• October 13, 2022
  • By Shannon Flanagan, vice president of retail and consumer goods, Talkdesk

How to Avoid Being Canceled by Customers: Properly Preparing CX Departments

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Retailers can’t seem to catch a break as economic headwinds become stronger and shifts in consumer spending are ever-changing, making forecasting sales and inventory harder than ever before. Some of the situations retailers are facing are unavoidable, such as supply chain issues and labor shortages, but how brands respond is fully within their control. Differentiating through service is more important than ever to create connections that drive loyalty and capture more share of wallet.

Contact center agents are typically a company’s first line of defense for customer complaints and issues. Oftentimes, they will hear about a problem directly from customers, before the news reaches their supervisors or managers, let alone corporate teams. Therefore, it’s important that companies equip customer experience (CX) teams with the right information and resources to best support customers, resolve issues, and avoid being canceled by their customers.

Empowering a Brand’s Frontline Workers

A Talkdesk report found that 92 percent of CX professionals agree their contact center agents are brand ambassadors. Thus, they must be trained on the proper ways to communicate with customers, especially those in stressful situations that may have turned hostile. When interacting with an angry customer—whether they’re venting about a defective product, service outages, billing issues, or another frustrating situation—agents should use each interaction as an opportunity to put a smile on their customer’s face.

In another report, Talkdesk found that the No. 1 driver of customer loyalty in service experiences is first-contact resolution. To mitigate frustration, agents must have the tools to hone their soft skills and build rapport with customers. Minimizing the number of steps that are required for a customer to reach an agent, reducing information that must be repeated, knowing previous interactions the customer has had, and offering specific steps to fixing the problem will put the agents in a position to quickly and thoroughly satisfy customer needs. Since 85 percent of CX professionals believe that agents are expected to handle more challenging customer questions and issues compared to a year ago, it’s critical that contact center agents are able to connect with customers on a personal level and help resolve issues with empathy. Leveraging AI tools like sentiment analysis and CX sensors accelerate speed to resolution.

Taking a Proactive Approach to Problem Solving

Companies can earn the trust and respect of customers by proactively letting them know about issues, rather than brushing them under the rug or waiting until they’re trending on Twitter. Once a major, potentially brand-damaging issue is identified—whether by a contact center agent due to complaints, or by a brand executive—the company should work to notify all people who could be impacted. Customers will take notice if they don’t, as more than half of global customers said necessary information wasn’t provided to them proactively based on their last retail service experience.

Emails, texts, phone calls, and even posts on social media are great channels to alert consumers of what is currently going on and reassure them that the brand is taking necessary steps to rectify the issue. Proactive action on the brand’s part will minimize the necessary effort and concern from the customer. In the long term, it will create more brand loyalty because customers can trust that the brand will do everything necessary to identify and resolve an issue.

Another way brands can show proactivity is by launching self-service tools that are updated in real time with new information on current issues. Many retail brands saw success with this during the pandemic amid supply chain disruptions and delivery delays. For example, Tuft & Needle, a direct-to-consumer mattress and bedding brand, would send automated text messages alerting customers of delays on their orders and real-time shipment updates. By making it easier to access important updates, customers spend less time and effort seeking out information, reducing friction points in their experience—yet another way to drive customer lifetime value.

Transparently Communicating Updates and Timelines

In addition to the importance of when something is said, there needs to be a focus on what the brand is communicating and how they’re doing it. Much of a customer’s frustration comes from an organization putting a band-aid solution on an issue or having unhelpful messaging regurgitated to them. Below are tactical ways brands can avoid doing this:

  • Leverage your village. Additional customer dissatisfaction comes from feeling confused or misled. With this, cross-functional teams and contact center agents must work together to ensure all employees understand their role in resolving the issue and ensuring they’re using the same messaging across every channel (e.g., over email, texts, website copy, and social channels)—internally and externally.
  • Clearly state how you’re handling the situation. By providing details about what caused the issue and clear steps to resolving it (e.g., making repairs on a product, updating a platform, or enhancing security protocols), brands can ensure customers feel informed and understand the path to solving the problem.
  • Provide concrete timelines for resolution. Having a timeline in place will mitigate many contact center inquiries and frustrations. If this is an issue that may take more than a few hours or will be a work-in-progress, that needs to be communicated as well.

By dedicating time to properly training contact center agents on current issues and prioritizing visibility and communication on how and when issues will be resolved, brands can ensure customers are getting what they need when they need it.

Overcoming Problems Is possible—and the Power Lies Within CX Teams

Providing a good customer experience is no longer a nice-to-have; it can make or break a brand’s reputation and bottom line. Consumers—especially younger demographics—aren’t afraid to “cancel” brands if they fail to invest in CX. In fact, most Gen Zers (54 percent) and Millennials (56 percent) have stopped buying from a company in the past year due to poor customer service.

Companies that properly empower CX teams to create human connections, respond with empathy, and provide transparency will stay ahead of their competition in the race for customer loyalty. This begins with brand leadership teams leading with empathy. That means understanding the challenges agents face and giving agents the processes and tools to make their customer happy. No brand wants to be blasted on Twitter or have negative press. The good news is that it’s in your control and not hard to do. Ask yourself anytime issues arise, would you be satisfied if you were the customer?

Shannon Flanagan is vice president of retail and consumer goods at Talkdesk. She has been retailing since college, both in stores and as a buyer, merchant, consultant, sales leader, and strategist. She’s been an executive with Gap, Lands’ End, and Macy’s, defining and managing strategic initiatives, with expertise in omnichannel transformation. She has also worked with hyper-growth and Fortune 500 companies during her time with Accenture, Infor, and Slalom.

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