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Make Sure Your Customers Can Get a Human

 

customer service 

“In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from ‘costly’ interactions with their customers, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It’s worth it.”

-Kristin Shabby, “Being Human is Good Business”

How hard is it for a customer to reach an agent in your company? Are callers madly pushing “zero” like lab rats in an attempt to escape your IVR? Are they Googling your phone number because it’s not easy to find on the website?

Your website says a lot about how much you value customer service. Here’s an argument for why getting a human should be easy, plus some new tricks to find out the customer experience with your company when it comes to this all-important contact point. Dynamic FAQs on your website, a customer-facing knowledge base, and chatbots are all great self-service options, but the core of your support must be human.

Tools to Gauge Customer Frustration

Contact centers have a variety of analytics and tracking options to measure customer satisfaction and behavior in their IVR, CRM, ticketing and knowledge base, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, let’s start with an unconventional source you probably don’t know.

1. Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that enables website owners to track their site’s performance in Google search. It shows you what people are searching for, how often your website is displayed in the results, and what percentage of people click through to it. Why does that matter?

If your phone number isn’t prominently displayed on your website, people will immediately Google “[company] customer service” or something similar. So, if you see a high or consistent volume of those inquiries, you may have a problem.

So how do you find out if customers are skipping your website to get a human? First, talk to your marketing or web team and get access to GSC.

Open "Search Console" in your web browser and you’ll see something like this. Click the “Performance” button on the left column and you’ll get a bunch of fancy graphs showing your website’s performance.

chris rall article

Click on the “+ New” in the filter bar and you’ll get a popup where you can filter the results by query. Choose “Queries containing” from the drop down.

Chris rall article

We’re interested in finding out how many people are googling terms like:

  • “[your-company] customer service”
  • “[your-company] support number”
  • “[your-company] #”
  • “[your-company] phone number”

One by one, enter words like “phone, ” “support” and “customer service” into the box and check the results. The default time range is 3 months, but you can change that if desired. You can also export the results into a spreadsheet by clicking on the black download arrow on the right.

One more note - consider checking Bing Webmaster Tools, as well, which may be used more often with older customers.

Where Customers Are Talking About You Online

Back in the day, frustrated customers began sharing direct customer service phone numbers online. Whether due to a lack of transparency, poor service, or just wanting to help out their fellow consumers, it became a quick way to see who the biggest offenders were in hiding support information and avoiding customers.

"Get Human" is a popular website that helps consumers quickly find the direct phone number they need, bypassing annoying IVRs. It’s by no means the only one. Type your company’s name in the search box and check the results. If you’re doing things right, you aren’t listed, meaning customers are easily finding the support they need. Otherwise you’ll find a helpful knowledge panel like the following:

chris rall article

Take what you learn to heart and make changes.

Closing Argument: Be Human to Retain Humans

According to Harris Interactive, 75% of consumers feel it's too hard to reach an agent. If you’ve gone through the above steps so far, how do you think your customers feel about your service. Customer service isn’t just about problem solving, it’s about making sure customers get the most value out of your products and overall relationship.

While accurately forecasting workload is important, many companies still attempt to reduce costs by understaffing. Yet, the dollars you save in one area will be wasted elsewhere. Here are a few examples of unanticipated costs due to low quality support and understaffing:

  • Unnecessary contacts/inquiries
  • Channel hopping
  • Repeat contacts
  • Falling First-Call Resolution (FCR) 
  • Lost and cancelled orders
  • Closed accounts
  • Loss of referrals
  • Negative publicity (e.g. social media)
  • Higher turnover

Studies, research, and customers themselves continue to show that people overwhelmingly prefer interacting with other people for serious or complex problems. Hiding your phone number behind too many clicks or IVR steps is asking for trouble and guarantees that your calls will begin with angry or annoyed customers. That means falling KPIs, rising costs, and, above all, bad customer experiences.

 

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