In recent years, the marketing world has coined a term to define today’s demanding customers: omni shoppers. As the name implies, an omni shopper is an omnivorous customer, who uses any resource, online or offline, to make buying decisions.
Importantly, these shoppers, who are both socially connected and convenience-oriented, value the customer experience as much as product quality.
At the heart of this experience is a customer’s interactions with a company. To build and maintain a profitable business, a company must first build and maintain relationships.
In this relationship, responsiveness is the first thing a customer notices about a company. How timely is your interaction? Perhaps more importantly, how attentive is your interaction?
As Howard Yermish, Director of Product at Vicasso, says: “Responsiveness is about listening to what your customer needs–and anticipating those needs.”
Howard joined Adrienne Lieberman, the Product Marketing Manager at Vicasso, for a webinar focused on responsiveness: “How to Make Every Customer a Priority.”
To explore how responsiveness works in successful service departments, Howard and Adrienne welcomed two industry stars: Jeffery Graff, the Vice President of Customer Success at MSC Software, and Andy Roethler, the Director of Customer and Order Administration at Integrated DNA Technologies.
At MSC Software, Jeffrey’s support team of 80 agents provides global technical support and customer training, fielding about 3,000 support cases per month.
At Integrated DNA Technologies, Andy’s support team of 21 agents provides customer care as well as sales order management, fielding about 650 cases per day.
In the webinar, these two leaders offer a clear view of the value of responsiveness while also discussing the factors that hurt responsiveness, how responsiveness impacts KPIs, and the practical tools, including Vicasso's Email to Case Premium and Case Flags, that improve responsiveness.
One crucial theme that emerges from the discussion is the importance of consistent communication. In the context of responsiveness, communication is different than problem-solving. It may take several days or weeks to find an answer, or for a customer to respond to a communication. But, as Howard notes, “It’s OK for a customer to dawdle. We can’t be the ones who dawdle.”
Even if an agent can’t answer a problem, she or he can start digging into the context of the problem. Too often support teams see the same problems and think they are the same problems. But two problems are not necessarily the same. Context is crucial.
Jeffrey’s team, which sees an average back of forth of 5 communications with each customer, strives to keep the customer in the loop with regular updates. As Jeffrey notes, “Silence equals customer perception.”
Andy adds, “you lose credibility if you take long periods to get back to them.” Andy’s team strives for constant communication, including fast initial response and follow-up by reacting quickly and being as transparent as possible.
For both Jeffrey and Andy’s teams, communication is about balancing speed and attentiveness.
Metrics to Improve Responsiveness
Jeffrey’s team uses First Response Time (FRT) as a metric, but it’s not a definitive factor. It’s better to miss the metric (by a bit), Jeffrey believes, and really nail what’s important: the “first natural response in solving the problem.” To promote this, the MSC team also measures overall resolution time (or rate of resolution: ROR) and customer satisfaction through surveys.
MSC also measures a fourth (internal) metric: For every 40 hours on support, MSC also evaluates the number of knowledge-based articles written and the change requests submitted to product development. Both of these things take time. Measuring the whole reveals productivity over a month or quarter.
“Our job is not to close cases,” Jeffrey says. “Our job is to make the customer successful. We can’t not have metrics. But at the end of the day, it’s about securing renewable revenue.”
Like Jeffrey, Andy believes an agent must nail the first interaction. But the first response must be balanced with consistency. It’s too easy to be transactional, so Andy stresses driving each issue to a true resolution–and not necessarily mean time to resolution (MTTR).
“Customers just want to be heard,” Andy notes. "When you’re too focused on closing the case, and not driving issue resolution, you can create collateral damage.”
As noted above, both Jeffrey’s and Andy’s teams use Vicasso's tools to improve responsiveness.
Tools to Improve Responsiveness
MSC Software has implemented Email to Case Premium since Q1 of this year. Jeffrey calls the tool a “game changer,” which has dramatically improved communication and efficiency by keeping everyone on the same page, empowering every agent to clearly see who says what and when. With Email to Case Premium, Jeffrey says, each case serves as a “knowledge artifact”–an opportunity to learn.
Integrated DNA Technologies uses Case Flags. Like Jeffrey, Andy says the tool has been a “game-changer,” which has proved very helpful for pulling projects together. Case Flags promotes accountability by making FRT transparent. It also empowers proactive support by showing when and how the team is getting behind. With Case Flags, agents can attack communication surges through email or phone.
Howard echoed these sentiments for Vicasso's own support team, who plays a game called “kill the flag.” Agents find the top flag and attack it. The goal is to get to the bottom of the toughest issues first.
These tools match the goals of responsiveness: to promote speed and attentiveness with the ultimate goal of satisfying the customer. As Jeffrey notes, the most important KPI is what the customer says: “That customer is going to rate you at the end of the day. It’s a person helping another person. You have to be genuine.”
To take a deep dive into responsiveness with Adrienne, Howard, Jeffrey, and Andy, click here to watch the webinar: “How to Make Every Customer a Priority.”
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