As a customer, I've had quite a few customer service interactions that quickly went south. Most often, the agent simply could not make that connection with me, and the exchange pretty much ended with displeasure. Did they not understand what my question was? Were they not the best person to answer my question? How could they take so long to give me such a straightforward answer?!
This situation isn't uncommon. Almost all of us have been through this several times. But what appears to us as ineptitude is, in most cases, a deeper malaise; a lack of context awareness. If customer service teams had all the context they needed at each stage, they would've certainly turned the proverbial frown upside-down.
Understanding Context Awareness
Here's a look at a few cases where being context-aware would've saved the day:
The first step in helping a customer is to ensure that their question reaches an agent who is capable of answering the question. Picture this: An agent is assigned a ticket that deals with something they're not an expert in. They locate an agent more capable of answering the question and transfer the ticket internally. This person could be working on something else and may not see this ticket until later. Meanwhile, the customer thinks that someone is already working on their solution, and they're expecting a response. On the contrary, the agent has probably not even looked at the ticket. In channels like email, this is sub-optimal and delays your first response. In channels like live chat, where timing is what you're promising, this makes you look very sloppy and careless. That's a team suffering severely from a lack of context awareness.
If only each ticket met its match by reaching the most appropriate agent right away. If only that agent already knew which ticket needed their attention immediately. If only customer service software helped agents by understanding the context behind each question.
Understanding a customer's present mindset completely
Even when tickets reach the most knowledgeable agents, shooting from the hip can annoy customers to no end. In other words, misdiagnosis is just as bad as non-diagnosis, if not worse!
Thoroughly understanding the issue at hand is very important. It's the most logical thing to do. But more often than not, agents jump right to drafting their response after a cursory read of the ticket. And that's the second symptom of context deficiency. Perhaps the same customer reached out earlier about this issue or another problem. Is one of those tickets still open? What was their last experience with customer support like? Just being aware of this historical information will help an agent draft a far more meaningful and empathetic response.
How difficult can this be? Customers interact with your sales team, and every detail of those interactions is available in your CRM. They reach out to your customer service team and the full history of their interactions is recorded within your help desk software. By simply pulling up this information, agents can understand the customer exponentially better.
If only this information was accessible to every agent. If only their help desk software assembled this information in the context of each ticket.
Collaborating to solve problems
Customer service is not the job of just one person or team in a company. It's a commitment made by the entire company to every customer. Therefore, the several teams have to work together towards fulfilling that commitment.
Naturally, each of these teams uses a different software product for its line of work. So when agents need help from other employees, they have to go out of their way to get it. And these conversations usually exist outside of the help desk software. That's counter-productive in two ways:
Even though the agent finds the information needed for the ticket, there is no record of it. So when a different agent looks at the ticket later, they don't see any of this progress. Likewise, subsequent conversations happen without the full context of the ticket. So participants have to explain things over and over again to new stakeholders. Both drawbacks drastically affect the quality of the customer experience.
If only the entire company could be a part of the customer service software. If only they could discuss everything right there and pass on actionable information to other software like CRM and project management apps. If only this worked as intuitively as having a real life conversation.
Monitoring customer happiness
This is the most important thing to monitor in the customer service process. But if you monitor it at an aggregate level, you don't see negative experiences quickly enough to turn them around. Just monitoring the most recent pieces of negative feedback from customers would do a world of good for managers. Following the top five or ten longest conversations with customers can help them intervene when an interaction is about to go bad.
The best customer service solutions will make all this data readily available in time for effective action and easily accessible from a single place. With more context, agents will have a better grip on their ticket load and a better understanding of customers. Customers, in turn, will be better equipped to help themselves, and managers will know exactly how they can make an impact on their teams.
Zoho Desk is one example of such a solution and is the industry’s first context-aware customer service software. It is solutions like these that will help shape the future of customer service in the digital age.
Prashanth Krishnaswami is a product marketer at Zoho. Learn more about Zoho Desk, the industry’s first context-aware customer service software.