Customer Experience Takes Flight
Time flies when you’re having fun. I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard this and can agree that it’s true. Then there’s the obverse. If you’re not having fun, time seems to stand still. A few minutes on hold with customer service appears, subjectively, to take hours.
Speaking of flying, I know the airlines get a lot of bad press these days, but I actually had a reasonably good customer service experience recently. A schedule change, which the airline emailed to me, meant I had only 15 minutes to move from my arrival gate to the departure gate for the connecting flight. That is impossible, unless teleportation from one aircraft to another, complete with suitcase, has become viable—which it hasn’t. Nothing flies that fast.
Of course, I immediately phoned the airline. The first pleasant surprise was the recorded voice that informed me of the wait time to take my call (about 10 minutes) and offered to call me back when a representative was available. I took them up on the offer, hung up the phone, and went back to working. Sitting on hold for 10 minutes is not my idea of a profitable—or enjoyable—way to spend my time. The airline did call back and the rep immediately agreed that a 15-minute gate connection time was insane and totally ridiculous. She rebooked me quickly. The entire encounter with customer service took less than 5 minutes. Although I can’t say I was having fun, time did fly. And so, later in the month, did I.
Cementing Customer Loyalty
A good customer experience cements customer loyalty. As Stephen Baker, CEO of Attivio, points out, saving money isn’t the only reason for companies to want to move quickly to resolve customer issues, although it does play a role. In fact, the number he cites for a team of 100 agents in 1 year providing an answer a few minutes faster could be millions of dollars per year. Staggering, right?
We live in a non-stop world. I think our perception of time has altered. We expect instantaneous—or faster—service. We want our meal delivered as soon as we order it. We want our news to appear on our smartphones as it happens. We want answers to our questions before we pose the question, perhaps even before we’ve formulated the question. I’m not sure, however, that I want an airline to purchase a ticket for me before I’ve decided to travel.
Its long been true that bad news spreads faster than good news. People with a bad customer service experience are immediately on their phones, tweeting about it. They post to other social media sites as well. Good customer service experiences may not be as widely shared, but they do build individual loyalty. Baker notes that the internet and smartphones have raised the bar for the customer service experience.
Providing great customer service hinges on intelligent search, says Baker. The four components of intelligent search—integrated data sources, implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, flexible user interface, and answers tailored to user expectation—help agents provide excellent customer service. Plus, they can be melded into self-service sites, which is particularly important now that people check the web before contacting customer service. So they’ve already invested time in trying to find an answer before they get to a customer service agent.