97% of consumers and 98% of contact centre managers say customer service interactions impact whether consumers stay loyal to a brand.1
But despite the importance of high-quality customer service, the national customer satisfaction index fell to 76.6/100 in July 2023 — its lowest score since 2015.2
To improve customer satisfaction and boost acquisition, conversion, and retention, businesses need to take the necessary steps to overcome common customer service challenges.
In this article, we’ll outline the top 5 challenges you might be facing, and share solutions to help you solve them.
Suggested Reading: Want a deeper understanding of what customer service options are available to you? Check out our Pocket Guide to Customer Service Solutions.
1. Difficult customers and calls
One of the most prominent challenges faced by customer service professionals is remaining calm and composed against an angry or abusive customer.
Agents don’t just need to have exceptional patience, empathy, and conflict-resolution skills to deal with these angry customers. They also need the added expertise of knowing how to quickly solve whatever problem the customer is experiencing in the first place.
Handling these challenging situations requires a delicate balance of different abilities:
- Active listening
- Clear communication
Solution: High-quality agents
The importance of customer satisfaction can’t be overstated: 60% of consumers have switched brands due to just a single negative customer service experience.3
And at the end of the day, a chatbot or automated phone call isn’t going to calm a difficult customer – only highly skilled humans can effectively deal with other angry humans.
A high-quality customer service agent can not only help people, but turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. They should have strong communication and problem-solving skills, as well as a willingness to understand your company’s values and business goals.
There are a few ways you can go about hiring experienced, high-quality agents:
- In-house: Hiring in-house via a talent acquisition manager or recruitment agency.
- Onshore outsourcing: Outsourcing CS to an external onshore call centre. Unlike offshore outsourcing, onshore outsourcing gives you access to talent in the same country as your business is located — as well as higher-quality, well-trained agents.
If you’re not comfortable with outsourcing your entire customer service department, then you can always go with more of a hybrid approach. For example, you can use outsourced agents to handle the simpler queries while keeping a core in-house team to deal with more technical issues.
2. Poor ROI
Perhaps your business:
- Hired a few too many customer service agents.
- Put too much into the infrastructure of your call centre.
- Didn’t anticipate what kind of solution you needed, so you’re now having to replace a product or service.
Whatever it is, over-investing is a common issue for businesses so you need a flexible solution to accommodate.
Solution: A pay-as-you-use model
The best solution to this challenge isn’t necessarily knowing exactly what to invest in and by how much. Instead, you just need to embrace a ‘pay-as-you-use’ model.
Pay-as-you-use pricing = you only pay for the agents and infrastructure you need (based on monthly assessments).
This no-fixed-term contract style means that your customer service model is not only cost-effective but also transparent. A good external partner will make it as easy as possible for your team to calculate ROI and make informed business decisions.
If your partner also uses a distributed customer service model, then you will make savings on rent and infrastructure costs — money that could then be better spent on finding high-quality agents.
Suggested reading: For more tips on how you can see better ROI in your customer service, check out our blog: 5 Steps to Improve Your Customer Service ROI.
3. Shifts in demand
Another unpredictable challenge to watch out for is changes in demand.
How can you quickly adapt to the inevitable peaks and troughs that happen to every business? What about navigating seasonal retail events? Having too many agents leads to poor ROI, but too few could lead to customer queries going unanswered.
83% of customers say they expect to interact with someone immediately, regardless of how they contact the company.4 This is a tall order to fill on your own — especially during busy periods such as the Golden Quarter.
Demand will change not just as your business does, but also as your market and customers change too. With so many factors to balance, it can be difficult to know how large or small your customer service department should be.
Solution: Use a scalable service
The solution lies in partnering with an outsourced customer service provider who offers a fully scalable solution.
Customer service outsourcing partners draw from a large pool of agents and this means that they can match your customer service demands not just year-by-year, but day-by-day.
If the partner uses a pay-as-you-use model as we talked about above, then this means you are only ever paying for exactly what you need, when you need it.
Using a scalable service should not even be up for debate.
4. Meeting customer experience expectations
Every communication method has its pros and cons:
- Phone services can offer customers a personalised human interaction, but can be plagued by long wait times.
- Chatbots are great for dealing with simple queries but often fall short on more niche problems.
- Online messaging is accessible and convenient for customers, but can extend the time to resolution on common issues.
According to a study by Microsoft, however, 66% of customers use an average of three different communication channels to contact customer service.5
The challenge isn’t necessarily about picking a single channel or tool, but rather making sure you have several of the best tools available. Customers love to be able to choose what works best for them, and if they are redirected through different channels they should have a consistent experience.
Your business needs to ensure that customers aren’t repeating themselves and that they’re able to get to speak with your expert agents at a faster, smoother rate.
Solution: Omnichannel support
Omnichannel support simply refers to when a business has multiple ways (or ‘channels’) for customers to get in contact with them. These different channels are all linked so that if a customer gets bounced between a chatbot and a live phone call, the agent has the customer’s information and query data on hand – no need for repetitive explanations.
The benefits of multiple, functioning channels for customer service are clear:
- Customers get that all-important choice for how they communicate with your business.
- It’s much easier to advertise and deliver 24/7 service when you can integrate AI and chatbots into your model.
- If there’s a technical issue with one of your channels, you have others to fall back on.
While clearly beneficial, there is a lot to think about when building an omnichannel support solution – that’s why we made a handy guide that outlines the top 5 ways to improve your omnichannel customer experience.
- Being unprepared for a crisis
Crises are sometimes unavoidable.
You released a product or solution that had an unknowable bug in it. One of your shipments has been delayed by a storm. Your main call centre has had a power cut.
While many crises aren’t usually your fault, unfortunately, your customers won’t see it that way — and as we’ve pointed out, all it takes is for someone to have one bad experience to make them shop elsewhere.
Your business should absolutely work towards putting in as many preventative measures as possible, but you also must accept that something is going to slip through the cracks.
Solution: Create a customer service crisis plan
It is essential to have a fully fleshed-out customer service crisis plan in place.
Whether it’s a physical sheet that everyone has on their desk or a document in the cloud, there must be an easily accessible plan for employees to fall back on in the case of an emergency.
A good customer service crisis plan should include:
- A list of possible questions that customers are going to ask about the crisis.
- Clearly defined discounts and/or refunds that agents could offer an unhappy customer.
- The PR response on social media.
- What support the customer service team can expect to help deal with the crisis (will more agents be hired, how are other departments going to work to handle the crisis, etc).
Again, an outsourcing partner can help with all this. Whether it’s coming up with your first crisis management plan, or you just need to quickly increase your customer service team’s headcount, external partners are experts at dealing with crises.
Suggested reading: Want to explore this topic more? Check out our recent article on how to deal with a customer service crisis for more information.
Overcome CS challenges with Odondo
Finding solutions to your customer service challenges is essential to providing a high standard of service — and improving your brand or company reputation.
But with everything else you have to do, your business may not have the time or resources to do so. That’s why outsourcing your customer service to an expert partner is so useful.
Odondo is dedicated to providing businesses with fast, flexible, and fairly priced customer services. By partnering with us, you get:
- Access to high-quality agents with a minimum of 7 years of experience.
- Pay-as-you-use pricing that’s handled by a personal account manager.
- A scalable solution that can adapt by the day.
- Full omnichannel support that enhances your customer journeys.
- Support in creating a crisis management plan that is in line with your brand’s needs and goals.
Easily overcome the customer service challenges and solutions your business faces with Odondo. Talk to an expert today.
Aamir is one of the Co-Founders at Odondo, where he obsesses over the details to deliver a strong and compelling proposition for each of his clients.
Prior to Odondo, he was CTO at one of the UK's largest price comparison websites, with contact centres in the UK and India. In his spare time, he loves reading, politics, tennis, and playing the piano (badly).