Three Key Pieces of Information Agents Should Know About Every Customer
If money were no object, could every contact center offer flawless customer service? I’d argue no. Most contact centers do feel a tug of war between efficiency and cost-effectiveness on one end, and people and time on the other. Yet contact centers suffer more from a lack of information than a lack of resources.
Why? Because most customer service software is designed to solve cases, not to serve people. Agents rarely begin a conversation knowing the customer’s name, purchase history, or communication record with the brand.
Through no fault of their own, most agents lack three key pieces of information that could help them maximize CSAT, serve customers more proactively, and drive new revenue. Let’s discuss each in detail.
Know who the customer is regardless of which channel they use.
Agents typically begin conversations by figuring out who the customer is. Can I get your name? Phone number? Email address? That’s a cold welcome. Agents should be able to greet every customer by name, no matter which channel they use to reach the contact center.
That gets tricky when one customer reaches out via multiple channels, maybe even on the same day about the same issue. Say your customer emails about a software glitch, but when the autoreply says to expect a response within 24 hours, the customer realizes she cannot wait that long. She logs into your web chat for immediate help. The agent can’t solve the problem and promises to get back to her. She tries your phone line next.
To that customer, you are one brand. To your software, that one customer might look like three different people who coincidentally have the same problem. With each contact, the customer probably re-answers the same questions about who she is. Then, she retells the story about the software glitch. After the third time, how could she feel satisfied?
Again, most customer service platforms force your agents to manage cases, not people. Instead, the organizing unit of the software should be the customer. If a platform can aggregate a customer’s name, phone number, email address, social handles, device IDs, etc. into one profile, then any agent answering on any channel can address the customer by name, from the get-go. That would be a strong step towards maximizing CSAT.
Know the customer’s purchase history, buying preferences, and lifetime value
When customers reach your contact center, usually they do so for a recent purchase. They expect your brand to be aware of their recent transactions. But your agents—through no fault of their own—typically cannot see those purchases without first identifying the customer and getting an order number. That’s frustrating for both parties. Every agent needs to see the customer’s purchase history, buying preferences, and lifetime value before the conversation begins.
When a customer calls about shoes he recently purchased, it’s delightfully surprising when the agent already knows the pertinent details, like the date of purchase and size and color. Not only does this information help agents anticipate customer needs (e.g., a shipping delay), but it also changes how a contact center routes customers.
For example, a VIP customer with a high lifetime value should be routed to the most seasoned agents automatically. Often, a brand-new customer deserves similar treatment. Many brands find that customers decide whether to stay or churn within a narrow window (e.g., by 90 days after their first purchase). Anyone at that stage of the customer journey should be routed to the most seasoned agents. Software can also triage customers based on their buying preferences. A customer who purchases ski equipment from an outdoor retailer should be routed to a skiing specialist rather than a generalist or cycling expert.
These paths to higher CSAT scores are only possible if software recognizes the customer’s purchase history, which can also empower agents to generate revenue. Say a customer recently bought a rug and sofa for a living room. Normally, agents don’t know that. However, if the agent can see these purchases and their relationship, there is context to cross-sell and upsell. Such opportunities shift a call center from being reactive to engaging customers and producing sales.
There are countless opportunities to amaze customers if you know their purchase history. It is the job of software to triage callers and prepare agents with the right information.
Know the customer’s communication and service history with the brand
Customers have one relationship with your brand. Whether they interact with you through a chatbot, self-service widget, marketing email, CSAT survey, or call line, it’s all the same from their point of view. Yet most customer service software isolates those interactions. An email exchange with the customer lives in a different place than a phone call with the same customer. That can become a source of frustration. Agents need to see a record of every conversation, across channels, in chronological order.
To illustrate why this can maximize CSAT scores, let’s build upon an earlier example: an email, followed by a web chat, followed by a phone call. The customer might reach a different agent each time. If the phone agent can’t open the first email or read the follow-up chat, he’s flying blind into that exchange.
What if two weeks ago this high-value customer had a negative customer service interaction? An agent with foreknowledge of that experience is more likely to be empathetic, go the extra mile, and stage a recovery. Your software could even route downward-trending customers (based on their CSAT scores) to top agents automatically.
Awareness of the communication history could also unlock revenue opportunities. Maybe the customer missed the 20% off code emailed by your marketers after the holidays. It’s due to expire soon. The agent who mentions that offer and can take an order over the phone (or over chat, text, etc.), can generate sales.
The communication history often provides more valuable information than whatever would appear on the “ticket.” Once agents have this history, they cannot imagine serving customers without it.
Information for the win
Let’s tie these three pieces of information together to describe a satisfying experience. First, a customer contacts your service team via her favorite channel. Whether it’s the first time or fifth that day, and whether it’s by text message or by tweet, any agent can welcome the customer by name.
Second, the agents know the customer’s purchase history. Whether she’s a platinum member or in the critical 90-day window, and whether she just bought skis or a bicycle, the agents know. They can provide the appropriate standard of care and anticipate needs—both of which drive higher CSAT scores.
Finally, the agents can see all communications between that customer and the brand. Every text message, email, marketing offer, etc. is available to the agent in chronological order. If this customer had a bad experience recently, the agent already knows and can go the extra mile to win back this customer.
A bigger budget and extra staff never hurt a contact center. But while budgets are exhaustible, information about your customers only grows in quantity and richness. If your call center is centered around people and information, money really is no object.