How to Provide 24/7 Customer Service Without Increased Costs
In today’s fast-paced world, customers demand stellar customer service at any time of day, on any day of the week. We introduce the six best ways to offer 24/7 customer service - without increasing costs.
- Optimise self-service
- Set up well-defined processes
- Respond by priority
- Use remote workers
- Integrate an intelligent chatbot
- Automate as much as you can
The clock strikes 3:30 am, but Mary isn’t even thinking about sleep. She’s thinking, instead, about the LED beauty mask that popped up in an advertisement on her newsfeed. Mary clicks on the link, and is taken to the mask’s company website. She scrolls down the page, and hovers over the large green “Buy Now” button, but doesn’t click it. No, Mary has an important question she needs to be answered before she makes her purchase. What happens next? Here are two scenarios to compare:
Mary scrolls and scrolls, clicks and scans through all the pages, and finally finds a customer support email address. She types and sends her query by email. At this point, it’s nearing 4 am. Mary’s eyes are starting to feel heavy. But she really wants that mask. She waits a few minutes for a response, but then shakes her head. What are the chances they’re going to respond to me at this time of night? Disheartened, Mary shuts off her laptop and goes to bed.
The next morning, Mary wakes up late and doesn’t have time to check her emails before work. After a busy day, by the time she gets home, she’s forgotten all about the LED beauty mask. When she finally gets a response to her query, she deletes the email. She’s no longer interested, anyways.
A chat window pops up on the bottom right of her screen. The chatbot asks Mary how it can help her. She asks her question: “Do you offer any kind of warranty with this product?”
After a beat, the bot responds: “Yes, the product comes with a one-year warranty.” Mary is satisfied with the response, and also impressed by the company’s customer service -- even at 4 am -- which has made her feel important. Mary promptly clicks the “Buy Now” button.
While a fictional tale, the preceding scenarios could be very real. In today’s fast-paced world of instant gratification, customers demand stellar customer service from the companies they spend their hard-earned cash with -- at any time of day, on any day of the week. So what’s a company with budget limitations to do? Nighttime customer service staff demand a higher salary, making the option of customer service team shiftwork unaffordable for many companies.
But there are other ways that you can offer 24/7 customer service without having to increase your operational costs. Here are the best of the bunch:
Millennials are known as the self-service generation, but they’re not the only ones who prefer helping themselves to wait in line. According to a Charles Schwab report that surveyed 1,800 affluent customers across generations, more than half of the respondents (54 percent) said they prefer using technology to find the answers to their questions themselves.
So, empower them! Start by setting up an FAQ, and then take it a step further and build your company a knowledge bank. Your knowledge bank can be built over time, contributed to by all members of your team, and can be the perfect resource for your customers to find the answers to their questions at any time of day. What’s more -- once it’s built, your work is done (well, sort of -- you should be updating it frequently), as is your investment.
Customers helping themselves to information freely available in your FAQ or knowledge bank doesn’t cost you a dime.
Your team will benefit from playbooks that define their responses to any customer service-related event. Once they have a good handle on them, they’ll get quicker at implementing your processes -- from the types of services they’re authorised to offer customers, to instances that require management involvement -- with practice.
Ensure that regular training on your customer service processes are provided so that your agents can stay up to date on any changes to your playbook and also keep your regular processes fresh in their mind.
With well-defined rules and guidelines and ongoing training set up, your employees will be more efficient and effective at serving your customers, saving you time and money, which can then be re-invested into populating your night shift.
Plus, crystal clear processes significantly reduce user error, leaving your customers far more satisfied with your service -- even those who are burning the midnight oil.
Sometimes it’s clear that a query doesn’t need to be responded to until morning. Other times (like when the word “urgent” is used, for example), it’s clear that it cannot wait. Train your team to respond accordingly.
If your team is too busy (or sleepy) to respond, at least ensure your customers receive an autoresponder letting them know their query has been received, with approximate expected response time. By clearly defining expectations, you are more likely to keep your customers happy, even when you can’t answer their question right away.
The best way to respond to customer queries by priority is to set up a prioritisation system. This will help your agents know how to rank various customer queries in the queue, even in the absence of the word “urgent”.
The good news is, most modern customer support software includes a prioritisation system.
To automate this prioritisation process, it’s necessary to set up rules so that your software knows what’s important, what’s urgent, and what can wait. This could include flagging certain keywords, like “urgent,” but also “ASAP,” “today,” “pressing,” “imperative,” “quickly,” or “deadline,” and funnelling them to the top of the queue. This saves your agents from having to take the time to manually prioritise each query, and instead quickly get back to the requests that require their immediate attention.
Take advantage of the remote work trend and hire employees in various parts of the globe. The time difference can mean that you really do have 24/7 customer support, without having to hire night workers.
Remote working is a growing trend, and research proves that it improves the efficiency and efficacy of employees.
In fact, the Quarterly Journal of Economics showed that customer service employees who worked remotely made their way through 13 percent more calls per day than their colleagues working from an office.
Of course, you’ll need to structure things a bit differently to accommodate a remote customer service team. Moving your project management tools to the cloud is a good start. Make good use of video call tools like Skype or Zoom, and hold regular team meetings. Ensuring your team regularly connects on an audio-visual level is one of the best ways to promote teamwork and collaboration -- even across continents.
With today’s AI technology, you can employ a chatbot to do the night shift (and all shifts, really -- they don’t complain about having to work overtime, after all). Just make sure you choose an intelligent chatbot powered by AI and NLP. The less clever rules-based chatbots simply don’t cut it anymore, being rigid, flawed, and unable to understand anything outside their exact parameters.
Intelligent chatbots, however, are able to not only speak and understand human language in a natural way -- better than most humans can, too -- but actually learn and progress as they work, making them increasingly useful and valuable assets to your company. What’s more: it turns out that customers don’t mind talking to bots. In fact, a study by Usabilla shows that 70 percent of consumers have used chatbots already, and among those who haven’t, 60 percent said they’d feel comfortable doing so.
Even more encouraging was the fact that more than half said that they’d prefer to speak with a chatbot over a human if it would save them 10 minutes.
And while chatbots do require a financial investment, what they’ll save your company makes them more than worth it. While customer interactions with human agents can cost anywhere from $15 to $200 USD per query, customer interactions with chatbots cost just $1 per query on average. The savings add up pretty quickly, as you can imagine. Chatbots can’t and shouldn’t handle all queries, of course. Any complex cases that arise at 3 am can be initially handled by the chatbot, and then passed to a human agent during working hours. So long as you are open with your customer about the fact that they’re chatting with a bot, and give them a time they can expect to hear back from the human agent, you can bet your customer will be satisfied.
Chatbots aren’t the only tool for automation your company can take advantage of. Nor should they be. Automation technology has now become so powerful and ubiquitous that you’d be crazy not to employ it as part of your customer service. It works at all hours of the day (and night), and is incredibly cost effective to implement.
Here are some tasks you can automate:
- Email autoresponders: These may be old tech but email autoresponders are still as useful as ever, allowing you to let your customers know that they have been heard and will be responded to shortly, at any hour of the day.
- Customer behaviour prediction: Incorporate a software that predicts your customers’ behaviours and the corresponding next step the agent should take, all the while collecting this data to become an expert on your customers’ behaviour, eventually being able to predict every step of the customer journey.
- Smart CRM: The top CRMs are now powered by AI technology, which automates data entry -- saving your human agents long hours of typing tedious bits of personal information about each customer -- and provides insights into accounts and social media conversations.
- Workflow processes: Workflow automation not only saves your company time and money by speeding up your employee productivity, but it greatly reduces their rate of and potential for human error.
With the technology and trends of today, it’s actually not that difficult to provide 24/7 customer service without increasing costs to your company. Chatbots, automation tools, self-service, well-defined processes, prioritisation and remote workers all allow your company to seem like one whose employees never sleep, when in reality, your workers clock out at the end of their workday and switch off to recharge for the next.
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