Customers are emotional creatures and need to be treated with compassion and thoughtfulness, even more so during these difficult times. We recently conducted a review and comparison of customer experience survey results between 2019 and 2020 for a personal finance company. Specifically, we were looking for evidence of any shift in customer experience delivery year on year and the effect the pandemic has had on customer needs. We discovered a clear correlation between the empathetic interpersonal skills of customer advisors and overall customer satisfaction. Low customer effort was also proved to be a determining factor.
Customer contacts increased in Q2 2020 due to COVID related issues. Although the company has an omnichannel customer experience, when it came to discussing difficult financial matters, customer preferred speaking to an advisor. Many customers needed to request payment holidays due to changed circumstances. They were anxious having to discuss these matters and ask for help, so when they received a helpful and supportive response, glowing feedback was made about staff. Nearly 50% of the positive comments received related to the empathetic skills of the advisors.
Although empathy is valued most highly, low customer effort is expected. The next highest category of comments received were related to keywords and phrases like quick resolution, efficient, smooth, easy. These comments comprised 30% of all of the positive comments received. These comments were received for phone calls and for transactions and contacts through online channels.
When things went badly, customers were not given immediate reassurance by staff. Before the epidemic requests for payment holidays had not been a common request, so initially staff were not trained in how to respond and there was an absence of processes or procedures. Advisors were often unsure how to advise customers and told them that they would look into it and get back to them. Unfortunately, on too many occasions these updates were not forthcoming. The customer was left hanging, having to keep chasing the contact centre which further elevated their stress levels. 56% of total negative comments received in 2020 related to delays and the lack of resolution for problems. Keywords for these comments include disappointed, frustrated, unhelpful and stressful.
The advisor takes centre stage
During the epidemic, the role of the customer advisor became more central with customers experiencing more complex and urgent issues that they wished to discuss. The way that customers were dealt with during COVID created increased brand loyalty. Examples of feedback included ‘the advisor was so helpful, in my experience it’s not been this way with other finance companies so I would recommend it to others’ and ‘great customer service, no ifs, no buts… first class finance company.’
Support your staff
The problems occurred when it was not possible to provide an excellent first response and quick resolution of customer issues. The root causes of these problems mainly comprised of a lack of clear and simple processes and the need for increased training for some advisors. Staff were newly working from home, so it was sometimes more difficult to get support when required. After processes and procedures were improved, customer satisfaction started to increase again.
In order to increase net promoter score again to pre-COVID levels it was important to recognise the company’s key differentiator. In a busy marketplace with marginal differences between products and rates, the customer service provided creates brand advocates. This was achieved because of the efforts of a wonderful team of dedicated individuals who are genuinely sympathetic to callers and try their best to help.
Contact centre staff have recently often suffered from the necessity of working from home. They are often of extrovert personality types and particularly struggle with isolation. If they are not supported with clear processes and procedures, then it can also be challenging dealing with some queries remotely. It is often observed that if employee experience is improved then customer experience will follow, so all efforts should be made to create a warm and caring culture. The basics include ensuring that regular team meetings and social events are organised remotely to maintain a team atmosphere. It’s also important to keep up with regular one to ones and coaching. If budgetary constraints apply, then star performers can be involved to help with this
Don’t leave any stones unturned
It is essential to conduct regular analysis of survey results and other customer feedback. An “always on” programme of feedback can deliver real time dashboards showing changes in customer sentiment and alerting the business to potential issues. When a rise in negative feedback occurs, some root cause analysis can be employed to identify underlying problems and plan and implement steps to resolve these before they affect customer satisfaction levels.
How we can help
CXCo enables you to understand and improve upon your customer experience. We can perform one off reviews and recommendations or else be your partner in the development and management of an ongoing customer experience monitoring and improvement programme.