As customer anxiety rises – trust and care in customer service is key
As the Christmas season peak hour looms and anxiety levels rise – it’s a fine line between the pleasure of delivering great customer service, and the pain of failing to meet expectations as we close out another year. **
Anxiety levels rise as the pressure rises – customers are anxious to get the service they demand and those of us providing the service are anxious to deliver!
A recent survey by Harvard Business School (HBS), reported here by Harvard Business Review (HBR) has found that, when it comes to the crunch, anxious customers look for “human customer service”.
Think about it. It’s human nature to turn to others for help.
Harvard (HBS) focused on companies with what they call “high-anxiety settings” – including financial services and healthcare – and they observed that many such companies isolate their customers “at the precise moment they are keen for connection.” They send us to the self-service technologies, like a website, smartphone, or kiosk and that increases our customer anxiety.
Most of us could probably think of one or two other industries which heighten our anxiety!
The HBS research found there’s a domino effect to dissatisfaction and anxiety in online settings, because so much choice can lead to confusion and indecision. Which leads to dissatisfaction and distrust of the brand/business.
Surely, then, that must elevate the actual call centre to the front line, with a human at the end of the line the last port of call to alleviate customer anxiety. Many would argue, that’s what contact centres should be there for.
Gordana Smith, co-founder of Citrus Group, and a 20-year veteran of the specialist recruitment industry, works with a range of businesses to source staff for their contact centres. She says client anxiety is always a key consideration when it comes to contact centre recruitment. “Our role is to mitigate that anxiety, by delivering what our clients need,” she says. “That means sourcing and placing the right people in the right roles to deliver great customer service for their businesses.”
According to Gordana, her team can generally forecast the peaks and troughs throughout the year and running up to the last quarter of 2019, she can already see demand is rising as her call centre clients search for more, quality personnel to deliver that Christmas “peak hour” service.
Constant communication with and understanding of her clients, goes a long way to delivering the right solutions. “Our clients are both our customers and our partners and we consider the individual needs of each business to ensure we tailor the solutions to suit them,” she says. “One size does not fit all – and because we are specialists we can adjust our service delivery every time. They also need to know they can trust us to deliver, and they need to know that we care.”
The theme remains the same – whether it is business to business customer service, or front line sales to the person on the street. Says HBR: “Anxious customers left to fend for themselves are less satisfied with their choices, and less trusting of the company with which they are interacting.”
The HBS survey focused on a credit union and participants applying, online, for a loan. The participants had three options – to receive no contact from the credit union; to receive continuing updates via text on how their loan application was going; or, to receive messages throughout where each message included the name of a person they could contact. HBS concluded that those people who knew they could connect with a loan officer felt less anxious and more supported, even if they chose not to call.
Ultimately, as the survey found, for those of us delivering customer service it is a fine balance between the human touchpoints (the people on the front line) and the technology. Sometimes the technology may be too intrusive and off-putting because it requires too much “self-service” for the customer. However, if the customer knows a person is at the end of the line to solve their issues, whether they call them or not, it’s a comfort.
As the 80s hit song told us, “it’s a fine line between pleasure and pain” – a timely reminder that the pleasure of delivering great customer service will go a long way to averting the pain of losing their business.