Building loyalty through customer care

February 22, 2023

Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on X

By Diane Charvat – managing director, consumer claims; and Anne Little – AVP, operations

U.S. air travelers were recently subjected to two large-scale service interruptions that temporarily grounded, cancelled or postponed many takeoffs and left thousands of vacationers and business travelers delayed and displaced. With their itineraries disrupted, ticket holders scrambled to adapt their plans and update their reservations.

During these crisis situations, those who booked travel using credit cards with affinity program benefits found themselves at an advantage. While fellow passengers waited for customer service in long lines or on hold, many turned to their credit cards’ consumer support resources for immediate assistance.

This is just one example of customer care programs providing the highest level of service when it matters most. By creating positive experiences founded on empathy, efficiency and strong technical knowledge — and often “saving the day” amid challenging circumstances — they serve not only to take care of people but also to build customer loyalty.

Considering outsourced solutions

Companies today are looking to forge relationships with customers in order to generate revenue, stay connected to their target market, and foster brand loyalty. However, customer care initiatives are often hindered by operational hurdles, competitive pressures, budget constraints, inadequate training resources and other organizational factors. In particular, the current labor shortage and tumultuous state of the workforce are making it difficult for companies to hire, retain, and develop people for customer service roles. Staffing challenges are compounded during “surges” —such as product recalls, data breaches, inclement weather events and major travel disruptions — when customer needs are at their peak and the stakes often at their highest.

Many leading organizations are turning to external partners to help them overcome these challenges, control loss costs, and deliver high-level care to their customers. Well established providers leverage broad talent networks and relationships with placement agencies to ensure clients’ customer care teams are appropriately staffed — not only in terms of headcount, but also industry experience and multilingual capabilities. They have the expertise needed to ensure accurate application of policy language, compliance with licensure requirements and other regulations governing insured programs and adherence to the financial services industry’s rigorous data security protocols.

An important factor in considering an outsourced approach is whether an external customer care vendor can operate as a genuine extension of the client organization. A partner that takes the time to get to know their client’s organizational culture, mission and core values will more seamlessly integrate with their operations and better connect with their customers.

Leveraging modern technology

Technology is another area where organizations struggle in providing an ideal customer experience. Consumers have grown tired of the mazes of automated phone prompts and elongated hold times now associated with customer service — systems that often serve to promote organizational efficiency and savings, rather than a better end-user experience. Customers today want self-service websites and apps where they can quickly and easily complete simple transactions, as well as direct connection to live agents via phone or messaging for resolving more complex issues.

When implemented properly, modern technologies offer opportunities to boost efficiency while also improving customer satisfaction. For instance, application programming interfaces (APIs) enable systems to securely exchange information in real time. When a customer calls, system integration can allow for the caller to be automatically identified by their phone number. With a few short questions to validate identity for security purposes, a representative can immediately see the caller’s relevant account information: credit card number, applicable coverages and timeframes, travel dates and so on. Effective use of APIs can lead to reduced call times, fewer redundant questions, and more personalized and faster resolutions.

Intelligent intake and rules engines are additional tools that can drive high-level customer service. As an example, our consumer care team worked closely with a hospitality client to develop a tech-driven solution for promptly processing refunds for resort season passes. Members upload their refund documentation and respond to a few simple questions in our platform via a computer or mobile device. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools scan the submissions and use automated decisioning to determine if refund requests are valid; those that meet the defined criteria are immediately processed for payment. With this solution in place, cycle times are lower than ever and customers are pleased to receive their refunds quickly and with so little hassle.

When it comes to loyalty, caring counts

Technology can be a tremendous asset in the resolution of some issues, but it’s not meant to take the place of human involvement in customer care. The personal touch will always be important in forging connections between people and brands.

When a prospect or customer reaches out for help, the company must bring its A-game to have any chance of securing or retaining their trust and loyalty. It must have trained professionals who are well-versed in customers’ wide-ranging needs, as well as technology that aligns with customers’ varied preferences and meets them where they are. In order to build long-lasting connections, companies must successfully balance innovative tools focused on the user experience and a consumer care team — whether in-house or outsourced — that delivers both expertise and empathy.

Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When customer care programs are designed properly and operating at their best, every interaction can and should feel like a concierge experience.

Learn more — read about Sedgwick’s consumer care solutions for transportation and travel, accident and health, retail and other specialties