The effects of COVID-19 for customer support teams have been far reaching. For service agents in various industries including retail, financial services and hospitality, the race is on to meet the growing demand. Customers are contacting businesses in droves about cancellations, refunds and more - all while market and job uncertainty are rife. What’s more, this is all happening while agents are working remotely, often without full access to the support system they’re used to.
The growth in the volume of support tickets that companies have to deal with has been felt across the EMEA region. According to Zendesk’s Benchmark data, ticket volume has risen by 16 percent from the end of February 2020 to the beginning of May. At the same time the use of chat and messaging channels has been increasing globally.
The workload and type of query has been different for agents during the pandemic and technology has been vital in helping them to respond in the most helpful way possible. The aim is for all customers to feel both heard and understood during what is a tough time for many.
So, how can companies use technology to best effect, to support their staff and make sure that valued customers continue to receive the best service?
Run online training and grow your knowledge base
When a company looks after both its agents and customers, it will go a long way in safeguarding its future. Everyone wins. So what tools and training can we offer service agents to help them deliver in this challenging environment?
Teams will benefit from a combination of hard knowledge – how to find their way around a ticketing system, for example – and soft knowledge – how to relate and connect with customers – especially during high-stress periods. Demonstrate to agents, through video or call recordings, what “great” looks like in a range of scenarios, to help them fully understand the concept and expectations. Teams that practice new skills before they apply them in real life, using tools such as Lessonly, usually perform better as well.
Then there’s automation. There’s so much value that can be unlocked here to ease the pressure on agents by pointing customers to relevant information on the company’s website, for example. In fact, a comprehensive knowledge base can serve two very important roles: It can give customers access to common questions quickly. It can also provide agents with reliable prompts and information.
Automate recurring requests
Take something as simple and straightforward as resetting a password. It’s a common request and it’s one that can quickly fill up the day of a service agent if they have no other way of responding to this type of request. That’s where Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning comes in. These technologies can be useful in dealing with queries like these and as such, enables agents to focus on solving more complex requests that only a human can deal with.
By deploying the powerful combination of machine learning and AI, agents are given more capacity and know-how so they can be empathetic when it matters most. When a customer has already gone through the initial and automatic stages of service and is upset about their problem not yet being solved, they need an agent who is understanding and able to help them with their query. When the agent comes in to provide the right support at that point and is patient in doing so, it can create a lasting impact.
GoCardless is an example of a company that has used AI to its advantage. The fast growth fintech firm is using the technology to automate repetitive queries and get customers’ questions answered, without them having to get in touch in the first place. In this way they are reducing pressure on their service agents, who can then provide a better quality of service to those who really need it.
“Since launching our Help Centre and increasing our support articles from 11 to over 900, in multiple languages and localised for certain regions, ticket volumes are increasing at a much slower rate,” explains Daniel Mooney, Director of Customer Success at GoCardless. “Our customers want to find the answers to questions themselves and to have content they can look at to help them solve their issue quickly. It has now become their default tool for understanding how GoCardless works.”
As a customer service agent with large amounts of customers to help, it’s vital to be efficient so that as many people can gain access to the right information as possible. But during this difficult period in particular, there’s also a need for an extra layer of empathy, and that can’t be enabled just by adding more staff.
There’s a need to equip agents with the best in class technology so that they have more time to be more understanding with the unique situations they’re faced with. More than ever, quality and quantity counts when it comes to customer interactions. Do this right and companies will create loyal brand advocates for the future.
Find out more about how Zendesk Support Suite can help your teams scale and deliver a best-class service.