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It's time to rethink customer service

By Michael Lawder
Chief Experience Officer, ASAPP

ASAPP—Time to rethink customer service

It’s time to rethink customer service. For decades, I’ve seen how contact centers are pressured to focus on costs and end up sacrificing quality. It’s easy to understand why: Customer service is one of the largest operating expenses at most consumer companies. But, when the drive for efficiency comes at the expense of customer experience—and ultimately loyalty—companies often lose as much as they gain.

A no-win situation for companies and the consumers they serve

Here’s a typical scenario: To save money companies hire thousands of contact center workers in low cost locations who have never used their product or service, give them 2-3 weeks of training, and unleash them to interact with customers. They invest in bots to keep customers away. And they may try some chat channels, with hope of having agents help more than one customer at a time. None of these works particularly well to serve the customer. So, they may try one and then another—and because each channel is in a separate system—they have to start all over with every attempt.

The critical need for a new strategy

Meeting customer needs and controlling your brand have never been more challenging—nor more important. Consumers now have a powerful voice to sway opinion, their expectations can change with a tweet, and brand loyalty is fleeting. People in this mobile-first, digital-first world expect fast, anytime, anywhere service, but they also want companies to know and value them. Customer service needs to deliver all of that, yet too often it misses the mark because frontline workers aren’t set up to be successful.

Michael Lawder

Instead of using technology to keep customers away from your agents, use it to empower those agents to deliver great customer experiences. It will pay off in both greater productivity and increased customer and agent satisfaction.

Customer care agents are the voice of your brand. But what happens if they have to struggle to solve problems with insufficient knowledge and an array of inefficient tools? It’s no wonder many businesses have an agent annual attrition rate that often reaches 100% or higher—while customer satisfaction is going down.
After two decades working every level of customer service at top brands like Apple and Samsung, I know there’s a better way.

Empower every agent to be their best

Companies don’t have to choose between reducing cost and providing great customer experience. We just need to leave old thinking behind, and take advantage of emerging technologies that enable contact center employees to do their best work.

The key is in supporting agents, helping them to be more productive—and more engaged and satisfied with their jobs. When I think about the agent and contact center of the future, a few essentials rise to the top:

  • Make it easy to focus on customers.

    Typically, agents spend most of their time and attention hunting for information across multiple systems, and manually working through processes. Meanwhile the customer waits and gets frustrated. Giving agents a streamlined, integrated system they can learn in hours instead of days will both increase operational efficiency and drive higher customer satisfaction.

  • Give every agent instant access to the best knowledge available.

    It’s time we put the information agents need at their fingertips using the power of AI. No more relying on shoulder-tapping a coworker for answers or putting customers on long holds while culling through virtual libraries. Innovative technologies can predictively deliver the right knowledge and procedures, so agents know exactly what to say and do to best serve customers and solve problems faster. Augmenting workers with AI and machine learning means you don’t eliminate the human touch but make it dramatically more productive.

  • Support customers seamlessly anywhere they are.

    Digital-first is now the name of the game, and that includes making it easy for customers to solve a problem or meet a need using any channel they prefer. Suppose someone starts on a call but needs to drop, and wants to finish resolving their issue later via chat or texting. Contact centers need to provide that continuity across channels, so agents can instantly pick up where things left off and customers have an effortless experience and feel that you know them. The more convenience and simplicity you provide, the more likely you will earn loyalty and build trust, driving lifetime value along the way.

The new demands of customer experience require a new approach for customer service. That’s why I’m so passionate about working at ASAPP. For the first time in decades, I see the promise of artificial intelligence in action. With a unique technology solution, ASAPP solves two primary challenges that are typically in conflict. Empowering agents to be more productive reduces costs and improves the bottom line, and at the same time creates a simpler and effortless customer experience that drives loyalty and retention for your brand.

It’s customer service for the future—right now, when consumers and businesses need it most.

Michael Lawder is Customer Experience Officer at ASAPP.

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