Want great customer service? Empower your customer service agents to say ‘no’

We’ve all heard (and likely worked under) the philosophy “the customer is always right”. It encapsulates the goal of traditional customer service strategy: Find a way to say “yes” as quickly as possible. Unsurprisingly, it’s an approach that dominates the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. 

But in practice, while this approach may placate your customers, it actually forces them to do a lot of leg-work they’re not qualified to do. And prevents them from getting the most value from your products or services. So in this blog, we unpack the limitations of this yes-based approach and explore an alternative. One which acknowledges that sometimes, saying “no” creates more value for everyone

Reading time: 4 mins.

The problem with yes-led customer service strategies 

With most BPO services, a customer calls the contact number they find on a company’s website, and speaks to a customer service agent provided by a BPO partner. Often BPO providers are picked purely on price. So the agent who handles the call is given little responsibility or autonomy, and often rudimentary training. Their sole function is to provide the customer with whatever they want, as quickly as possible. If they’re friendly too, that’s a bonus. 

This approach actually puts a great burden on customers because they need to know exactly what they want and when they need it. Customers are not experts in your product or service, or how to extract the most value from it. So this type of reactive service represents a huge missed opportunity for customers because it leaves truly high-value customer experiences (CX) in the margins, and can make you an organization that fails to anticipate needs.

If customers trust that you’ll look out for them and give them the best deal, they’ll likely remain customers longer and are more likely to tell their peers about their positive experience. 

Expert service agents create better CX

Over the medium- to long-term, a more consultative customer service strategy will almost certainly lead to higher levels of customer retention, and a stronger reputation for your brand.

So how does this differ from a yes-led approach? This time, the customer speaks to an agent who has been trained as an expert and is empowered to make decisions. Rather than simply executing the task defined by the customer, the agent listens to the customer’s requests, asks what their goals are, then advises them on the most effective way to achieve them. The immediate query resolution is deprioritized in favor of overall customer experience. 

In some cases, this CX-led approach might mean the agent recommends something that costs your business in the short term but delivers more value to the customer. For example, if a customer wanted to upgrade to a more expensive wireless contract but your expert agent notices that the customer is actually not using all their data in a given month. The agent would point that out. The agent may provide tips on how to make the most of existing data rather than springing for an unnecessary upgrade. 

How does a CX-led customer service strategy help your business?

In short, it trades quick wins for increased customer lifetime value. The honesty, expertise, and genuine collaboration a CX-led customer service strategy offers, increases customer trust and consequently, brand loyalty. If customers trust that you’ll look out for them and give them the best deal, they’ll likely remain customers longer and are more likely to tell their peers about their positive experience. 

This approach has the potential to deliver far more value to your customers—so ultimately, it can deliver far more value to your business, too. This is because it can allow you to gain a serious CX advantage over other businesses that offer a similar product to yours.

How can any business deliver a CX-led approach?

If you’re running a customer service department internally, your choice of technology is the biggest ace up your sleeve. The right platform can help you connect supervisors and managers to their customer service agents to identify and solve issues in real time. Advanced solutions will also help you provide coaching, monitor performance KPIs, and support teams in realizing their potential. 

If you’re using a BPO provider, make sure their technology can provide the above, and interrogate how CX-led their customer service strategy really is. What’s their agent training culture like? How’s their agent retention? Do they get strategic with your request or do they just say “yes”? 

With the right technology and BPO partner, you can drive satisfaction up, bring costs to serve down, and send customer lifetime value higher.

Similar resources