Customer Service Representative: Would You Be One?
The Turing Test
Alan Turing, a computer scientist back in the 1950s asserted that by the year 2000, computers would be able to fool at least 30% of people into thinking that they were talking to a real person. There is Microsoft Windows Cortana and its Chinese version Xiaoice, and Apple's Siri. Are these real persons? No, but we talk to them all the time. We have them find the best route to get to our destinations; set our alarms: and tell us jokes. Xiaoice has even been giving relationship advice.
Companies are in business to make money, and in order for them to do that, they need people. People who:
- generate ideas;
- get capital for expansion, research and development;
- design and make products;
- market and ship; and
- handles the money.
But don't forget the people who answer the phones after the product has hit the market and customers have had some time to interact with it.
These are the company's ace-in-the-hole who are tasked with dealing with the customers' needs as it relates to a product or service.
Qualities of a Good Customer Service Rep
A good agent should not only be computer savvy, but also needs to have:
- knowledge of the products and services;
- a win-win attitude;
- control of emotions;
- politeness; and
- excellent communication skills.
Responsibilities of Customer Service Representative
There main responsibilities are:
- Retaining customers, which is done by resolving the issues with the product or service, helping the customer find what they need, and offer good after sales service. Complaints from this department can lead to a reduction in the perceived value of the company.
- Product improvement. Complaints to this department regarding a specific product or service is passed on to the desired department with suggestions for improvements.
- Lead generation is where the agent persuades the customer about the worth and benefits of a specific product or service. This eventually leads to increase in sales.
- Strategic planning though a management function is supported by the CS rep too. The company makes it possible for the agents use of advanced technology, employees skill development, and quality control to make it easier to handle customers queries.
- Team building. The agents pass on the details, comments, and suggestions made by customers to the respective departments to foster growth and customer satisfaction.
Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no-one can imagine.— Alan Turing
Over the years companies use various channels to solve and manage customers complaints.
- online chat messages;
- over the telephone;
- mail correspondence;
- field agents;
- mobile apps;
- social media;
- personal service; and
- remotely - in the case of computers.
These channels are monitored by living, breathing human beings whose generic job title is CS reps or customer service representatives or customer service advisers (agents).
It is posited that by 2020, customers will be managing 85% of the customer service relationship. What does this mean for the future of the hundreds of thousands of CS reps worldwide?
Customer Service Rep and You
Have you ever wondered what is meant by customer service? No, really. Think about it for a minute. Is it a good thing for companies to invest in? Yes. It helps businesses with their bottom line and the percentage of their returns on investment (ROI). It fosters retention and customer loyalty. And, it also increases the value of the business as part of its intangible assets in the form of goodwill. So, if the business is being sold there will be bigger bucks.
Have you thought of the representatives? You know, the humans that answers and says something like “Thank you for calling ShellyGrace, this is Amy. How may I assist you? All bubbly and nice. At the end she’ll go something like “Are there any further questions or concerns?" After you respond to that, at the end she'll possibly say, "We appreciate your business Mr/Miss/Ms Your Name. Thank you for calling ShellyGrace. Enjoy the rest of your day".
What is your preferred way of getting support?
When you interacted with that person, did you wonder what type of impression you made? Is it one where Amy will say to you “It was a pleasure assisting you”. And you can hear the sincerity and the smile in her voice. Or, after you’ve disconnected she’ll go to her supervisor and say, “May I have half an hour off the phone please? I need to gather myself. That was my worst customer yet! Ever! Oh My God!" And during all this she is close to tears. Or, will Amy say to her colleague sitting beside her, "That was a really nice customer. I wish they could all be like that".
Many of these contact centers are outsourced at times in obscure places, and some employers only require a high school education from applicants. On the other hand, there are employers who require excellent communication skills from their agents. Most company's recruit agents who have a bachelor or associate degree.
A point to note is that the CS rep can only provide assistance based on guidelines outlined by the company and training received. Training sessions run anywhere from a couple of weeks to 4 months or even longer depending on the company. Many of which sees customer service not only as a department, but a job for all employees. Some spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on programs that include coaching, ongoing training, internships and travel to other branches to garner the desired skills better suited to assist their customers.
Technology has, is and will always be evolving. As a result, the relationship between customers and technology in the form of mass production will continue to be as it is. Where there is always a percentage of a batch being faulty. Grandma Pearl back in 1999, had a microwave that was 23 years old. And it worked: though temperamentally. She has gone through 3 microwaves since then, and she never let us forget it. In her view, nothing is built to last anymore. Companies believe in quantity over quality which she says is reflected in the cost of things. This makes her sad and reminisce about the good old days.
But that is not the only factor that contributes to why a company needs a customer support department. Even with the advent of technology, there is still a gap between the buying public and technology. These include the level of education, the ease of use of the product, the instructions or availability of literature for the product, tolerance and age. I bought a Lumix camera and there was no physical paper manual. There was a CD though. While at the store, there was an older couple returning a similar camera because there was no manual. They indicated it was too much trouble to use a computer to get to it. Grandma Pearl would agree with them.
Customers reach out for varying reasons and it is the CS reps job to assist as best they can, politely. Alas, not all customers are nice, reasonable and have a high tolerance level; especially if they believe they are being jerked around. But these reps are people too. They have feelings and difficulties like the average joe. They hate traffic and possibly their boss; and wants a cup of coffee too. They also get frustrated and mad. And with all the continued ups and downs between the CS reps and the customers, studies show that 81% of the buying public still prefers the telephone over other channels of communication.
Courtesy in customer service and satisfaction goes both ways. What will your next interaction with a CS rep be like?
Was Turing right? Please feel free to leave your comments. Have a good one...