Challenges in the Customer Support Services Industry

Every entrepreneur knows the importance of the quality of customer support services. Although in the customer service industry a myth is developing that outsourcing the customer services will not give the desired result, this industry is growing incredibly in South Asia. Mostly progressive companies are recognizing the potential and turning towards outsourcing their customer services departments to call centers located at different regions. These call centers are the main contact point for their customers. Most prominently this industry is growing in Pakistan, Philippines, and India.

In the adverse global economic condition like others, call center industry is also facing lot of challenges. To keep consistent quality of services the most alarming global issue is the retention of staff. The reasons and solution to retain them is different in Asia as compared to rest of the world. There are two important factors in the retention process i.e. incentives and motivation. The priorities differ between agents, especially in South Asia. The balance between incentives and motivation is the dominant factor in the retention of agents. There is a considerably high ratio of agents give priority on positive relationships among the team, supervisors and managers over incentives. It is equally important to chalk out a customized plan for individual agents to find out what they value most. One size fits all approach does not work in this industry.

I don’t run outbound call center but to my understanding another possible reason of turnover is the stress in outbound call center environment. Because of the use of sophisticated technology, agents don’t get time to recover from the stress in between awkward call from an unhappy customer or the stress due to performance targets. The performance targets sometimes put so much pressure that agents start bragging the customers to achieve their targets. The stress build up can also lead to illness and promote non-attendance.

Another challenge in call center industry is measuring the quality of services provided by your agents. The difficulty is due to the fact that mostly instead of complaining to the call center or the company directly, customers tell their friends of their bad experiences. So how will you measure the quality of service? Mostly companies are using surveys to get the opinion of their customers. There are other resources which can be used along with surveys. Among those forums, social media platforms and product reviews sites are on top. I experienced a little improved result when contacting all the customers who put negative remarks on forums and commented on the product reviews sites. On approaching them I offered the best solution to their concern that the company could afford. In most cases it is acceptable to the customers converting them again a happy customer. It is still important to measure the level of satisfaction and the best way to accurately know is to ask your customer directly at the time of first interaction.

Few call centers measure the quality of their service and the customer satisfaction level by assessing the average call handling time, time to answer a call, and the number of contacts by a customer to resolve the issue. But at times this method will not show the correct picture. All these methods depend on the products and services such as technical support services which may require a lengthy call to properly resolve the issue. Same could happen with customized products where during the first call some verification is required and it may only be possible to resolve the issue on second call. Also satisfying a customer only during first interaction is not enough. To earn a considerable satisfaction level customers need iterative positive experience from the contact center. Developing business relationship, trust and credibility takes time and it cannot be developed overnight.

The first step in improving the quality of customer support service is to improve your relationship with the employees. Involve them in major decision making, give them the feeling of ownership and acknowledge their achievements. It will help in increasing their morale and loyalty. Inspiration is an important factor in improving the role of your employees towards their commitment to high level of excellence and professionalism.

Besides satisfying existing customers on their interaction, it is also a good idea to keep their interest alive in the company. There are various avenues to stay in touch with your customers and prospective clients. There are companies who bombard their customers with chain of strong sales messages which in turn adversely affect customers’ reaction. There is no harm in sending a few softer sales messages. If possible, phone contact and face-to-face interaction is more effective.

In this turbulent economic time customers tend to look for low cost alternatives and it is becoming hard to keep their interest in your products and develop their trust in the company. Now the question is how you can keep your customers satisfied and maintain their confidence. The first and foremost thing is that your front line champions of customer service should be well trained to listen to and understand the customers’ requirements and concerns. For this purpose a weekly performance reviews with all your agents are very helpful in maintaining the minimum required standards. This is very important to quickly and effectively resolve customers’ issues. In resolving the issue exceeding their expectations and make the process simple and easy will further enhance their interest and confidence in the company.