By: Cristian Melo*
Good customer service is a matter of vital importance for companies since maintaining a long-term relationship with them is key to sustainability and growth. The difference between achieving it or not achieving it will almost certainly be reflected in the greater or lesser flight of those. It is always said that “a customer who leaves for price can return, but one who leaves for service will not return for any price.”
The area responsible for providing customer service, whether in the event of a query, a claim, the need for help with a problem, support or a request for information, takes on strategic importance within a company.
For several decades, companies have used call centers to attend to this important task. These allowed to manage incoming calls (inbound) and make calls to clients (outbound) but only by telephone. Currently, these have been transformed into contact centers, where multiple contact channels are used apart from the telephone, such as mail, web-chat, Zoom, among others. That is, omnichannel attention.
But it is necessary to distinguish the type of attention that should be given depending on the type of requirement and the urgency that the client may have. For example, if a customer is calling the contact center of a bank, let’s say the treasurer of a company, because he has problems sending a payroll or supplier payroll, it is clear that his problem must be solved with the highest priority. . But, on the other hand, if the same customer is calling because he requires information on a specific product, not least his own requirement, he can be advised and information sent later in greater detail, compromising an adequate delivery standard. This is where the concept of SLA (service level agreement in English, or service level agreement in Spanish) arises.
What do we mean by the concept of SLA? A contact center must have predefined typologies or families of types of customer service. Each typology must be assigned a standard (time) of attention by type of client. If the typology depends on another unit (not related to service time), through a “Client-Provider” type agreement, the standard of care for that type is defined. For example, if a client is requesting an image of a proof of payment received several years ago, the delivery time will most likely take a few days. But the key is that the delivery of the information in that standard must be committed to the client… and comply with it.
There are ways to structure customer care, depending on the type of care to be delivered. When customer service includes queries, problems, claims and support in the operation, it is customary to divide it into at least two layers:
First Line Resolution:
This attention is the first line of contact with the client. It is provided by personnel who have been trained to answer specific queries, register claims, solve problems and provide non-complex support. Your goal is online resolution, where possible. If this does not happen, the referral proceeds. Consider that your access to the systems in general is limited to consultations.
Second Line Resolution:
This care is received by referral from the first line. It is delivered to personnel who have been trained to solve problems and provide support on complex issues. In general, it has access to the systems that allow it to provide a solution to what is being requested, it has a certain level of decision-making and, in addition, it has the possibility of escalating to other areas of the company or to a higher decision-making level if it is necessary.
There are several important tips to consider in customer service. These are some:
1) Registration of each customer call and assignment of a “ticket” or service number:
For this, it is necessary to have one of the many systems that exist, which allow this record to be kept and which also allow subsequent management with the data that is recorded there. Customer service records, for example, can allow repetitive situations to be detected that must be corrected.
2) Measurement of standards of care:
It is necessary to measure whether defined standards of care are met. If this is not the case, corrective measures must be taken to comply. If, due to changes in the process or another reason, it is not possible to comply with it, it must be modified, although this is the extreme path since clients eventually already know the standard, so modifying it can generate a bad image. On the other hand, if a standard is always met and also loosely, it should be reevaluated to reduce it because it would mean that it was oversized when it was defined.
3) Office hours:
When the service is only for queries or claims reception, it is recommended to have a 9×5 service (from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., continuously, five days a week). On the other hand, if the service includes problem solving and support, it is recommended that the service be of the 7x24x365 type, that is, continuous hours. This is common in the banking world, in serving companies that operate with transactional services.
4) NPS (Net Promoter Score), evaluation of service by the customer:
It is always necessary to know what the customer thinks of the service received from the contact center. Therefore, a small survey of one question can be used to find out such an opinion. As a premise we can indicate that problems or need for support will always exist. The way in which customers are helped is the key to how they will evaluate us and whether they will continue to be customers in the future.
As stated, a single question is asked of the customer. An example: “Based on the care you received, how likely are you to recommend our company to others?” The option of evaluating from 0 to 10 under the following grouping is given:
- 0-6: they do not recommend you, they are “detractors”.
- 7-8: they are satisfied, but it is not clear that they recommend you.
- 9-10: they are very satisfied, they would recommend you, they are “promoters”.
The result is obtained as follows
NPS = % promoters – % detractors.
If NPS > 0, the evaluation is positive.
There are organizations that include an additional one that is a non-obligatory, open and non-closed query, of the type, “Do you want to make a comment?”, so that the client can elaborate if he wishes. Such information is usually very valuable in knowing undetected situations.
5) Segmentation and targeting:
Depending on the type of service that is delivered, customer service can be more or less complex. As an example of this, we can comment that there are cases such as Banking, where it is necessary to segment at the level of people and companies. Within the latter, it is also requested to sub-segment between Corporations, Large Companies, Companies, SMEs, Mypes, etc. Even if there are very important clients, you get to have an exclusive attention type “hotline”. Each of these sub-segments may require a different type of care. Even segmentation at the level of critical products can be achieved.
(*) Cristián Melo is the main partner of SYNERGOS in Chile
- Real experience of the author of this article in the diagnosis, design, implementation and start-up of omnichannel customer service systems in Banking.