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As storefronts have evolved, so too has customer service. Now more than ever, customers are empowered to expect more from businesses and get more in return. Customers expect flexibility across channels and a consistent experience no matter how they reach out. In turn, businesses have adopted omnichannel customer service strategies for engagement.
While omnichannel support improves the customer experience, as well as the agent experience, businesses have more to consider when allocating resources and training service agents. Your available resources will dictate how much each service agent takes on, and your agents may need to understand a wide variety of channel communications.
Employers are always looking for unicorn employees, but can you train someone to be a jack of all trades? Join us as we look at some of the things to keep in mind as you train your agents for omnichannel customer service.
1. Be customer centric
One of the greatest strengths of an omnichannel customer service strategy is the uniquely customer-centric focus. Maybe the most important aspect of any customer interaction is exercising empathy, and an omnichannel approach to support allows you to reach customers where they’re most comfortable.
Whether a customer is reaching out to your company in an email, or on social media, you need to take their concerns seriously, and show them that you’re ready to help. The trust of your customers is not given lightly, and your agents should understand that their tone matters when responding. Even though social media is a more open and less formal channel than email, the tone that your agents use should never undercut the concerns of your customers.
Studies have shown that there is a strong link between customer orientation and customer satisfaction. It makes sense that training your agents to focus on your customers will result in better overall interactions.
2. Listen up
Experts have long been champions of active listening in customer service interactions, which means focusing on the customer and responding in a way that shows you understand them. New agents who are still learning should ease into these important skills in a way that doesn’t feel forced or scripted.
Customers that feel listened to will also feel empowered. By practicing their listening skills, your agents will begin to shift their thinking to be more customer centric. Besides the obvious requests that your customers make, agents should be trained to listen for less-obvious cues, or to look for repeated phrases in written communication to understand how to best satisfy a customer’s needs.
Even in the digital space, listening skills are highly related to customer satisfaction and loyalty. Not every agent will master active listening (or e-listening) right away, and a focus on developing these skills should be part of any effective customer service onboarding.
3. Engage with your customers on their terms
In an omnichannel environment, part of listening to customers means responding in the way that best suits them. If someone reaches out on social media, your agent should respond likewise, even if it’s outside their comfort zone. The only way to improve at any kind of interaction is with practice.
The goal of the omnichannel approach is to make interactions as easy as possible for the customer, and that won’t always mean the easiest response for the agent. Agents should be given the time to develop each of their communication skills, which will lead to a more consistent transition for your customers across your supported channels.
A study of university services showed that when it comes to building an emotional brand attachment for your customers, maintaining relationships through effective mediation are key. Simply being available helps to build a relationship with your customers, and in the case of university services, even saw increased customer citizenship behaviors.
4. Maintain a consistent voice across channels
As important as it is for your company to have a consistent voice, it’s equally important for your agents to develop the voice that they use with your customers. With many customers preferring digital platforms, agents should develop a clear and simple writing style that’s easily maintained over time.
It’s been shown that seamless omnichannel interactions can have positive effects on customer satisfaction. Customers expect a fluid communications experience that is consistent across channels, and the ability to provide that can be a key differentiator.
Small parts of interactions such as greetings can go a long way toward how your customers rate their interactions with an agent, so you should spend time working with agents to develop their communication approach, and follow-up with agents to make sure they maintain an effective and approachable voice over time.
5. Build an experience
An omnichannel strategy means that every customer’s experience with your company can be unique and personal. With many channels providing diverse opportunities for engagement, customers should come away from every interaction feeling like they’ve seen the best side of your company. Visible channels like social media are also an opportunity to show potential customers that you take support seriously.
The available literature shows that “adopting an omnichannel [customer experience] management approach requires the entire organization to be customer-centric while articulating interdisciplinary teams.” During your agent onboardings then, you should always place the customer at the center of each interaction and ensure that the focus remains on their overall experience.
With every interaction so important in the wide-open spaces of the web, training agents to think about the customer experience holistically can help to improve consistency and guide a personalized response for every customer.
6. Empower your people
For agents to best help your customers, they’ll need more than just communications skills. Your agents should also be trained to understand your business operations, and what options are available to resolve customer issues on their own.
You’ll want to make sure that knowledge gained by your customer service agents is retained by the organization, and to this end you can have them participate in building your knowledge base. Knowledge bases have been shown to increase knowledge reuse within an organization, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for your customers.
Agents that are empowered with knowledge of your product and your company can help your customers without delays. While it’s expected that brick-and-mortar store employees may need to consult management, digital platforms are inherently less transparent. With the right knowledge and the right resolutions available, your service agents can reduce delays and avoid customer frustrations.
7. Putting it all together
With these elements present in your customer service training, your customers will experience a service that is:
The way that customer service is delivered has changed, but customer service is still about relationship building. With new and better tools available, like Comm100’s omnichannel platform, you can make sure that your customers have a positive experience every time they reach out, no matter the platform.