How Customer Service Conversations Can Resolve Tricky Situations

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Today, customers know more than ever before. They have access to continual customer reviews via social media, use self-service resources to educate themselves on products and services, and are well-versed in the digital space to find the information they need. With 4.33 billion active internet users across the globe, there’s no doubt that your customers are browsing your website, social media platforms and review sites to get to know your brand.

While we’d all like to think that visits to our websites all hold positive intentions, some customers may come to complain or discuss their negative experience with a product or service you’ve provided. These tricky situations may require having a customer service conversation, one in which your agents can turn what started as a discussion with a dissatisfied customer into a positive situation. With the right skills and resources, you can train your customer service agents to engage in highly effective conversations that leave your brand with a positive reputation.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what defines a positive customer service conversation, some of the benefits that come with having an optimal customer service team and how Kustomer can help your agents better support your customers.

What Makes a Customer Service Conversation Effective?

In a recent episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, hosted by Kustomer’s VP of Growth Gabe Larsen, titled “How Customer Service Has Transformed Over the Last 20 Years,” Kustomer CEO Brian Birnbaum joined Larsen to discuss how the customer experience has drastically evolved thanks to the adoption of online support. Today, many customers are using online chat to connect with brands for support, and will only continue to do so in the future.

When a customer service conversation occurs, agents are expected to support each person in a way that will drive loyalty and retention. On the podcast, Birnbaum shared his thoughts on the topic and how customer service staff can step up their game to ensure an effective conversion:

“I would say make sure you’re supporting your customers in the way that they want to be supported. Right? … The bar is going up and up every single day, right? … When you have a bad experience, you’re taking it to Twitter, you’re telling all your friends about it, right? So over-index on those amazing support experiences and the ways to do that would be through the higher caliber of agents here that are very well trained and then a tool that’s going to enable those agents to be successful. And certainly, our product can help you do that. But I would focus on that. I think that’s one of those amazing support experiences that will drive customer loyalty and retention.”

To have an effective conversation goes beyond setting the bar high, however. Customer service agents should be well equipped with not only the skills and knowledge needed to provide positive interactions — they can also benefit from valuable resources to streamline their response. Overcoming tricky situations may be intimidating and difficult to navigate, but the right response tools can ease the process. Here are a few ways to have more effective customer service conversations:

Have the right skills.

According to Indeed, some of the top customer service skills include: communication, empathy, patience, active listening and quick thinking. Customer service representatives should be equipped with these skills to handle tricky situations as they arise.

Remember: Not all customers are created equal.

In another episode of Customer Service Secrets, Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania joined Larsen to discuss why focusing on the right customer gives companies a major advantage. He said that customer treatment simply isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” and focusing on the customers that can bring more value to the company are the ones that can really help the business grow.

Take in customer feedback.

Allow customers to rate the conversation or provide feedback to help agents improve the customer experience based on past interactions.

Top Five Benefits of Effective Customer Service Conversations

Customer service conversations can go a long way; when customers feel heard and receive a personal response from the company, both the customer and the business win. Here are some of the many benefits:

1. Positive Brand Reputation

When customers feel more comfortable sharing their questions and concerns with your company, it could impact the outlook they have on your business entirely. An Accenture Strategy Research Report found that 42% of consumers will stop giving a brand business if they’re frustrated with the company. Additionally, 21% of those consumers admit that they’ll never go back after walking away. An effective customer service conversation can solve issues before they turn into lost business.

2. Customer Loyalty and Retention

When customer service conversations go well, consumers are more likely to continue purchasing a brand’s products or services regularly. According to a 2017 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of customers surveyed across the globe consider effective customer service to be one of the most important factors in determining their loyalty to a brand.

3. Repeat Business

Customer loyalty goes a long way; it generally means that repeat business is inevitable. In fact, according to the Accenture report, nearly half of consumers spend more money with companies that they’re loyal to. An effective customer service conversation can help consumers feel more comfortable and confident in your business — enough to come back for more products or services — especially if a problem is solved or a relationship is built during the conversation.

4. Competitive Advantage

Companies within the same industry are constantly searching for strong differentiators, but customer service has become a competitive priority. In fact, a Gartner survey found that 89% of companies compete on the quality of their customer service on its own. An effective customer service conversation, via live chat, social, e-mails or customer care line, can be what sets your business apart from industry competitors and keeps customers choosing your business over their other options.

5. Friendly and Helpful Customer Service Staff Members

Effective customer service conversations don’t only have an impact on your consumers and the bottom line of your business; they also largely affect your customer service support team. The Microsoft service report found that 30% of customers say that speaking with an agent who is both knowledgeable and friendly are the two most important factors during a customer service interaction. Staff members can feel a sense of satisfaction by having effective customer service conversations, motivating them to be even more helpful and friendly for future interactions.

How Kustomer Can Help You Support Your Customers

Kustomer’s business model is built around helping companies better connect with their customers to meet their expectations. With many people spending more of their free time at home, customers have ample opportunity to reach your team and are expecting their wants and needs to be met with a real-time response. With Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform, you can achieve continuous omnichannel conversations by using artificial intelligence as a supplemental tool to aid agents and deflect low level support.

These unprecedented times have encouraged us to conduct a special report: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, which analyzes how businesses are reacting to the global pandemic. Many of the results are very powerful, for example, 79% of customer service organizations have felt a significant impact of the coronavirus, with about 1% reporting no impact at all.

Throughout the report, you can learn more about meeting customers’ needs during the pandemic and further understand other valuable insights that can get your business through these tough times.

For more general information about how we can help your customers feel heard and assist you in providing quality customer service, contact us directly or request a demo today.
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How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day Twitter

It’s a day of love, romance and positive feelings…. that is until white lilies are delivered instead of red roses, or a winter snow storm causes a shipping delay for that diamond necklace she’s been waiting for.

During peak shopping days, like Valentine’s Day, customer loyalty is on the line. A mistake not only means an angry customer, but could mean embarrassment and conflict due to a missing or incorrect present. The way that companies handle service inquiries during these seasonal rushes is of the utmost importance. They must treat customers with empathy, and understand that problems and questions can hold a lot more weight during stressful holidays.

The National Retail Federation reports that $27.4 billion is going to be spent this Valentine’s Day, a whopping 32% increase from last year. So follow these tips to avoid getting caught in cupid’s crossfire.

Prepare for Scale

If you’re a retailer that caters to romance, like florists and jewelers, prepare for an uptick in orders and inquiries. Your apps and websites should be able to handle an increased load, and you should have staff in place to handle the spike in customers reaching out. By leveraging technology that incorporates AI and automation, low level support tasks like business hours and shipping information, can be deflected away from your agents, freeing up their time to tackle more difficult inquiries and making sure Valentine’s Day goes off without a hitch.

Deliver On Instantaneous Conversations

As much as we all wish our significant other was planning a lavish evening months in advance, the truth of the matter is that last minute gift buying is… the norm. Customers will likely be ordering flowers or chocolates mere hours before they want them to be delivered. Make sure you’re able to manage real-time fulfillment, as well as real-time conversations.

In order to deliver truly instantaneous support, agents must be able to have the full context of every customer interaction at their fingertips, no matter the channel or issue. Did the customer just receive their order? What is the sentiment of their interaction? Did they just have a conversation about the same issue on a different platform? Being able to see this all in one view, versus opening new tickets for every new interaction, means you’re able to serve customers quicker and build relationships faster.

Be Channel Agnostic

Your customers are on the go. No matter whether they are at work, on the train, at dinner or on their couch, you need to be available to them. Make sure that your customers are able to contact you on whatever channel they’re active on, and switch between those channels seamlessly and without losing context. When time is of the essence, your customers don’t want to have to start the conversation over again.

Communicate Seamlessly with Customers and Vendors

Marketplaces may have a particularly difficult time handling seasonal rushes. Let’s say a customer is ordering a bottle of champagne to be delivered to their partner when they get home from work. To ensure a seamless process, marketplaces will have to use a system that can enable communication with customers and vendors simultaneously to solve any issues. Traditional customer service solutions force agents to switch between multiple platforms and screens, instead of connecting conversations between customers and vendors in a single view.

Your brand doesn’t want to be the reason for a break-up. Prepare properly and deliver exceptional support, and you and your customers will live happily ever after.

Learn more in the latest customer service retail report.

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4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

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Creating and maintaining a strong customer service team is one of the most important considerations you can make for your business. In fact, a Customer Service Barometer study by American Express found that 68% of survey respondents agreed that the right representative is necessary for creating a positive experience. Of those people, 62% said that the customer service agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness are what make them a sought-out representative.

So how do these customer service representatives work to achieve the perfect customer service resume? Beyond basic skills and experience, it’s all about creating a customer-first experience.

What Is Customer-First Support?

The customer-first approach is a simple concept. It’s all about creating a personalized interaction from the moment the conversation begins until it ends. It’s about recognizing that while you may be behind a phone or computer, you’re still speaking to an actual person who is not only confiding in you with their issues, but is trusting you to provide them with the support and solutions they need. Customers want agents to interact with them just as they would engage with someone in person who can provide assistance.

While customer-first support is highly reliant on a strong customer service agent, technology plays a major supplemental role in achieving it. Taking an omnichannel approach at customer service and meeting your customer needs wherever they are is critical. The right CRM platform can ensure success in achieving customer-first support via intelligent automation so your customer service agents can provide assistance with high-level, complex issues while chatbots assist more basic and immediate needs. But remember, the customer always comes first.

4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

Customer expectations have evolved past closed tickets and short resolution times. To succeed in today’s ever-changing world, brands must take a customer-first approach to service and support. Here’s how to achieve it in four simple steps.

1. Understand the Emotions of Your Customers

Do you know what percentage of your customers are happy, satisfied or disappointed? Understanding the emotional state of your customers, and adding empathy to the conversation, makes the experience more meaningful, and agents can have conversations that truly help customers.

The top difference between a good agent and a great agent is their ability to express empathy. Empathy is enabled by sensing someone’s emotions. Sentiment scores within your customer service software should give your agents:

  • Updates and reporting in real-time.
  • The ability to segment customers by sentiment data.
  • Sentiment-based workflow automations.

By pairing sentiment data with the right agent skills, it’s easier to master the skill of mirroring to make customers more comfortable. Mirroring, even if doing something as simple as using casual terms as you would with a friend, can go a long way in building a customer relationship. A customer service agent must know the appropriate tone to use to calm frustration, convey understanding of the issue, and express empathy.

2. Encourage Actual Conversations

Enabling true, personal conversations requires a mindset shift from transactional support to conversational support. Conversational support, service and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. Agents are there to provide real value, not just to solve a problem or process a transaction. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

3. Embrace Omnichannel and Break Down Silos

Meeting customers when and where they want pays off. In fact, according to a Kustomer study, 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. The brands that deliver omnichannel support will win additional brand loyalty.

Don’t think it’s just “newer” channels like social media that need your attention, though.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” according to Olive Huang, the research director at Gartner. “You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organization, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact center, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

The days of isolated call centers are gone. CX leaders need to partner and collaborate with other departments to make improvements throughout the entire customer life cycle.

4. Reinvent Your CS Titles and Hiring Process

Names are powerful, and for customer service teams, names set the tone for customer interactions. An “agent” is a transactional term, ideal for reactive problem-solving. Many modern CX organizations are reinventing the names, skill sets and training of their customer service teams because of the importance of the experience to customer value.

Calling your support agents something like “Happiness Agents” would not be wise if they consistently deliver low CSAT numbers and aren’t empowered to actually generate happiness. While names set expectations, you have to make sure that you are able to execute on those expectations. That’s where the principles of a customer-first approach can deliver true value.

How Kustomer Can Help

Shifting to a customer-first support strategy allows you to achieve this, giving you a competitive advantage and a positive reputation in your industry. With Kustomer’s Guide to Achieving Customer-First Service, you can gain the knowledge and leverage needed to navigate away from outdated customer service mechanisms, learn how to hire the right people for your customer service team and understand how to create a customer feedback loop between your customer service and marketing teams for a seamless strategy.

To learn more about how to deliver customer-first support, download the full guide here.

The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation

84% of the attendees of our recent webinar, The Truth About Bots and Intelligent Automation, consider Customer Experience Automation a priority for their strategy going forward. What options are available for the automation-minded company, and will a bot deliver amazing service AND make you breakfast? Well, not quite. We got to the bottom of these questions on air, and you can too from the recap below.

Watch the recording here.

Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, and Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, are both authorities on bots, automation, and using intelligent technologies for better service and support. They discussed the pros and cons of the solutions out there, and made some suggestions for picking and enabling more intelligent service.

Is Automation a Priority?

To kick things off, we started with a poll to take the temperature of the audience. We asked, “Is adopting a customer experience automation solution, such as bots, a priority for you / your organization?” The results were surprising—the majority of respondents were actively pursuing an automation strategy. Here’s the breakdown:

Yes, this year: 40%

Yes, next year: 32%

Yes, within 2 years: 12%

Not a priority: 16%

Terms You Need to Know

To level-set, PJ and Kaan laid out an overview of the terminology they’ll be using when discussing this complicated technology.

While “intelligent” technologies have existed since Roman times, the term “Artificial Intelligence” came into use in the 1950s—though truly intelligent products just started becoming widely available over the last handful of years. Machine Learning is a more specific application, referring to the ability of machines to advance their program and “learn” from their mistakes without additional programming. A good example is the recent Google AI that beat a world champion at Go. Deep Learning is an even more advanced subset, describing computers that use algorithms that mimic the neural networks of the human brain—meaning they can learn on multiple levels without human supervision.

Bots—Are They All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

But how are these advancements being used on a practical level today? Bots are already taking on a variety of service and service-adjacent tasks within the enterprise, from Digital Marketing and DIY Service, to use cases involving virtual assistants. However, these experiments are still in their early stages. While they may help scale your service, they require a lot of effort to build, and lack customer understanding and the ability to deliver a quality, memorable experience. When you look at the cost and effort to build one versus the level of experience they provide, the math is a bit off.

As PJ put it:

“You’ve probably contacted or been contacted by a support system that tried to act like a human being, but clearly is not. One of our best practices is not to try to seem human, because it can really hurt your brand image and experience.”

On top of that, they aren’t exactly plug-and-play. Service teams have to create replies for every possible input, and they need to be customized for the relevant terminology and details of your business. Actually integrating them with your existing data systems can be a headache, plus they need ongoing maintenance every time you add a new feature or product.

Who’s Using Bots?

Bots may not be the tech overlords they’ve been billed as (yet), but other applications of automation and intelligent systems can supe up your support. And, it’s probably not too late. In our second poll, we learned that most attendees haven’t started using bots yet:

We asked, “What has been your experience with traditional bot technology in your CX operations?” and these were the results:

We use a bot today and love it: 9%

We use a bot today and have encountered some issues: 12%

We use a bot today and have encountered many issues: 12%

I don’t use any bot technology today: 67%

From Bots to Conversational Experience

Before you start experimenting with bots, it’s good to know your options. As Kaan recommended:

“It’s key to have an overarching, holistic automation strategy first—then you can deploy bots as point solutions.”

Bots are a part of this strategy, but not the only focus. Instead, you can also use automation in conjunction with other integrations and platforms to create a stronger experience. Conversational forms look like a chat, but can be used to gather customer info and issues before handing off to a more capable agent to handle the issue. A system that automatically suggests responses to agents works the same as a bot, but uses the added layer of human oversight to learn the right way to respond by tracking your agents’ decisions. And automation is useful for suggesting tags, categorization, macros, helpbase articles, and assisting workflow and reporting—all things that can speed up your experience and make it more efficient, without directly interacting with customers.

As PJ summarized: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”

Kutomer and Solvvy work together to make conversational experience a reality. If you submit a question to Solvvy and can’t find the answer, you can choose to instantly open up a chat in Kustomer and get the answer. Kustomer’s conversational form then collects your personal information, then connects you with an agent who knows your whole customer history.

Where to Begin?

Where do you start the process of using automation or bots strategy if you haven’t already? Kaan had some advice: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”

Adding to Kaan’s advice, PJ suggested going straight to the data: “First thing: Look at your reporting, and see where you have the highest level of support volume. Look for patterns, see which questions your customers are asking, and what the most repetitive tasks are for your agents?”

If you’re taking a wide-angle approach and carefully planning your strategy, instead of leaping head first into messing around with a bot, your initiatives are much more likely to be a success.

You can always watch the recording HERE, and for more great insights into service, experience, and technology, follow Solvvy and Kustomer.

What Is Conversational Service—And Why Is It the Latest Trend in Customer Support?

You may be hearing about “conversational” support, and we’ve previously discussed some examples, but let’s pin down what it really means in practice. Conversational support, service, and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized support at scale.

Read our full whitepaper here.

Imagine trying to build a friendship with someone new if you had to ask for their name, address, and a list of interests every time you interacted. They’d be understandably upset that you couldn’t remember anything about them. And you wouldn’t be able to build a relationship if you start from the ground up with every conversation. Ease of communication and connection are starting to raise customer expectations, and they increasingly expect the same treatment from brands as they do from their friends.

Delivering this level of relational support might have been impossible at scale even a few years ago. But technology is catching up to the expectations of customers. By integrating systems and channels, and empowering agents to build relationships, every company now has the ability to deliver conversational customer support to every single customer.

So, what constitutes conversational service?

Omnichannel Outreach

With so many support channels available, the variety can be overwhelming. Instead of putting that burden on your customers, why not implement an omnichannel support solution and let them reach you on their preferred method—whether that’s email, live chat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, mobile app messages, voice, or any other option you offer?

Traditional transactional support treats each new contact through a different channel as a different incident. Help desks allow agents to “merge” these transactions into one, but agents have to locate the tickets and information frequently gets lost between multiple systems.

When using an omnichannel support system, it’s easy for customers to contact you on their end while the conversation continues between channels, ensuring sure all the relevant information stays in one place.

An Integrated View

Understanding how customers have come to land in your queue is a big part of conversational customer support. Context is key to helping customers effectively. Pulling context from other systems, including your own product or storefront, makes it easy to see what’s going wrong, or even jump in proactively.

For example:

  • Does the customer have an order being delivered? What’s the current status of the shipment?
  • What other products have the customer purchased? Can you suggest something that fits their previous history?
  • Does the customer have a quarterly business review or renewal coming up? Should sales be pulled into the conversation?
  • Has the customer searched the knowledge base already? Have they read relevant documentation, or would that be helpful to send?

Creating a support environment that allows for ongoing conversations and a 360 view of the customer, rather than one-off phone calls or email tickets, enables you to build better relationships with your customers.

Building Rapport

It’s not always what you say—it’s also how you say it. Most people already have a good idea of what a conversational tone sounds like. It’s friendly, engaging and polite. There’s no lecturing or academic business-speak, and it doesn’t sound robotic. It’s easy to follow, and when you read it out loud, it sounds helpful and natural.

Because conversational customer support helps build relationships, you might see the same customers coming back time and time again for support. You’ll have their previous conversation history available, so feel free to ask them how their last trip went, how their daughter liked their new shoes, or wish them a happy birthday—as long as it’s professional.

Moving beyond a dry, transactional tone helps break down walls between you and the customer.

To recap:

By taking a more conversational approach, you can win over customers with an experience that feels personal, intuitive, and informed by what they really want. In essence, conversational service is how you can help your agents and your brand act and feel more human.

Whitepaper: From Transactional Service to Conversational Experience

The best way to implement conversational customer support effectively is with a tool built to handle it. Whichever one you choose—Kustomer or another option—you need a full view of the customer, omnichannel capabilities, and full agent empowerment. With that, your team can finally deliver a modern, meaningful customer experience. To learn more about how Kustomer can help deliver a conversational experience for your brand, request a demo below:

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