Delivering an exceptional customer experience often means that several disparate elements need to come together perfectly – people, process and technology need to work together seamlessly. Yet it often takes only one thing to go wrong to make the whole customer experience unravel.
Customer experience guru Micah Solomon recently wrote about the 10 All-time Worst Customer Service Practices in which he opines on the most egregious breaches of the customer service protocol. Several relate to defects in process; others address failures in technology; but most reveal shortcomings in the human element of the customer experience equation.
The American Customer Service Index, a national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction, seems to support Solomon’s implication that these worst practices are well entrenched. The Index has remained reasonably flat since 2010 suggesting that customer service hasn’t improved much over the years. So, with all the emphasis on improving the customer experience, why isn’t service getting any better?
One explanation is that customer expectations are greater than they have ever been. The proliferation of the Internet has created a population of well-informed customers who often research solutions to their issues and alternative products and services well in advance of ever engaging a customer service professional. Therefore, these employees require advanced skills, such as excellent communication, language and critical thinking in order to provide outstanding service.
Further to the human element, hiring and retaining skilled, competent customer service professionals seems to be a never-ending battle for many organizations. Average annual turnover has remained fairly steady despite significant spending in solutions that purport to identify candidates that are likely to possess the necessary customer service orientation.
Solomon is onto something when he suggests that the days of hiring customer service professionals based on “gut feel” are over and it’s time to let data-driven decisioning take center stage. Many customer-facing departments generate myriad performance data, including quantitative indicators of customer satisfaction. These data can be used to improve the hiring process. Uncovering the characteristics of exceptional customer service practitioners and continuously correlating their observed performance with their pre-hire assessments will create a model by which subsequent job candidates can be compared. Hire those who fit the model, don’t hire those who don’t.