Are we entering a new era of customer service?Elnaz Rezania M.A
According to recent article by McKinsey & Company, one of the most important priorities of customers in the post COVID-19 era is safety.Lockdowns, uncertainty, and extensive attention to health are things we all experienced through the pandemic, and these factors are reshaping customer behaviors.
Customers are now leaning towards using chatbots and self-service technologies far more than before.
However, these very same customers remain loyal to brands that provide self-service technologies while maintaining strong human connection.
Let’s dig into three factors that are at the core of the post-COVID customer service era:
- How to build safety into the customer experience
- Important customer service skills needed to thrive post-pandemic
- Tools that can help companies in hiring and developing successful customer service teams
How to build safety into the customer experience
Since the pandemic began, customers priorities and values while shopping have changed. Now more than ever customers need to know that they and their families are safe, and they are looking for an understanding that proper safety protocols are being met.
Among the most popular options for enhancing the safety of employee and customer interaction has been an increased use of contactless service. Adding the options of drive through shopping, online shopping and curbside pick-up has created a more frictionless environment for transactions to take place while maintaining physical distance between the customer and employee. To enhance this offering, investing in technology that provides self-service and chatbots for resolving simple issues ensure a continued contactless experience, and as a result, promotes safety with increased customers’ satisfaction. These contactless touchpoints are a win-win situation – if applied correctly.
Important customer service skills needed to thrive post-pandemic
Although digitization and continuing to invest in technology is essential for companies in the post-COVID era, building a strong human connection with customers is needed for thriving in the new normal. The ability of brands to embrace empathy and human connection leads to increased customer loyalty because customers feel as if they are part of a family, and their challenges are being addressed.
Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, wrote in a recent Forbes article that, “…empathy has always been a key skill for customer service, but it’s become even more essential during an uncharted moment. Seventy-one percent of consumers say businesses that have shown empathy during the pandemic have earned their loyalty…Now, service isn’t just about solving problems. It’s about enhancing relationships and enchanting customers”
Empathetic customer service starts by reaching out and providing genuine support. Empathy in customer service means to actively listen to what customers say and take it to the next level by helping them overcome their challenges. Many organizations have already stepped up to care for their customers. For instance, a credit company noticed financial challenges of customers during pandemic and decided to waive one month of interest on their credit cards. Showing care makes customers feel they are part of family, and they stay loyal to the brand.
Another key skill customer service teams need to embrace in this post-pandemic era is better stress tolerance. Customer service is under pressure more than ever before and to provide outstanding service to customers. While mental health has been at the forefront of pandemic-related conversation, helping to build the tolerance for stress in our customer service teams has rarely been discussed. Training, coaching, and the development of stress tolerance are needed to prevent employee burnout, keep the company representable, and maintain a satisfying customer experience.
Tools that can help companies in hiring and developing successful customer service teams
Building an outstanding team focused on traits essential to thriving in this new era of customer service is critical to differentiating an organization’s offering from the rest. Professionals in customer service roles are often seen as the face of an organization, and their performance can directly impact customer satisfaction ratings, loyalty, and reputation. To consistently deliver the best customer experience possible, companies need to hire the best talent with the right skill set, as failure can profoundly impact a business’s bottom line. So how do you hire, develop and engage the best talent to delight customers during every step of their journey?
Identifying the right people who will perform well on the job can be challenging for organizations. On the one hand, managers might be inclined to rely solely on their intuition during the hiring process, assuming that a candidate has the experience and technical skills needed to fulfill the role requirements. However, apparent experience is only one of many elements that good customer service professionals need to provide exceptional service. A variety of traits allow a future employee to succeed in delivering outstanding customer service. Here are a few questions to think about when hiring your next team member:
- Does this candidate have the follow-through to resolve customer issues?
- Does this candidate show confidence – and enough of it that it will be apparent when helping customers?
- Do they show care and empathy while they resolving customer problems?
- Does this candidate have the right composure to manage stress and handle challenging customers?
To hire and develop the right characteristics for a customer service team member, managers can not only rely upon their intuition and past experiences. Companies need to use scientifically validated tools to help them identify these traits objectively.
Many tools can assist managers in making the right decision in hiring and developing their customer service team- however, few of these tools are scientifically validated. MHS’ Customer Service AP (CS AP) is a self-reported assessment that evaluates prospective candidates on seven competencies: Achievement Motivation, Composure, Cooperativeness, Customer Orientation, Sociability, Self-Confidence, and Upselling. These skills are critical to success in customer service roles. This assessment also includes an Interview Guide with insights for the interviewing manager.
The CS AP is also extremely useful for current employees and can be leveraged to help pinpoint developmental needs—which can be valuable in ensuring an employee’s success in taking on new responsibilities.
Providing safety to customers, digitization, and getting the right customer service employee in the right job is critical—especially now, as businesses have little margin for error.
Using tools that compare a candidate’s characteristics with those needed for the role, managers can make better data-driven hiring decisions—this alignment results in better employee performance, engagement, and retention—and happier customers. For more information about the Customer Service AP, click here.