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Real Customer Service

It Is Time to Get Real With Your Customer Service

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Uthaman Bakthikrishnan

Executive Vice President

I visit a sporting goods retail outlet regularly. I have been a customer of theirs for the past seven years.

I have always found them stocked with everything I need and conveniently priced.

Of late, I have become very hesitant to go there. Unless I have a pressing need, I don’t visit that outlet at all.

What has changed there that I don’t feel like visiting them anymore?

They used to have manned checkouts, and I loved shopping with them. I loved the conversations while the billing was done. I bought some things not in the plan at the billing counter.

In the last year or so, they implemented self-checkout counters and reduced the manned counters to just two, mostly overcrowded ones.

At the self-checkout counters, the barcodes refuse to scan, and sometimes, I put an item through twice by mistake. I had to check everything on the screen, and it gave me a lot of anxiety. In these cases, assistance is required, and it takes ages for me to get help from someone at the outlet.

I discarded the items at the checkout counter and walked away several times.

I have thought through this experience several times. Why would a brand do this? Like me, they would have lost many customers.

Northern Supermarket – Booths

With this experience vividly in mind, I read about the northern supermarket group Booths.

They decided to remove self-service checkouts in all but two of its stores. This was because of the feedback they received from their customers.

Booths believe that colleagues serving shoppers deliver a better customer experience. Delighting customers with their warm northern welcome is a part of their DNA, and they continue to invest in people to ensure they remain true to their ethos.

Should other businesses take a leaf out of Booths’ book, invest more in good old-fashioned customer service, and not be too reliant on automation?

What Is Your Take on This School of Thought?

Automation Vs. Real customer service with people is a debate that will not have a winner. It is better to look at a balanced approach.

You have to look at what your customers want. In the sporting goods retail outlet example, they never checked whether their customers liked the self-service checkouts. To date, I haven’t received an email or a message from them inquiring about my absence for such a long time.

Whereas Booths took feedback from their customers and did away with the self-service checkouts at their stores.

The customer has to be at the center of customer service.

It sounds like a great line, and it makes sense as well. Isn’t it?

How to Provide Real Customer Service?

Here are ten practical tips to provide real customer service:

  1. When your customers use chatbots or virtual assistants – always give them the option to talk to a human agent anytime during the interaction. Ensure a smooth transition to humans when automation doesn’t work.
  2. When your customers call, offer a clear choice for your customers to reach a human agent on your IVR systems.
  3. Automate the routine tasks so customers don’t have to wait to speak to an agent and resolve their queries quickly.
  4. Implement self-service options through a well-designed FAQ, knowledge base, and chatbots. Collect feedback from your customers on the self-service efficiency and act on them.
  5. Invest in agent training to handle complex issues and provide a personalized touch.
  6. Ensure omnichannel support so that human agents can access all customer interactions across channels – customers will never have to repeat themselves.
  7. Regularly analyze performance metrics for both automated and human interactions to identify areas of improvement and adjust the balance accordingly.
  8. Use automation in the form of predictive analytics to anticipate customer needs and proactively offer solutions enhancing customer service.
  9. Empower agents with tools that assist decision-making, such as knowledge bases, AI-assisted suggestions, and automation tools to streamline the workflow.
  10. Empower human agents to identify opportunities for automation and contribute to the improvement of automated processes based on their frontline experience.

Striking a balance involves a dynamic and iterative process, adapting to changes in customer expectations and technological advancements.

Regularly reassessing the effectiveness of automated systems, gathering customer feedback, and staying attuned to emerging trends are critical steps in maintaining a harmonious blend of automation and human touch.

Businesses can navigate the dynamic landscape of customer service by placing the customer at the center of the service equation.

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