Customer Experience News & Trends

Why it’ll get even harder to keep up with customer expectations

Keeping up with what customers want will get even more difficult — and the reason may surprise you.

Qualified people to help customers are in short supply.

“Even as companies rely more heavily on technology solutions, customer representative jobs are projected to grow 13% by 2022,” says Melissa Goldberg, a senior workforce strategist at College for America.

Customers increasingly expect fast responses from experts because the Internet changes the game nearly every day with the speed and depth of knowledge available. So companies need to find front-line employees with communication and analytical skills, the right disposition and technology savvy. And they need to be able to relay that across the growing number of channels customers use to contact them.

Recruit and retain

As the market for top customer service professionals gets tighter, it’s just as important for companies to retain the best as it is to recruit them.

Great service pros — especially those with a strong background within the organization — will increase loyalty. In fact, nearly 70% of customers attributed a good experience to getting quick, professional resolutions, according to the College for America report, “Customer Service Trumps Cost as King: How customer expectations are reshaping business needs and skills requirements.”

To stay on top or ahead of recruiting and retaining outstanding service pros — thus, maintaining a strong hold on customer loyalty — try these approaches recommended by researchers:

Beef up education

Training front-line customer service pros does more than prepare them to handle complex or emotional customer issues. By investing in quality training, companies send the message to service pros that they’re one of their most valuable assets.

For instance, Gap Inc., has a year-long management training program for high-potential associates. It focuses on skills and knowledge gained, rather than just the hours in the classroom, to build confidence and a practical skill set.

Managers who run contact centers and their reps can increase skills and knowledge regularly by attending webinars at their convenience on-site or industry events, such as The 2015 ICMI Expo & Conference, where they can network with people who face the same challenges and attend sessions from industry experts.

“Leaders who are willing to give positive feedback and encouragement are your key to having front-line customer service pros committed to excellent service,” says Dianne Durkin, an ICMI speaker, President of The Loyalty Factor LLC, and author of Loyalty Advantage: Essential Steps to Energize Your Company, Your Customers, Your Brand.

Release the power

Rarely are people happy when they feel their hands are tied — especially customer service pros. They want to be able to do something when asked. Yet, many organizations bind them with scripts, processes and outdated practices.

Well-trained employees, who have freedom to solve problems by deviating from the process or script, almost always get faster, customer-pleasing results.

The first key is to increase their skills and knowledge so common sense rooted in training directs them to the right answers. The second key: Support their decisions.

Compensate right

As the economy improves, more companies report problems retaining top talent, a Monster survey found.

You probably know the old, true adage that it costs a lot more to attract new customers than it does to keep those you have. The same goes for good employees: An increase in pay or benefits for top talent is almost always more practical and profitable than watching them walk and having to hire again.

Check recruiting sites, job posts, chamber of commerce data and your industry information to make sure you offer comparable salaries and benefits for your area and industry. When you need to recruit, it helps to offer better than average.

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