Effective Customer Support Is a Matter of Human Resources

Thursday, 04 July | 2019

Every piece of customer communication is an opportunity to build trust and show your company's personality. Efficient problem solution and the ability to answer questions is key to creating a brand.

It can test its synergy and internal communication functioning. There's no doubt how difficult interactions with people can be and how easy it is to fail. Customers' frustration, misunderstandings and anger are the ultimate nightmare of business owners. On the other hand, positive associations serve as a catalyst for growth and success. While trying to improve customer service options, the e-commerce world implements new technologies and practices to ensure the help is always fast and relevant. It's important to note that there is an understated component for all of it to work - the human factor.

Self-service is not the answer for everything

Most of today's  customers seek self-service options and available info that could potentially help solve their purchase issues . They choose this before reaching out to the support team in 81% cases. Therefore, when they do reach out, it's usually in situations where they weren't able to find a solution on their own. Logically, online stores choose to invest in simplifying the customer journey. For example, in the form of great transactional e-mails, which provide the purchase process documentation. Or a proper FAQ (frequently asked questions) section is put in place. While this is definitely a worthy investment, followingly, don't financially take it out on human resources. These people are the ones that face the most challengig issues that your customers come in touch with.

Even though the technological environment is marked with constant innovations, the hiring process sometimes remains unchanged for decades. That, however, is not to say about customers' expectations. They demand flawless professionality in every aspect. In any other case they don't hesitate to call a company out. Pretty publicly. Social media is a platform that gives a voice to everyone. And well, you know, a bad review goes a long way.

That said, unprepared employees can become a much greater item than an early investment into high-quality people and efficient training.

How does a successful agent operate?

The new customer service strategies are all about self expression. The focus is aimed at hiring planning and once hired, the agents are free to perform their duties however they see fit. No checklists, scripts, pre-learned phrases involved.

This attitude is supported by the latest Harvard Business Review study. It's been proved that the most successful customer support agents have a certain type of personality and that is The Controller. With their qualities, Controllers perform best unsupervised because of their ability  to take control of a situation on their own. All those inevitable components to lead a customer interaction they are perfectly skilled to master alone. They can diagnose a problem, consider the situation and client's personality and provide the solution confidently without any further help. And that  is the way a company can really benefit form their personal atributes.

In many cases, HR managers mainly focus on hiring people with strong empathy skills for customer support positions. And while that quality is not to be overlooked, it forms a limited range of people they are interested in. Firm and outspoken personalities might seem intimidating to them, however, this is not correct. Having a high control quotient and ability to confidently express instructions  does not mean the person is arrogant or rude.  It's quite the opposite, actually. Employees with high CQ aren't lacking empathy and understand the concept of context. However, their rational take on the situations means they provide direct instructions instead of leading a long and unclear discussion. Additionally, they are able not to take customers' emotional state personally.

CSAT

CSAT (Customer satisfaction) with your customer support services is not the easiest to measure. The focus primarily on customer reactions and reviews can be limiting. Instead, a new boom is on the rise - internal quality monitoring. That provides an overview of your activities and improvements inside the company. Being in daily contact with your environment and colleagues as a part of the firm is also a valuable factor to tracking progress. By having conversations about what you observe around you, a space for growth is created and you can push eachother forward.

That doesn't mean that customer responses and reviews are useless. To create a useful feedback, however, consider multiple views and contributings. That way the picture you get is much more focused.

Artifical Intelligence - how well does it really perform in customer service?

AI (Artifical Intelligence) and chatbots are being inovated constantly. While they are hardly considered to be a fresh topic, they still have the ability to catch attention. After all, every technological invention is exciting. The truth remains, though, the quality of any AI device depends on the programming and the person behind it. And that translates to further investments. Expandeco sees AI as an interesting buzzword for the nearest future in the CEE region. In the customer support field, its lack of creativity and empathy continues to separate it from human contact.   

What's the Expandeco point of view?

Effective communication with clients is a result of multiple elements cooperating. This mixture might not be the easiest to follow if you're not spending a lot of time in the customer support department. In Expandeco, we do have a department like that operating in 10 languages. That's why we decided to provide a better understanding of the agents' know-how. Operators in daily contact with international customers answered our questions about their job, where they think e-commerce businesses struggle with communication, what are some of the common customer issues and how to simplify the process. And it's important to listen to them, since beside the agents' engagement, there are other human factors that contribute to a rewarding communication strategy. With such strategy, a successful business has the potential to grow.

  1. What's the most common issue that customers contact support with?

Katka (support for Poland): They ask about delivery times, returns or order status.

Danka (Germany): It's individual for every store. I'd say most problems come up with unavailability or payment matching.

Bianka (Hungary): Damaged goods.

Karin (Slovakia/Czech Republic): Order status.

Expandeco advice:  Many of these questions can be easily answered in transactional e-mails, which should describe the order process transparently.

  1. What would make your job easier?

Danka: Effective supplying system.

Bianka: Cooperation of people competent to solve a particular problem.

Karin: Visible display of terms & conditions on online store websites that people can actually understand.

Expandeco advice: It's important to consider how efficiently your internal communication works as well. The easier the job of getting a relevant answer is for the agent, the better they can deliver it to the customers. And in the end, the better the customer's experience is. There's no need for them to hear about your inside machinery and who you need to contact to help them. Customers want simple solutions.

  1. If you were to give a short advice to online store owners, what would it be?

Katka: Disclose the availability status.

Danka: Be thorough and take care of your communication practices.

Bianka: Focus on the returns process and payment matching.

Expandeco advice: In Western European countries, like Germany, it's essential to be detail oriented and think of the high-level quality of their services. You have to maintain a certain standard to capture attention.

Customer interaction is specific for every region. It's filled with emotions and surprising at all times. We wanted to know what's characteristic for customers from diffferent countries and how they tend to interact.

  1. What's the most memorable piece of communication you've experienced on your job?

Katka: Following a detailed explanation of a problem, a customer briefly responded with: "Bad liar."

Danka: A customer refused to acknowledge that you can't COD a return.

Bianka: A customer didn't receive his order prior to Christmas and had no idea how to explain that to his child. We were dealing with the problem for several months, after the amount of communication, he even invited us to join him for lunch. The incident escalated to a revelation that the kid was actually 18 years old.

Expandeco advice: A situation seemingly absurd to us, doesn't have to be perceived that way by everyone. That's why it's important to embrace the situation context and circumstances. We might not be fully aware of them and we have to communicate with the same respect and unbiased attitude with everyone.

  1. What's the most significant characteristics of customers from your country of expertise?

Danka: Germans are very attentive, they truly care about the official terms and conditions and can be suspectful towards companies based in the CEE region.

Bianka: The temper. The Hungarians are not afraid to yell at you :).

  1. How to considerately discuss a problem with a customer, that you actually have an unsatisfying amount of information about?

Katka: Do a fast research and ensure the customer that we are going to get back to them ASAP.

Danka: Only provide them with information that you are 100% sure is valid and truthful.

Bianka: Make sure the customer knows we are working to solve their issue the fastest way possible. They are calmer if we highlight we're not going to delay the advice for long.