Customer service operations have evolved significantly over the past 20 years. Technology has introduced a plethora of new ways to communicate. A phone call used to be the only way to talk to a company (unless you traveled to be there in-person), but today, the options range from email to chat and text. These different methods have resulted in a variety of new things customers may want from an interaction with a member of your service team. And, through good analysis, you can even get as granular as knowing what types of requests are most common on what channel and staff and train those channels accordingly.
At ezCater, we’re focused on providing fantastic, high-touch, customer service experiences. However, in actuality, we hope our product technology does most of the work for us so most customers don’t need to contact us. We focus on our “straight-through-rate;” always trying to get more and more customers through a transaction without any human interaction. As technology continues to take over the service operations arena, we speak less with our customers as they enjoy the smoothest transaction possible.
Technical Improvements Driving Contact Centers
In a traditional call center, a customer would call in and get an Interactive Voice Response (IVR), which would then be routed accordingly. Over the years, the level of in-depth skill-based routing has improved significantly, ensuring that the forwarded call is sent to the most appropriate agent. This has optimized the tracking and hold time during calls. But did that really improve the customer experience? Significant research on customer experiences found that customers wanted nothing more than their calls to be answered. At ezCater, we do not use IVR and have all calls go directly to a live agent. This has generated an enormous amount of positive feedback from customers.
As technology continues to take over the service operations arena, we continue to speak less with our customers and enjoy the soaring satisfaction levels with the uniquely-chosen platform
The same is applicable to live chats; many customers presume that they are conversing with chatbots or some other automated technology. While chatbots are apt for this functionality, we have not found one that meets our standards. All live online chats are done with a trained member of our customer service team.
A good deal of thought needs to go into selecting the right tech solution. At ezCater, whenever we discuss implementing a new technology, the critical question is always ‘why?’. We never introduce a new technology unless it maintains (at a lower cost) or improves (1) the level of service or (2) the experience for the customer. Continuing with the chatbot example, we have spoken to many vendors in hopes to find one that would live up to our standards. We found a few that are on the right path and plan to keep them on our radar, but will not implement until they have capabilities indistinguishable from live agents. Our live agents have been critical to our customers having good experiences. Customer feedback tells us that our agents’ expertise and the way they have conversations keep customers satisfied. We hope to eventually find a chatbot technology that can answer questions of varying difficulty without impacting customer satisfaction.
Interesting Projects at ezCater
ezCater is a high-growth online marketplace for business catering. We have grown our customer base dramatically over the past few years and, in tandem, have evolved, grown, and improved our customer service operation. Over the past 12 – 18 months an increasing number of our customers have been asking for a “set it and forget it” ordering process where they can supply information about number of people being served, budget, frequency of meals and other factors and the food will show up without the customer having to contact us or use our website to order. We created a group to test the offering. The feedback has been very positive and the numbers of customers choosing this ordering method has grown organically to the point where we will be adding this approach to our website and promoting this new service to new and existing customers.
Advice for Fellow Leaders
Building and running a successful customer service operation involves three key steps. First, hire the right employees. Many companies claim to undergo a vigorous hiring process, but few actually stick to the high standards they need. If you make a poor hire, it is essential to cut the cord quickly. Second, encourage employees to give feedback about their work culture, experiences, and the overall environment. This keeps them engaged and enables you to have a realistic pulse of the organization. Lastly, evaluate processes regularly and include ideas from employees. There is no better way to collect data than from a highly skilled and motivated support team.