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Contact centres hold service key

By Retail Technology | Wednesday April 10 2013

As customer service becomes a key differentiator, retail brands are demanding their call centres work even harder, according to contact centre technology expert, Joe Doyle in the next in a series of expert comment

Retail call centres are essential to improving the customer experience and offering a truly multichannel environment, said Joe Doyle, marketing director at outsourced customer contact services provider Sitel UK.

“Social media has arrived as a first choice channel of interaction for some consumers to seek customer care and technical support when purchasing online. It's the next stage of evolution in the demand for a better online shopping experience and real-time customer service," he said.

Call centre evolves with social contact

However, many businesses have been slow to embrace social media as a legitimate channel for customer engagement. A customer may post a comment or question on a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter. Many retailers ignore the enquiry altogether, or issue a superficial response that directs the customer to contact them through established offline customer support channels. "This is all too often a waste of the customer's time, and misses a key opportunity to both reduce costs and boost customer satisfaction by delivering a robust service experience in the customer's chosen channel of interaction," Doyle said.

Reducing the effort for the customer is just as important. "First contact resolution" and "ease of contact" by the method they choose, be it telephone, SMS text, Facebook or a good old fashioned letter should b the ultimate goal. "This means empowering call centre agents to be able to give instant refunds or offer more loyalty points," he continued. "It also means providing the resource and ability to monitor Twitter, Facebook and retail forums." Sitel's latest survey revealed 26% of respondents believed their customer experience could be improved by brands responding more quickly to questions on social media sites such as Twitter.

Efficiently monitor tweets and posts 

But Doyle pointed out that the overwhelming quantity of tweets and posts need to be filtered down to a single, manageable work queue of relevant content. "Most times this is left up to marketing departments who are typically best positioned for one-way communication, most commonly focused on corporate self-promotion and brand building," he observed.

Social enquiries require almost immediate action. "The inability to respond quickly and effectively turns to customer disappointment, damaging the brands reputation and potentially losing sales opportunities," he continued. "Success comes with innovative best practices and highly trained agents who are well positioned to deliver final resolution in the customer's chosen channel of interaction, regardless of the complexity of the enquiry."

Another common failure occurs when retailers attempt to force the customer out of the social channel, particularly when social is the customer's chosen channel of engagement. "Customers can easily call into a traditional voice queue immediately if they wanted to. Brands that will succeed in social media will provide resolution in the customer's chosen channel," added Doyle. For example, the recent Sitel survey also revealed that social media is especially important to those under 25, who wish to receive an SMS text to say their parcel is on its way as opposed to receiving an email.

Provide for a number of options

Social customer service is still in its infancy and continuous innovation will influence practices as more technologies become available and customers increase their expectations. Doyle reported that live chat and video customer care are exploding and rapidly growing faster than most other channels. In the future, video, social media and other technologies will likely change the face of customer service. “How to” videos are already common and popular. For example, in the telecommunications industry videos are used to explain complex bills to customers and prevent unnecessary expensive customer service calls.

"Millions of customer interactions are taking place every day across social media sites, customer support forums and online communities," he concluded. "Retailers that are effectively resolving customer enquiries via social media are increasing satisfaction and reducing costs."

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