Categories
Customer Service

How We Measure Customer Service Matters

If there are still any doubters out there regarding the generational shift from call centers to chat-based contact centers, take a look at this survey data from analytics firm Dimension Data. Preference for phone-based customer service drops from 90.4% in the oldest age-profile to 12.3% in the youngest age-profile:

blogpost 2 graphic of channel popularity by age profile

As we state in big bold print on our website: your next generation of customers isn’t going to pick up the phone to call you. At the same time, 80% of businesses complain that the technology isn’t keeping pace with these changes in consumer demand. With all of the change that is coming to call centers, we’ve been thinking recently about how the way we measure customer service success changes as well. As we move to chat and mobile messaging interactions, the qualities we measure, such as customer satisfaction and agent performance, do not change, but the way we measure them does.

Consequences of using the wrong metrics

As discussed in our previous blogpost, the fact that mobile messaging is asynchronous drastically devalues two of the traditional call center metrics: ticket resolution and handling time.

Using outdated agent performance metrics not only gives us an inaccurate picture of our service, but also risks promoting the wrong behaviors in our agents. For example, if agents know they are being judged by their handling time, we often see them push for an unnatural close of the conversation. We occasionally even have clients ask us to implement automated close messaging, such as: Is there anything else we can help you with? If you don’t respond in five minutes, this conversation will automatically close. Not only is this a poor customer experience, there’s also just no benefit to pressuring the customer to end a chat. Chats only “close” from the agent’s perspective, not from the consumer’s perspective.

While we still report handling time, we caution clients not to rely too heavily on this metric. Average handling time gives context to customer experience, but it’s imprecise visibility into utilization of contact center resources. A lot of what is counted in handling time may be agent idle time, or the agent jumping into another chat, while waiting for a response from the customer.

The real danger is targeting a goal handling time for each chat. Not all customer service events carry the same urgency. Handling time matters when a passenger got bumped from a flight and needs to re-book, but it doesn’t really matter when changing a passenger’s meal option on a flight that is still two weeks out. The transition to messaging-based contact centers brings with it much greater flexibility to intelligently prioritize chats. This just isn’t an option for call centers. An agent can only ask a customer to wait on hold for a very short amount of time before significantly affecting customer satisfaction. In contrast, messaging allows agents to have multiple simultaneous conversations open at once, constantly shuffling priority with a simple “One moment, please.” and “I’m on it!”. The customer can put their phone down and wait for the push notification telling them the task is complete.

Focus on customer experience

The asynchronous nature of messaging does present a challenge to contact center managers to update their thinking. The logical approach is to consider to what degree metrics like handling time, closed tickets, and first call resolution are still relevant to customer experience. Your team’s first response time, for one, is a much more powerful indicator of good customer experience than handling time. You may also find that tracking ticket resolution or first call resolution is difficult to automate for asynchronous messaging — these are probably better moved to customer satisfaction surveying.

In the end, the best way to judge your customer service success is still to let your customers tell you how you’re doing. These metrics, namely Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES), don’t require updating because they quantify customer sentiment. The quality of the customer experience will continue to be the ultimate barometer for agent efficiency and team productivity.

*For more information regarding NPS please click on this link to Forrester. **For more information regarding  CES please click this link to HBR.
*For more on NPS, check out these posts by Forrester and Bain.
**For more on CES, check out this HBR article.
Categories
Customer Service

Does Mobile Messaging Kill Customer Service Tickets?

A Bit of Background

There are more than ten million Official Accounts on WeChat. Facebook quickly followed up their April release of the Messenger Business Platform with a substantially updated version 1.1. WhatsApp has announced they will finally start supporting businesses officially this year, in recognition of the fact that thousands of businesses already found out how to do this, most notably in India and Brazil. Why are businesses flocking to the latest messaging products?

In the early days of WeChat Official Accounts, brand interest was primarily driven by opportunities in outbound marketing. As the platform has matured, easy wins in outbound marketing have evaporated and marketers are now challenged with providing real utility to keep a large base of followers engaged. In this second generation of brand behaviors on WeChat, inbound customer service and sales are getting more attention.

More generally, as business-to-consumer conversations move away from phone and email support and on to mobile messaging platforms, we see that the type, content, and frequency of conversations changes. This new relationship is characterized by higher frequency interactions that require lighter effort from the business, allowing savvy businesses to more closely monitor brand sentiment, better understand their customers, and win more loyalty.

Higher Frequency

Compare the difference in friction that it takes to start, participate in, and re-start a conversation with a business on a phone compared to a messaging app. One of the worst things you can do as a company is put me on hold. I’m not even able to kill time on my smartphone while I wait because my phone is stuck to my ear. To be fair, many businesses still struggle with consistent responsiveness in messaging, too. We have many successful clients that average less than one-minute response time at scale, with only one to three simultaneous online representatives. That’s faster than it takes for me to dial, wait for the phone to ring, say my hello, and get a response from just about any business out there.

Overall, web chat users receive an average response within five minutes according to this study by social media consulting firm Eptica. The same study found that businesses on Twitter, held up as a successful channel for low-friction social customer care, had an average response time of just over a day. The disconnect is that 64% of Twitter users expect to be served within an hour.

There are many techniques for managing customer expectations in messaging. In the end, you don’t even have to be faster than a phone call as long as the experience is that much better than calling. The key is that your customers quickly discover that they can message you and consider it done. If you can achieve this, you’re on a path to very loyal customers.

Lighter Effort

The beauty of messaging is that this quality of customer experience is within reach of most businesses. Because the channel is asynchronous, you can simultaneously manage multiple conversations, quickly opening chats, and triaging accordingly. You can use a hybrid of automated and live-agent messaging to manage expectations when you are offline or busy. Because it’s a digital channel, you are recording your entire chat history with each customer, so you can always see who at your business last spoke with the customer, what was said, and you don’t ever have to have customers repeat themselves. You have ready access to screenshots, stored text, images, and other FAQ content which bring exponential efficiency gains over a phone call.

A great anecdote of this happened while shadowing a concierge in a five-star hotel. A guest called down from his room to inquire about booking a tour, and the concierge’s entire attention for the next nine and a half minutes was explaining the different options to the guest, while he discussed them in the background with his wife. That conversation in a messaging app could have taken fifteen seconds of the concierge’s time to drag-and-drop the three options from his FAQ library and the customer would have actually had a better experience with photos, expert descriptions, and the ability to discuss with his wife at his leisure, before tapping to book.

So, no more tickets?

Ultimately a heavy burden of communication disincentivizes consumers from truly engaging in open dialogue with businesses. If it’s difficult to connect to your business, I’ll only contact you when I have a serious problem. This is the paradigm from which customer service tickets emerged. It is easier for businesses to myopically view customer service success by ticket resolution metrics rather than how successful they are at truly engaging customers over their entire relationship with the business.

If businesses make it easy to start, participate in, and re-start a conversation, it no longer makes sense to structure conversations as tickets. If the conversation is asynchronous, meaning I can leave it open without affecting either party, and I can easily add in other team members to a chat while we work together to resolve an issue for a customer, it doesn’t make sense to open and close tickets. What you have is an ongoing relationship.

Will there still be issues you create a ticket for? Sure. A ticketing system is still a common request from large clients during the sales process. Since we don’t find tickets a necessity, we try to convince the client to first go live with the service and then see if it’s really needed. Sure enough, it always slips down the list of priorities in their feature requests after they get started. Tickets are still good for organizations that haven’t mastered conversational service yet. They make accountability easier in the transition and can make sense for issue resolution that lasts longer than one day or one shift.

The Cost of Friction

Even incremental reductions in communication friction will bring benefits across the spectrum for most businesses: increased last-minute purchases, customer satisfaction, consumer evangelism, and long-term loyalty, and reduced churn and “shopping cart” abandonment. If you can achieve an initial “wow” moment with your customers, it starts to redefine how and how often they talk to you.

Your business to a greater or lesser extent competes on service. No customer wants to be treated like a statistic. The conversational history of interactions between you and your customer is in essence, a ticket that never closes.

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In our next post, we will discuss how success metrics change moving from call centers and customer service tickets to next generation messaging-based contact centers.

Categories
Customer Service WeChat Official Accounts

WeChat for Customer Service

One of the biggest challenges our clients face, that will ultimately determine how much value they derive from our product, is how successful they can be encouraging conversations with their followers on WeChat.
 
By the time they sign up for Grata, they have already bought into the value of using WeChat for customer service, primarily because either 1) they have an existing call center and want to drive phone and email traffic to WeChat to reduce costs, or 2) their business competes on good service and they recognize the service upgrade this represents to their customers.
 
As clients roll out Grata, we strongly encourage them to simultaneously deploy a marketing effort that communicates the newly upgraded value of their WeChat Official Account. If businesses don’t tell their followers when their online, how responsive they are, and what kind of things they can help with, not many people are going to message them. Businesses are fighting against the status quo in which most Official Accounts are bad about responding to messages from followers. This low expectation on the part of WeChat users, however, means it is relatively easy to surprise and delight followers with a fast response from a real human.

Tell new followers how they can use your account

WeChat can automatically send a stored welcome message whenever someone follows your account. This is the perfect time to introduce to your new follower what services your Official Account provides.
 
WeChat Follower Welcome Message Grata additionally allows you to store multilingual welcome messages so followers are greeted in their own language.

Use personalized WeChat agents

WeChat allows verified Official Accounts to use up to 100 custom avatars and agent names when chatting with followers (you can request more if needed). There are many advantages to using personalized agent names. Specific to this post, when you use custom agent identities, WeChat will automatically add a “Customer Service Staff” row to your account profile and display one of your agents. This signals to followers that you are indeed replying to messages.
 
WeChat Customer Service Staff

Use WeChat menus to prompt conversations

One of our favorite methods of engaging WeChat followers is to expose a small directory of contacts. This has two benefits: 1) By listing teams or departments, it seeds the idea of what kind of services you provide through WeChat, and 2) Grata can route to different teams based on which button the user presses. It can look something like this for a hotel guest:
 
WeChat Menu Routing Each menu button can send a stored text message letting the user know in more detail what services are provided. If the user replies to that prompt, a new chat notification will be sent to the corresponding team.

Manage expectations with auto-replies

Responsive service often has a lot to do with managing customer expectations. One good way to manage expectations is to setup an automatic reply based on the status of your agents. Let users know they can expect an immediate reply when agents are online or give them alternate contact information if your agents are offline. Here’s what that setup looks like in Grata:
 
Online-Offline Auto-Greeting

Optimize for a quick first response

The first reply from a live agent is the most important factor in putting your customer at ease. Ideally, after your customer sees a face, a name, and knows that your team is “on it”, she can put her phone down and wait for a notification when the request/issue is resolved. Use personalized quick replies to get the fastest response from an agent. What your customers sees:
 
New Chat
In Grata, use “$username” and “$agentname” to personalize quick replies.

Route conversations back to previous agent

One of the most frustrating service experiences for a customer is having to repeat himself. While a lot of this friction is automatically avoided by using a digital channel like WeChat — all chat history is easily viewable by any agent in Grata — it still is a relief to talk to the agent that has the best understanding of your issue. Make your WeChat Official Account a more personal channel and reward returning customers by always routing back to the previous agent first.
 
route-to-previous-agent

Call-to-action in outbound marketing

While most businesses use their WeChat Official Account for regular outbound marketing, many miss the bigger opportunity by doing a poor job converting leads. Your followers are reading your posts in a messaging app — take advantage of that! If you have live agents ready to take incoming chats, make the call to action at the bottom of your post to simply close the article and send a message to you to book/buy/order/etc.
 
Call to Action

QR Codes Everywhere

If your going to use your Official Account for driving customer service, you should put your QR Code everywhere you put your business’ phone number. The best businesses also explain to their customers why they should scan the QR code and even embed relevant contextual data in each unique QR code.
 
The text alongside the QR code should explain the value proposition and is ideally unique for each QR code placement. For a hotel, the taxi card QR code might be accompanied by a suggestion to “Contact us for in-travel assistance, recommendations, and help getting around town”, while the QR code on the booking confirmation email might read “Contact us 24/7 for pre-arrival arrangements or to book a convenient airport pickup”.
 
If you’re using a WeChat Service Account, you can use unique “parametric” QR codes to not only track the performance of each placement, but also to embed routing rules (eg. so your taxi card QR code routes directly to the concierge) and alert agents to the context of the current conversation. Consider giving a unique parametric QR code to each staff member for their business cards and email signatures. When one of their contacts messages your Official Account, you can setup routing rules to notify that individual staff member first.
 

Email Signature

Hotel Frontdesk QR Code

WeChat Feature Request

What would really be helpful for driving customer service conversations in WeChat, is if WeChat would borrow a feature from Facebook and display how responsive Official Accounts are to their followers. This would be the perfect way to manage user expectations and would also encourage Official Accounts to actually be more responsive!
 
Messenger Responsiveness
 
If you have a verified WeChat Official Account and want to be more responsive to your followers, register an account at Grata.co or scan the QR code below to get in touch with our team for assistance. You’ll get a quick answer to any of your questions during normal business hours, China Standard Time [see what we did there?].
 
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