Trust sits high on the priority list of many large organisations. Leaders talk frequently of the desire to build trust with customers, with partners, with suppliers, and with communities. It is something that fits into corporate social responsibility and is a tool to engage employees in a higher purpose. But what does it mean for day to day interactions?
It is easy to say that trust is important. Who hasn’t said to a friend, a stranger or a partner “trust me”? We use it as a tool of relationship building every day and we know that when it has been broken that it is very difficult to repair.
It is easy to say, but not very easy to do.
Trust is rarely absolute and is rather restricted to certain situations. It takes time, sometimes years, to build, but can be destroyed in moments.
Furthemore, once damaged it might never be repaired, despite the best of intentions.
For organisations who are serving customers, the ability to build trust can make the difference between success and failure.
A business that is seen as trustworthy by customers could gain a commercial advantage over one who is seen as less trusted. Customers who trust an organisation are likely to remain loyal over time, and for businesses who are in positions of responsibility such as financial institutions, trust is everything.
Customer service teams are at the frontline of trust building for their organisation. When a customer contacts the company the person that deals with them, becomes everything on behalf of the business. How that customer experiences the customer service directly impacts how trusted the organisation is in the eyes of that customer.
Therefore, for reasons of commercial strategy, for competitive advantage and for customer perception the customer service experience becomes an essential part of a trust agenda. Indeed, customer contact centres have long since known this and have invested in resources, systems and training to ensure that they minimise waiting times and maximise capacity.
Businesses such as First Direct have won awards and many customers, through their approach to customer service and with the rise of online businesses across almost all sectors the contact centre has become the heart of customer experience.
With so much at stake it is essential that customer service organisations understand what trust is and how they can optimise their trust building capabilities or they risk being left behind.
No longer is it enough to answer calls quickly. The expectations continue to rise as customers share more and more data with businesses. They expect that information to be used to enhance their experience and to be used wisely.
Businesses who are successfully differentiating themselves through customer experience and service are working hard to implement innovative systems and technology that all contribute to building trust.
There are four aspects that contribute to trust and that can directly enhance customer service:
1. Credibility. Credibility comes from a level of expertise in the subject. For customers calling into a contact centre, credibility is the information available to the agent immediately. An agent that is able to quickly identify the customer on the database and have information to hand about their circumstances will deliver a great experience and help build trust. Equally an agent who knows about the product and services that they offer and can explain them to customers will have credibility.
2.Understanding. Understanding means knowing what is important to the other person and taking action to support these elements. In a contact centre trust is increased when agents recognise the priorities of the customer and remain focussed on these things. They service the requests and solve problems with empathy.
3. Shared Value. To build trust requires that you are not dedicated to your own gain, especially at others expense. Customers want to feel that they are getting good value and often trust is damaged when they believe that they are being taken advantage of in the interests of corporate gains. An agent who is empowered to share value with the customer, within limits, will go a long way to delivering great experience and building trust.
4. Reliability. The final element that helps to build trust is reliability. That is the ability to keep promises and deliver what is agreed on. Unreliability is at the heart of many relationship break-downs when one partner continues to turn up late or fails to call when promised.
For a call centre agent reliability means keeping to the schedule of pre-arranged call backs.
The call back is an increasingly important tool in customer service. As requirements become more complex, then it is essential that agents are able to arrange convenient moments to speak to customers when there is time to talk through details and answer questions fully.
The problem is that despite the best intentions of agents this is an area that regularly fails and leaves customers frustrated, disappointed and angry and could irrevocably damage trust and ultimately the business reputation of the business they are designed to serve.
The agent simply does not have the technology available to be able to confidently book a call back slot at a time that they can make.
Too often they are forced to book customer calls using technology that is out of date and does not integrate with other systems in the centre. It can lead to booking time when the slots are not available or when the agents are due to make their calls, the demand for agents increases and they are pushed into other tasks.
What is required is a tool that connects seamlessly across the contact centre systems and allows agents to book call back slots that are available and protected, because any surge in demand can be managed.
QStory’s ARTI software has a Schedule Call Back feature, which allows the agent’s customer promises to be kept, without placing service levels in jeopardy.
Schedule Call Back gives agents the confidence of knowing that they can choose a suitable time slot to make a call back and agree it with the customer, with a guarantee that they will be able to fulfill it later.
The ARTI software prevents any conflict for the agent by only allowing a call back to be scheduled at an appropriate time – when it predicts there will be capacity to do so.
This way, the expectation is only set with the customer when it’s safe to do so and the agent’s commitment to fulfil it is underwritten. Once in the system, the time is protected and this additionally means that not only is the promise delivered, but it’s done at the exact time agreed.
Good intentions are important when building trust and there are few who would suggest that failed call backs are a result of bad intentions. Agents are generally dedicated to working with customers and delivering good service. The problems arise if the systems that they use spoil their intentions and ultimately result in failures that put the business at a commercial disadvantage.
The good news is that booking call backs can be delivered by a simple system configuration, making it easy to delight customers and deliver exceptional service.
Seb Clarke is Business Development Manager at QStory Ltd