company. Industry analysts estimate that 60 percent of customer interactions occur through the contact center. In some vertical markets, like telecom, that figure is significantly higher, due to the nature of the industry. Information gathered through multimedia customer interaction recording provides valuable insight into customers and their experiences. Too often, this critical customer information never leaves the contact center when it should be shared with other divisions of the company, such as product development and marketing.

The ability to capture key interactions and then share them throughout the enterprise allows companies to rapidly respond to buying habits, preferences and overall consumer trends and, ultimately, allows you to better serve your customers.

Oscar Alban is a principal market consultant for Witness Systems, an Atlanta-based global provider of multimedia customer interaction recording, performance analysis and e-learning management software for the contact center market. With more than a decade of call center experience managing an inbound/outbound center of 1,200 agents for the U.S.’s second largest telecommunications company, he regularly performs contact center consulting with an emphasis on agent and supervisor
performance; coaching, training and development; and customer loyalty and retention.


The Links
Advanced Data-Comm Inc.
Axiom Systems Ltd.
CTI Group Holdings Inc.
iBasis Inc.
Intec Telecom Systems
MaxBill Ltd.

Portal Software Inc.

Vertel Corp.

VoiceLog LLC

Williams Communications Group

Witness Systems


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