When it comes right down to it, everyone in any business organization is working to serve customers in one way or another. But, the reality of today’s digital economy is that the definition of customer service has changed.
Expectations about customer service are higher than they ever have been.
In today’s hyper-connected, mobile world, consumers are no longer content to work within a company’s set business hours. They expect to connect at any time of day or night. They expect the freedom to choose how they interact from a variety of communication channels. And, they expect to receive instant answers to their queries through seamless digital interactions.
To retain customers and extend market reach in this new environment, businesses have to adapt their customer experience strategies to meet consumer expectations.
Communication channels between a consumer and an organization have to evolve from the basic toll-free connection to a single, uniform experience that allows customers to choose how they connect, interact, and ultimately buy—using any channel, anywhere at anytime.
How important is your digital customer experience?
Market research shows that 74% of consumers today use three or more channels when seeking customer care. Research also shows that 90% of fully engaged customers buy more frequently and 60% spend more.
The Harvard Business Review reports that businesses rated as top performers in the delivery of customer experience achieve double the revenue of those rated as laggards.
More importantly, the Harvard Business Review notes that delivery of a bad customer experience is expensive; unhappy customers are more likely to return products or require support. So, delivering great experiences actually reduces the cost of customer service.
In addition to the cost of providing service, a bad customer experience can have repercussions beyond the relationship with the customer who had the experience. One quarter of the world’s population has active social accounts on their mobile devices. These consumers are empowered to publish their opinions instantly, and they are comfortable posting about their experiences on social media, websites, and forums. In this environment, a negative customer service story can go viral with the click of a mouse or tap of a touchscreen.
Gartner notes that failure to respond to social channels will lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers.
Reorienting an organization to deliver a consistent customer experience in this environment is the biggest challenge businesses face today. It requires businesses to understand their customers and their communication preferences. This is why we’re examining the changing requirements for customer experience and discussing the pros and cons of both on-premises and cloud-based contact center approaches for meeting the service expectations of today’s mobile consumers.
Customer loyalty in the digital age
In one respect, the fundamental requirement of a successful business hasn’t changed. With the right product, a business can capture market share and achieve a level of success. However, the innovation cycles in today’s economy are so short that it’s difficult for any business to create a sustainable competitive advantage based on just having the right product.
In addition, a profound shift in customer attitudes has been taking place over the last 10 years. Having the right product is no longer enough to maintain customer loyalty. Today’s customers look beyond the company’s product offerings to its customer experience when making their buying decisions.
With one-quarter of the world’s population now equipped with active social accounts on their mobile devices, good and bad customer service experiences are shared almost instantly.
Market research shows that 64% of consumers will defect to a competitor after a major customer experience failure and brands lose an average of 65% of the revenue they would have earned from a customer for every negative customer experience.
So, in addition to product, a sustainable competitive advantage must be built on a relationship that breeds loyalty and repeated purchasing—a relationship that creates word of mouth advertising through social media channels when good customer service experiences are delivered.
With social accounts at their fingertips, the ability of customers to affect the perception of a business or product is virtually unlimited. Good and bad customer service experiences are shared almost instantly and the viral effect associated with the most striking stories means that the reach of any customer goes beyond an immediate social network. Whereas before the advent of social media, a good customer experience story might be shared with five or maybe 10 people, it can now reach tens of thousands or more. Obviously, the converse is true: any bad customer experience story can influence potential customers with whom a business hasn’t even had the chance to interact.
Adapting your organization to create an exceptional customer experience requires meeting the key customer expectation that they will be treated as individuals, rather than faceless customers that fit into a particular generic profile.
Personalized service is the new norm rather than the exception.
And, businesses that have wisely deployed technologies that are able to deliver a personalized, consistent experience across all customer touchpoints tend to be the most successful at maintaining their relationships with their customers and, therefore, a sustainable competitive advantage.
Changing requirements for customer care
Adapting to address the needs of today’s consumer is really a twofold challenge. You must, as a business, understand who your customers are, how they interact with you, and even how they interact with each other in order to gain insight into their preferred methods of contact. Once these elements have been examined, you must develop a customer experience strategy with the right teams and technology in place to support it.
Any transformation process that addresses these challenges should be structured to answer seven key questions:
1. What are the main teams within the organization that consumers engage with?
2. What is the relationship between these teams and their functions?
3. When customers want to engage, can this experience start with self-service and escalate to live assistance from an employee if necessary?
4. When an employee does get involved, how are they communicating? Voice, SMS, email, web chat, social media?
5. When an employee does engage with a customer, how much customer information does the employee have available to him or her? Does the employee have the full customer history, previous interaction details, etc. readily accessible?
6. If resolving a customer issue requires elevating the conversation to an employee at a higher level with more authority or information, how should that happen?
7. How should all internal teams work together to create an effective customer experience that meets service expectations?
Many businesses have already embraced additional communication channels, such as email, SMS, social media, and chat, to complement their standard telephony offerings for customer service. But, as the number of available channels has increased, managing them and providing employees with the tools they need to deliver a higher level of customer service has become more complex.
In most businesses, communication silos have emerged as a result of the addition of digital capabilities that enhance interactions with customers.
These silos are rarely under the control of the same business function. For example, the marketing department may own the social media feeds and corporate identities that customers inevitably wind up expecting to engage with. The engineering team may own the technical support portal that addresses product issues.
Each silo performs to a different set of standards and is enabled by independent processes and infrastructures that waste resources through unnecessary duplication. Typically, each silo also fails to make full use of the knowledge base within the organization and its performance is not measured and recorded.
To truly deliver an optimal customer experience in today’s digital environment, businesses must enable all employees to connect with customers when a customer service issue arises. This will allow employees to make better decisions, provide more informed answers to customer queries, resolve problems faster, and deliver a better customer experience.
But, this can only be achieved with a communications infrastructure that is not isolated to a functional area.
It requires an infrastructure that transcends the entire business and allows employees to assess and respond to all customer queries in an appropriate, efficient, and consistent manner. An integrated digital framework provides the opportunity to funnel all interactions to one central location and facilitates easy collaboration between customer touchpoints and subject matter experts.