Improve Soft Skills And Forward Resolution To Increase E-Commerce Profits
Improving soft conversation skills & forward-resolution means helping your team build stronger emotional customer connections and head off the next issue. This will stop rising customer churn rates and build loyalty while reducing costs.
Soft skills and forward resolution is the second of our four strategy pillars. We’ll take a closer look at how soft skills stop customers from leaving. Yes, it’s customer service that is best for this, but you need to give clear direction to your team and be confident that direction will fix that “leaky bucket” in the most cost-effective way possible.
We’ll cover how and why the solutions lie in stepping up the soft skills of your team, refocusing them on “Forward Resolution” rather than “first-call resolution.” But before we get there…
Mind the gap!
Remember the customer service gap? Pushing your front line to create “delight” can be dangerous. Trying to exceed expectations — by offering a refund, free product, or shipping — gets you virtually no more loyalty benefits than meeting them.
In an effort to manage their busy operation, many team leaders push their teams to lower call time. The rationale being that resolving a customer’s problem quicker makes for happier customers.
Whereas what 84% of customers really want is this: to have their problem solved in one single, friendly, personalized conversation. And none of them want to have to come back again!
There are two parts to this. First, the friendly, personalized conversation. And second, the Forward Resolution thinking that not only resolves their current issue but ensure they won’t have to call again in the future.
The Human Conversation
The first part of what customers really want is what we call The Human Conversation. In our roadmap to great Conversation, there’s more. But, for now, here’s an introduction and some tips to get you started.
For the most part, customers feel that they are being “dealt with” rather than appreciated. That makes people really grumpy. Here they are spending all their hard-earned time researching and buying the product they’re after. But then, when they have a problem or a question, they need to get in line and wait to be served. Not really listened to, not taken care of.
We’re sure you’ve experienced it yourself.
What customers really want is to feel as if they are being listened to. Understood. Placed in confident hands. They want a personalized service. And they want to feel 100% certain you will follow through on your promises.
When you do that, you are delivering what we call a truly Human Conversation. To get there you need to move your service conversations from “transactional” ones to “interaction-based” ones.
How will this help you? Well, this Harvard Business Review study showed that almost 25% of repeat calls came about because of “emotional disconnect” between customers and reps. That disconnect happens when the customer didn’t trust the rep’s information. Didn’t like the answers given, or had the impression the rep was just hiding behind some sort of policy thing.
So stepping up the emotional connection could at the very least reduce 25% of your repeat calls. Plus, as you are focusing on exactly what your customer wants, you’ll increase customer satisfaction levels — and reduce your churn rate.
With some dedicated effort from you on your team’s soft skills (there’re some tips below), we’re confident you can step things up quickly and start to see immediate results.
And remember, it’s unlikely bigger brands will ever get their act together enough to offer their customers as much love and attention as you can (although they are checking it out). So this approach could really be your competitive edge!
Before we give you some tips on how to get started, you must check out the full transcript from Captain Mike’s awesome 2013 Netflix service conversation that’s still getting PR today. That’s probably the ultimate Human Conversation.
Tips to get you started
LEARN: Marriott Hotels (known as a service leader) use this acronym to help their staff deal with general questions: L.E.A.R.N.: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, Notify (notify others, so that problem does not crop up again)
LAST: When dealing with complaints, many other companies use the following one to deal with complaints: L.A.S.T.: Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank (the customer for bringing the issue to your attention).
Once you have helped build your front line’s soft skills, they will be much more comfortable in tackling the second part of your customer’s biggest wish — not having to come back!
Heading Off The Next Issue
Take First-Call Resolution (FCR) to a whole other level: Forward Resolution heads off the customer’s next issue. So we’re not talking about the length of, for example, Zappos’ now legendary 8 hour conversation!
What we’re talking about is the quality of the conversation that both solves the customer’s problem as quickly as possible, and heads off the next one —and it doesn’t have to take 8 hours!
Where to start:
First — track repeat customer contacts. We suggest doing it in a chunk of 14 days. If you use FCR as a measure, this will make them initially look very bad. Here, we try to reduce customer effort. Once you have identified your repeat contacts, it’s time to take closer look at them. How?…
Second — Identify relationships between products and questions. If, for example, you have a particular product which results in a lot of “How do I?…” calls, the next time someone buys that particular product, have your team offer a quick tutorial before the order is put through (or subsequent to it). This Forward Resolution will help you reduce customer churn rates and make for happier customers.
“Focusing on lowering call time will not help you reduce future workload. Heading off the next potential issue will!
Putting It All Together
To sum up, here’s what you need to do to make certain your soft skills and Forward Resolution strategy pillar is rock-solid:
1. Step up the soft skills of your reps to improve the emotional connection with your customer:
Apply LEARN: Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Respond, Notify.
Apply LAST: Listen. Apologize. Solve. Thank.
2. Refocus your team on forward resolution:
Track repeat customer contacts
Identify relationships between products and questions
Add these insights into your service interactions.
The longer you do this, the lower your future workload will be. What this also means is you’re helping reduce customer service costs every step of the way.
It’s quite a powerful formula! And that’s why it is the second pillar of our good customer service strategy. The next pillar is Gathering Operational Insight. Let’s take a look at what’s involved…