Take good care of your customer support teams and they will take great care of your customers.

Profound changes in the human experience are influencing how consumers engage with brands and what they expect from these interactions. Consultancy firm Accenture has noted that human responses to the pandemic are impacting consumer behaviour.

It is critical that businesses understand these responses, and adapt the customer support infrastructure, to operate successfully. Such businesses—mainly the newly-digitalised companies—may now find themselves on the same platform as other companies that have already finetuned their delivery standards. These new kids on the block need to rethink their strategy and find faster ways to respond and deliver to customer.

An unprepared, ineffective and demoralized customer service department will impact the entire organization. Teams battling the front lines are constantly flooded with e-commerce, supply chain and logistics questions, and they need to be prepared for even greater tests as everyone adapts to a post-pandemic era.

In the foreseeable future, maintaining high-quality customer experiences will not be possible if customer service teams are not supported with tools to streamline their work and they are not met with the same empathy that is reserved for customers.

Spreading the empathy around

In this competitive environment, investing more effort in taking care of customers improves the chances that they will stay loyal to the brand.

However, in a Freshworks survey conducted with the Harvard Business Review, only about half of the 379 executives (readers of the magazine) responding believed that better employee engagement resulted in happier customers and higher quality products or services.

Since such employees are a direct connection to customers, it is in the best interest of businesses to first take care of support agents to motivate them to continue delivering high-quality experiences. Recognition for exceeding expectations and acknowledging the difficulties over the past year can keep customer-facing teams motivated and engaged on the tough road ahead.

Enhancing customer interactions

Providing personal, human-centric customer support is also reliant on the technological capabilities of the team. Without the right tools, resources and processes to exceed customer expectations, companies run the risk of losing to competitors.

  • Omnichannel help desk solution: Some key customer pet peeves in the retail journey relate to friction that slows down transactions or makes it more difficult to obtain the information they are looking for. Customers commonly note the inconvenience of repeating the details of an order or inquiry across channels. An omnichannel help desk solution with agents trained to handle multiple channels simultaneously provides a 360-degree view of customers’ journeys.
  • 24/7 rich product information: Providing this level of personalized support at scale can be a challenge. Customers expect immediate answers to questions, even outside of normal business hours. Singapore Management University’s (SMU’s) latest report on lower customer satisfaction figures uncovered that consumers who conducted research online before making a purchase had a 13.4% percent higher levels of customer loyalty and spent significantly more that those that had not conducted prior research online.
  • Chatbots and FAQs: Embracing automation through self-service options and chatbots provides a first line of defence for customer support teams. Deploying a robust online knowledge base meets this need well for a simple reason: given the option, people would rather help themselves than turn to someone else for help. However, setting up a knowledge base, dropdown FAQ, or support community is the easy part. Keeping the information up-to-date and steering customers to these resources is much harder.
  • Widgets and self-service tools: Deploying site-wide widgets ensures that customers have no trouble accessing the knowledge base; optimizing these pages for SEO enables customers to find the information when they need it. Adopting self-service options reduces support volumes and improves overall customer satisfaction.
  • Ready contactibility: When the knowledge base is unable to answer a customer’s question adequately, adding a ‘Contact Us’ button on each webpage directs people to further help channels that can be addressed by chatbots. With entire customer support team working remotely, it is the perfect time to deploy an AI-assisted chatbot to bolster their output. Chat and self-service options are mutually inclusive and can work in tandem to address customer issues and allow your agents to focus on more complex queries. Some research indicate that automating customer support workflows with a chatbot can deflect up to 80% of routine questions.

Automation and technology are no substitute for old-fashioned interpersonal communication. Yet, technology and empathy are two sides of the same coin.

With more customer interactions taking place virtually with remotely-based support teams, it will be exciting to see how customer service is further reshaped by the changing times.