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Reducing Stress, Drama and Frustration When Things Go Wrong – A Troubleshooting Outline

By Rachael Needham, VP of Strategy & Operations

For most people and companies, business-as-usual dramatically shifted in the last year and a half, which can add stress and anxiety to already busy lives and work environments. Our ability to communicate and problem solve has become more important than ever. Good communication can help reduce stress and frustration while improving efficiency and productivity.

Whether in the workplace or our personal lives, making a conscious effort to improve our communication and problem-solving skills will only benefit us. Being negatively stressed or stressed out adds a level of difficultly none of us need, so finding ways to deal with stress that work for you is important. I shared some simple solutions for handling stress in a previous post – check those out here.

In this post, I’m sharing a model to assist you and your team when things go wrong, pressure is high, and solutions are needed ASAP. When we are equipped with the skills to communicate well with each other, and put those skills into action, we can reap the benefits of lower stress.

In the spirit of Customer Service Week, let’s take a closer look at some troubleshooting steps for customer-related issues in the B2B space. Some of this may seem pretty obvious, but when things go wrong, and it’s not immediately clear what needs to happen, following some basic practices can greatly reduce the stress and frustration levels for team members.

Step 1: Identify the issue – It’s key to identify the problem or impact of a situation. Not accurately identifying, understanding, or explaining an issue leads to unnecessary stress and frustration. Clearly understanding the issue equips the team to provide relevant input or feedback.

  • Ask: Is the issue critical, impacting production or customers in real time?
    • If yes, getting all necessary team members on a call to discuss can be the fastest way to be sure everyone is aligned and aware of what’s happening. When facing issues with production impact, gather your tech, content, client relationship, and any other relevant teams on a group call as fast as possible. Move to Step 2.
    • If no, the normal troubleshooting and bug fixing process can be followed.

Step 2: Troubleshoot with the right people – As you troubleshoot a high priority, production impacting issue, be sure to have the relevant team members present to share and collaborate. In addition to the Technical team members, having the Customer Success and Delivery Management account leads are key as they will be relaying the information to the client and will most likely be the ones who have assessed the client’s anxiety or concern level, which should be considered along with any tech risk.

Client concern should be weighed alongside the tech risk because those relationships are important and can tip the importance level on an issue in one direction or another. For instance, if there is an issue, but the client has some other key deliverables with a higher importance level to them, the issue may be considered less severe. Likewise, it could go in the other direction, where something the Technical team views as low risk is seen as high risk by the client. This is often related to the client’s individual business rules and objectives.

  • Ask: Is the issue already clearly identified?
    • If yes, move to the root cause.
    • If no, work together to define and clarify the issue as precisely as possible. This may mean getting on the phone with the client or whomever identified the issue.
  • Ask: Is the root cause for the issue known?
    • If yes, do we know how to fix it?
    • If no, how much time can we take to identify it? What has been communicated to the client thus far about timing?

Step 3: Avoid common pitfalls – Getting to a real and viable solution can be extremely difficult when the issue isn’t understood. Not accurately identifying or understanding the problem can easily create more stress and frustration on top of an already frustrating situation and take more of the teams’ time.

When there isn’t clear communication about a situation, lots of time can be wasted trying to get to the bottom of the issue. Productivity and efficiency are greatly reduced, and the added pressure can cause unnecessary and unhelpful tension.

For high priority/ production impacting issues, I highly recommend having a team phone call, as it’s one of the easiest ways to ensure everyone is on the same page and fully aware of the status. While group texting channels (Slack, Teams, etc.) are great for day to day, it can be too easy for people to miss things as the channel is flooded with comments.

If you aren’t already, start paying attention to how you are communicating and engaging with those around you. Improving those skills is an ongoing process and worthwhile endeavor; acknowledge mistakes you’ve made and use them to make positive changes in future communications.

 

Developing the skills to communicate well is a key part of emotional intelligence. Good communication and problem solving takes practice and can be particularly challenging in times of high stress and anxiety. However, the benefits of clear and open communication in high stress situations pay off as you and your team bring solutions to the table with speed and efficiency.

When it comes to B2B customer service and handling critical support issues, speed and efficiency are essential. With a conscious effort to improve your communication skills, use the help of this outline to reduce stress, drama, and frustration when things go wrong. Happy troubleshooting, solution finding, and communicating!

Delivering Self-Service During the COVID-19 Uncertainty, Part 3: Supporting Employees

By Chris Ezekiel, Founder & CEO

So far in this series we have discussed using chatbots, virtual agents and conversational AI to offer easy-to-use customer self-service (Part 1) and as an Agent Assist tool to support contact centre agents (Part 2). In this third and final instalment, let’s explore how this technology can be used to deliver a positive employee support experience.

Organisations of all sizes and across all industries are being faced with difficult decisions as they work to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting employees has become more important than ever before and, at the same time, more challenging than ever before. With new regulations and policies around social distancing and quarantines, companies are suddenly faced with entire workforces working from home, reductions to just essential employees and the temporary suspension of in-person interactions.

Luckily there are digital tools organisations can put in place that will help employees navigate this ‘new normal’ and improve productivity and efficiency. AI-enhanced chatbots and virtual agents empower employees to self-serve when and where they need support. This both improves the experience for employees and reduces the pressure of staffing human-assisted channels, such as internal support desks and helplines, to deal with increased demand.

The flexibility of conversational virtual agent technology lends itself to a wide range of successful employee support use cases. Here are a few that are especially relevant to support employees in the current uncertain situation:

  • IT supporthelp desk requests, system access and password resets, application support – Employees transitioning to working from home will inevitably have questions, especially if they are using technologies with which they are unfamiliar. There are lots of entertaining stories about technical fails circling the internet, like this story of a boss accidently changing herself into a potato during a videoconference. Finding the humour in these very relatable situations brings us together and is important during such a stressful time. What is not funny for employees is when they can’t get the technical support they need to do their jobs. A chatbot or virtual agent gives them 24/7 access to self-service so regardless of when they run into problems, they can find information and step-by-step troubleshooting guides to help resolve their issues.
  • HR support company policies/procedures support, time-off requests, payroll questions, expense report assistance – In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many companies have put new policies and procedures in place for employees or made updates to existing ones. With so much new information – combined with new working and family routines – employees can benefit from a way to easily get their questions answered. Virtual agents remove the need for employees to search through an entire policy document for a specific piece of information by instantly pulling out the relevant content for them. The technology can also be set up with a handhold feature to guide employees through the completion of forms and HR-related requests.
  • Staff support documentation support, staff training, product guides, device/machine support – This third category covers a wide range of specialised use cases. Organisations are being faced with the challenge of supporting employees digitally – in some cases for the first time ever – and should explore how an internal-facing virtual agent may be able to help them do that. Everything from training programmes to product guides to documentation assistance lend themselves well to intelligent automated support. With options to integrate with Single Sign-On (SSO), employee profiles, knowledge management platforms and other backend systems, these tools can provide an extremely personalised experience for employees.

Take a look at this Customer Success Story from a large government department that has been reducing their internal service desks costs and improving employee productivity with a virtual agent for several years.

I mentioned in Part 1 that chatbots and virtual agents are not only cost-effective tools for providing digital self-service, but that they can also be deployed quickly with a high-level of performance. That quick timeline is hugely important for organisations now as they rise to the challenge of delivering quality service and support. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Do your homework – It’s natural during stressful, uncertain times to act on feelings of panic. Unfortunately, that can lead to decisions that aren’t thought out and ultimately compound the problem. Even if you are moving forward with a virtual agent project quickly, still take the time to do your homework. Make sure the solution you are selecting will work for your organisation’s goals and internal structure. A basic or off-the-shelf chatbot may sound good because it’s super fast to deploy, but will it be able to accurately and consistently answer the questions your customers, agents and/or employees are going to ask? A DIY solution may have an attractive price tag, but do you have the internal expertise and time to build a tool that will provide a positive experience for users?
  • Look at the bigger picture – Even if you’re starting with a small, very specific chatbot deployment you still need to consider how it fits into your larger digital strategy. Select a solution that you will be able to expand and can be integrated with other channels and systems (such as live chat, voice technology, personalised account information, ticketing systems, etc.). Even if you aren’t looking to create a scalable and robust tool right now, you want to have the ability to easily do that down the road. Failure to identify the role of a virtual agent in the overall customer or employee experience often leads to organisations wasting time and money on a project that they end up replacing. If you have an existing tool that isn’t performing well in the current situation or doesn’t fit with the new digital reality of your company, now is the time to upgrade it. The good news is, you won’t have to start a new project from scratch. And that brings me to my third tip. . .
  • Use what you already have – The best way to jumpstart the development of a new chatbot or virtual agent is to use data that you already have as initial training data. This may be live chat transcripts, call centre transcripts or existing chatbot projects. When you are selecting a vendor to work with on your project, make sure to ask if and how they can leverage your existing data to fast-track the development process and give the virtual agent a high level of accuracy from day 1.

If you are looking for industry research to help you with your business case or strategy, be sure to download the recently released ContactBabel report The Inner Circle Guide to AI-Enabled Self-Service. It is a long report but provides valuable insights from consumers on their preferences and usage of self-service channels as well as use cases and results from organisations currently offering self-service options.

When you’re ready to get started on your own chatbot or virtual agent project, the team at Creative Virtual is available and prepared to help you meet your self-service goals – request a personalised demo here.