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SYKES: How to Take Customer Service to the People
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SYKES: How to Take Customer Service to the People

July 20, 2009
By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor

When it comes to customer service teleservices firms have to be better than best because their livelihoods depend on serving their clients’ customers effectively: in making and retaining their connections between the sellers and the buyers/users. SYKES Enterprises, founded in 1977 and headquartered in Tampa, Fla., is a leading global teleservices company. It has some 33,000 employees working from over 45 locations in 20 countries, providing customer care in 30 languages. Daniel L. Hernandez, senior vice president for global strategy, offers his insights on how to take customer service to the people:

Blogs, vlogs, wikis, tweets, links, posts, tags, and “friends.” These tools and techniques that are now at our fingertips make it possible for every customer – any single individual – to become a vocal and influential champion (or critic) of your product or service. And because those customers know their new power, they expect to be treated as individuals more than “audiences” or “users.” Not only do they expect customer service tailored specifically to them, they may react negatively to anything less.
Does that mean one-on-one customer service? 10,000 service reps for 10,000 customers? Well, no. Because, in fact, the same tools at that are your customer’s disposal also are at yours. And smart integration of the new technologies can not only keep you ahead of the game, but actually improve your competitive position.
Well Equipped Reps
Rather than field phone calls for simple issues like forgotten passwords, product specifications or credit applications, customer service agents now can handle multiple cases at a time, and customers never have to listen to hold music. Customer-facing Web sites now can integrate chat technology that mirrors familiar instant messaging applications. At key moments of a Web visitor’s online shopping visit, agents can invite them into a conversation to answer questions or provide account information. Result: increased sales and high-value, loyal customers. 
The Ambient (News - Alert) Conversation
Conversations about your product or service are happening right now, and you can lend an ear to both the positive and negative buzz. “Transparency” is what denizens of the online world value greatly, and social media sites present opportunities to provide one-to-one service in full view of thousands of other customers. One recent example is Comcast (News - Alert), which has very publicly embraced Twitter as a means for proactively reaching customers and responding to complaints.
Comcast has responded quickly whenever a user “tweets” about service-related issues. As a result, the company’s social media customer service team receives about 30,000 public “tweets” and 6,000 e-mails a month – all customer contacts intercepted and addressed “upstream” from traditional customer service channels.
Another burgeoning area of digital media is user reviews. A new study from Opinion Research Corporation indicates that 84 percent of respondents look to customer evaluations before making the decision to purchase a product or service. Such reviews also give your company insight into which products are meeting expectations and which aren’t.
Moments of Truth and Insight
Quality assurance isn’t the only reason to record and analyze the calls between your customers and your representatives. These conversations contain invaluable data that can be analyzed and shared with product development. Be open to wherever the trail leads. One recent project at my company had the mission of reducing average hold time for a global provider of smartphones.
We started listening calls and looking for patterns. We quickly determined that customers purchasing more complex (and hence more expensive) devices had higher lifetime value but lower customer satisfaction. We helped re-map interactive voice response logic to drive complex calls to agents with deeper skills. Result: higher customer satisfaction for high value customers.
There are always new channels, tools and aggregators in the fluid world of new communications technologies. Leveraging them to your company’s best return on investment--while providing your customers the best experience possible--is a challenge that keeps global industry on the cutting edge.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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