I've recently been following a discussion thread on LinkedIn on declining consumer sentiment about customer service along with the causes of this (e.g. lack of agent training). While there's no simple answer to this, here are a few points to ponder.First, while customers may feel that customer service is getting worse in general terms, it's certainly not true within all companies. Many contact centers are striving to improve customer satisfaction, having recognized the financial benefits of attracting and retaining good customers. Many organizations have been improving customer service, in part, by shifting away from traditional contact center measures that are focused on productivity and efficiency such as average handle time to more customer-centric metrics such as first call resolution.
Certainly part of the problem, as one person noted on the LinkedIn thread, is that too many companies continue to provide customer service with "a production line mentality" in their attempts to efficiently process customer inquiries. As this observer also noted, "customers don't want to be treated like cattle. They don't want to be processed. Customers want a shared experience."
Another challenge for many contact center leaders is having a staff that's engaged and properly incented to provide great customer service. Depending on the industry, contact center churn rates continue to hover at 20 percent or higher. It's tough to keep good agents, much less keep them motivated and incented.
One effective way to incent agents is by basing part of their compensation to elements of customer satisfaction that can be tied to their own performance, including metrics such as first call resolution. Agents that are compensated for delivering great service feel as if they have some skin in the game.
Forward-thinking contact center managers can also make the workplace more interesting and engaging for agents by assigning them to areas where they are best suited or by rotating agents between areas when it makes logical sense to help keep things fresh. For instance, agents that have better written than verbal skills are a better fit for interacting with customers via chat, email, and potentially social if they show an aptitude for engaging well with customers in social channels.
It's also important for good agents to be recognized and rewarded. Sure, cash is king but studies have shown that workers that are publicly recognized by their supervisors in front of their peers are more likely to remain loyal and happy. A little public acknowledgement and a pat on the back can go a long way.