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3 Ways You Can Improve Your Customer Service in 2014


ways-to-improve-customer-serviceAs we all know, providing exceptional customer service is key to running a successful company, but is your financial institution doing everything it can to ensure your valued customers are getting the type of service they want and need?

According to an article in USA Today, a recent survey on customer rage conducted by Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business shows customers are getting angrier, citing that "the number of households experiencing 'customer rage'—meaning, they were very or extremely upset about the company response when they complained—jumped to 68% from 60% in the last survey, in 2011." In addition, the number of respondents who admitted to yelling at customer service representatives rose to 36% from 25%, and those who admitted to cursing increased to 13% from 7%.

Many financial institutions have spent a lot of time and money trying to improve service levels. Some have turned to technology to provide self-serve channels that allow customers to find answers to their questions quickly, easily, and with little frustration. Others have upped their customer service staff so that hold times are decreased.

But is all of this effort paying off?

From my own observations, there are many ways the customer service experience in general could be improved without adding more staff or the latest technology, and this goes for any business.

  1. Use your existing automated systems more wisely, and test them often.

    If you seem to have a lot of very unhappy campers calling your customer service team, take it as a sign that your automated system may be providing an awful service experience. Believe it or not, most people who call customer service don't start out as raging lunatics—but a confusing automated system that takes forever to reach a person can turn even the sweetest, most soft spoken person into the Hulk.

    You should test your automated phone system AT LEAST once per year, and don't assume that it's a great experience just because IT or whoever develops the process can navigate through the menu seamlessly. They know the jargon you use internally, so of course they would understand exactly what each prompt means. However, those same prompts could be meaningless to your customers. Another reason you shouldn't use your internal development team as testers is that they could be too close to the project to see the flaws or too set in the current way of doing things to give testing an honest effort.

    Instead, get a focus group—one that isn't familiar with your institution. You could pay external people to be a part of this group, or you could just get a group of new employees to test out your automated phone system—whatever is best for you. Have them attempt to find specific information and then give you detailed feedback on where they got confused or stuck in the process.

  2. Train your customer service representatives thoroughly so they know how to handle multiple scenarios/problems quickly and professionally.

    People don't call customer service because they want to chew the fat with someone who sounds like Mr. Rogers or a Disney princess—they call because they have a problem that needs to be solved. If you are focusing all of your training efforts on phone etiquette and "tone," you're setting your reps up for failure. You have to train your customer service employees to be troubleshooters so they can identify and resolve the wide range of issues your customers typically have. You should also teach them the various processes of other departments—at least at a high level. That way, if they encounter an issue they don't have the authority to resolve, they immediately know what the next steps are and can intelligently explain the process to the customer.

  3. Include a troubleshooting, FAQ, and/or a self-service section on your website so people don't have to call you if they don't want to.

    What's the first thing pretty much everyone does when a problem comes up? They go online and search for ways to fix it on their own. This is especially true for minor things that seem easy to resolve. Why risk getting lost in an automated system or getting put on hold when in just a few clicks you can get the answer you need?

    We all know this behavior exists. It's not a secret or anything new. Heck, I do it every day, multiple times—just like you! So, why do so many institutions still force customers to go through other less convenient channels to get the help they need rather than allowing them to self-serve online? For example, think about how often customers need your routing number. You can make it easy for them to find it on your site, so they don't have to call or dig for it. All it takes is adding some information to your website to give your customers this ability, so hop to it! Once these resources are up and running, your customers and service representatives will thank you!

     

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