By Leslee O’Loughlin, Human Resources Manager Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ireland

In this digital age, customer service seems to be an area of business that companies automatically presume is heavily supported and perfectly matched with technology. Customers are now saving time through self-service options or finding answers under FAQ sections of a company’s website. While technology brings greater efficiency to business operations, companies shouldn’t overlook human interaction and a personal approach.

Personally, I believe that technology plays a crucial role in streamlining the customer service function for many companies, with very clear benefits for both the customer and for the companies involved.  However, for many businesses, the digital solution can never fully take the place of the ‘human touch’. Automated telephone response systems and online tools can take you so far, but there is no getting away from the fact that, particularly in a business like ours, customers like to speak/deal with ‘a real human being’, who they trust knows what they are talking about.  It gives them reassurance of support.  After all, the business maxim ‘people do business with people’ is no less true in this brave new digital world.

At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, customer service is our way of life. For us, it’s always been about building long-lasting relationships with our customers. While we try to find a balance with our digital optimisation, customer service is central to our company’s ethos and thus we pride ourselves on maintaining the human touch whenever and wherever possible.  Therefore here are our top tips for modern fast-paced companies that want to stay ahead while delivering excellent customer service with a human touch.

Live agent support: Even though there are extremely efficient agent support systems available, live agents should always be accessible to your customers. A significant number of callers will simply hang up in frustration if they are unable to access a live agent within a reasonable amount of time.  This is probably the most important element of customer service interaction, in particular when service queries are complex and a customer prefers to speak with a ‘live’ human to go through the issue in detail.

For companies that experience high volumes of customer interaction at certain times, there are still ways to cleverly provide that ‘live interaction’ experience. For example, many companies now provide ‘live chat’ options for dealing with customer queries.  With ‘live chat’, the customer interacts with a service agent through a typed message conversation in real time.  In particular, when there are similar or indeed, identical responses to customer queries, the ‘live chat’ option allows a customer service agent to efficiently deal with far more customers than a traditional telephone conversation interface would.

Make introductions: To ensure the customer has a personalised experience, the live agent, either online, on the phone or in person, should start by introducing themselves and then ask the customer their name. This adds some familiarity to the interaction and is proven to help build strong and positive customer relations.

Simple language: While sometimes queries require technical explanations, customers always react better to straightforward language.  Customer-facing staff should be well versed in keeping industry terms or complex phrases on specific technical issues to a minimum.

Well-trained agents: While focusing on providing a human touch to customer service, companies must also acknowledge that service agents on the front line are also human. To deliver best practice customer service it is vital that agents are trained and feel prepared to deal with all situations. The agents themselves should be actively involved in providing feedback on their roles as continuous improvement can only be achieved with their full buy-in.

And then don’t forget the power of rewarding your customers. Everyone loves getting a reward. Empower service agents to provide ‘at no cost’ extras to surprise and delight your customers when appropriate. Customers will always remember such gestures, and it’s a great way to build customer loyalty.

The bottom line is that the continuing advance of technology provides a challenge for all companies in interacting with their customers. However, the smart companies will be those that harness the benefits of these technological advances while at the same time, never losing sight of good ‘old fashioned’ customer service with the human touch.  Technology should complement and enhance the level of service companies are able to provide, not replace it.

As a global leader in mobility solutions, Enterprise is one of those companies that recognises the real benefits of good customer service and the many accolades we have received for our customer service performance are a testament to how we prioritise the human touch even more so in this digital age.

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