Every touchpoint with a customer matters when it comes to delivering on your organization’s customer experience strategy. But some touchpoints matter to customers more than others.

In a recent survey of 5,500 global consumers, 47% reported feeling annoyed when they didn’t get a real person on the phone. And most respondents (43%) said they prefer to communicate by phone or in person (37%) compared to by email (18%) or text (2%). These results show that it’s hard to build a rapport with customers in brief, back-and-forth messages, much less to give them a positive defining moment—an experience that they’ll remember and that builds loyalty.

It’s clear that human connections are critical to building connections with buyers. Yet many sales organizations continue to invest in technology that distances sellers from buyers by automating their communications, whether through phone services or chatbots. While this technology solves business problems and saves money in the short term, it doesn’t deliver the same long-term customer loyalty as a strategy built on customer experience best practices that focuses on meeting buyers’ need for in-person interactions.

And now, in this time of social distancing, businesses are relying even more on automation, given that they are operating on curtailed schedules and with skeleton customer service teams. Stuck in their homes and relegated to mostly online interactions with the outside world, customers likely feel even more alienated from sellers. But this too shall pass, and organizations that spend time now thinking about how to maintain and rebuild customer relationships will be ready to hit the ground running when in-person interactions again become possible.

Why the Front Line of Sellers Is Critical to Sales Organizations

In many organizations, the lowest-paid employees are the ones responsible for delivering the highest-stakes interactions: in-person customer service.

For example, face-to-face service is the lifeblood of the retail and hospitality industries. A single poor interaction can be a death knell for a customer relationship. Even worse, a single negative customer experience may spell disaster for countless other customer relationships if that dissatisfied customer shares their interaction on social media or an online review site.

The same is true of industries that rely on field service technicians to perform in-home or in-business installation, maintenance or repair services. While an organization, like a cable company, remains largely faceless, when a problem arises, the field service tech who comes to repair a router becomes the face of the company. If that field tech fails to solve the problem or is rude or dismissive to the customer, it can have disastrous consequences for not only the customer relationship but also the company’s reputation.

The larger the organization and the higher the sales volume, the more difficult it becomes to invest in high-touch customer interactions and keep labor costs in check. This is why it’s so critical for businesses to take steps to train service reps to prepare for in-person interactions.

How Customer Experience Training Improves Your Face-to-Face Customer Experience Strategy

Our Customer Experience Best Practices Study shows that leader organizations—those that reported an improved customer satisfaction (CSAT) score over the past year—focus on developing their service personnel. In fact, leader organizations spend 50% more on training, about $1,500 per service associate, than laggard organizations—those that reported a stagnant or declining CSAT score. And one in four leader organizations spends more than $2,500 on training every year for each associate.

Where should organizations invest their training budget? In both hard skills and soft skills.

Service training should develop service reps’ hard skills, or expertise in the products or services that they support and the systems that they use. The more complex the sales, the more extensive the training needs, as customer satisfaction largely depends on how well-versed service reps are in their goods.

But soft skills are equally important. To deliver an exceptional experience, service reps must do more than solve a problem: they have to leave customers with a positive impression. They may have to call on a repertoire of soft skills, depending on the circumstance:

  • Listening with empathy: Being able to understand the customer’s needs while communicating that they care about the customer
  • Defusing anger: Building a human connection while addressing a challenge
  • Handling unsolvable problems: Finding creative ways to resolve customer concerns

Every organization is different, so it’s important to study the customer journey to determine the defining moments where a training investment may have the biggest payback. Customer feedback on interactions also informs the best opportunities for improving your organization’s customer strategy.

Service Ready Delivers the Hard and Soft Skills Customer Service Teams Need

Our Service Ready customer experience training prepares service teams to deliver positive defining moments in every interaction over the entire customer lifecycle. Contact us to learn about which Service Ready program will help your organization strengthen its delivery of defining moments and improve its customer experience strategy.

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