Customer Experience News & Trends

3 keys to putting the personal touch back in customer service

Self-service just might be overrated. In fact, the late comedian George Carlin predicted the kind of experience it would lead to:

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” Carlin explained. She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

Customers feel that way these days. They may want a lot of self-service options offered. But they don’t always want to use them.

Yet, many organizations force customers into self-service — and they miss the personal touch.

Here’s what customers have told researchers lately about service, plus ideas on how you can deliver the customer experience they really want:

1. Give me a human or give me liberty!

Customers are willing to walk away if they can’t get help from a person. In fact, 83% of customers prefer dealing with a person over digital channels when they have customer service issues, a recent Accenture Strategy survey found.

When customers can’t get that personal help, as many as half of them will leave, the study found. And almost 80% of them say they would’ve thought twice about their decision to leave if the company provided better live or in-person customer service, the Accenture researchers said.

A better bet: Don’t abandon your phones. As much as customers say they want social media and self-service options, they want the comfort of talking to a person to get through complicated or new situations.

2. Make it worth the wait

We understand: Customer demand makes it difficult to help them personally at every moment. Customers understand that, too.

As long as you make the wait personal, they’re willing to hold on for the help. Two-thirds of customers say they think a business is professional and cares if messages geared toward them are played while they wait on the phone, a PH Media Group study found.

In other words, they don’t want a generic message when they aren’t talking to someone. They want something geared right to them. For instance, they want to hear how they can maximize the use of your products or services or how they can save time or money.

Some companies have had great success with quizzes. We’ve even heard tales of customers asking to be put back on hold so they can hear the answer to a question in the quiz!

Customers are less interested in a hard sell or a company bragging about its accomplishments.

3. Value my time

As much as customers want personal help, they want to feel like you value their time and will make those experiences quick and effortless.

More than 75% of people say that the most important thing a company can do when providing service is prove that it values the customers’ time, a Forrester Research study found.

The obvious ways are to respond immediately to customers when they contact you and get answers or solutions while they’re talking to you. But customer service pros aren’t always equipped to do both or either.

That’s where options come in. Let customers decide if a quicker email or online answer is more important than a personal conversation. Make queue times prominent on your phones and online. If you can’t provide an immediate answer on chat or in social media at any point in a day, don’t offer that channel. Just let customers know when you’ll be staffed to give immediate answers. It’s better to shut down the channel than disappoint customers in it.

When you talk to customers, and a resolution isn’t immediate, tell customers, “I know your busy. I can’t provide you with an answer right now. What option works best for your timing … a call back by 4 p.m. or an email by 3 p.m. with an update?”

Best bet: Err on the side of customers. Let them choose the time for their response, and they’ll feel like you respect their time and business.

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