Ten customer service leaders recently shared their thoughts to Microsoft regarding the major trends to watch. Each leader being an expert in a specific field of customer service, one common point is standing out: Empowerment. The empowerment that brands give their customers to become autonomous buyers needs to be matched by the empowerment of the agents to serve the new customer of today.
Here are my key takeaways that outline some of these thoughts.
Price is no longer king
Today, customers have more options than ever before when choosing a brand. Empowered customers are increasingly autonomous and seek a consistent and personalized customer experience across the different channels they use, whether it be on the web, through social media and networks, their mobile devices, and even when they phone in.
And as customer experience expectation rises, pricing falls from the top of mind when a customer makes a purchase decision, or decides to become loyal to a brand. Customers will pay more for a good experience and service.
According to Gartner – By now, 89% of businesses compete strictly on the basis of customer experience…
Are businesses aware of this shift, and more importantly, are they prepared?
In terms of investments, most businesses have focused on empowering customers, providing them with tools and ways to engage with their brand, to interact with knowledge bases, to share their experience amongst the social landscape and even become brand advocates.
However, very few businesses invest in the tools that agents need to align themselves and deal with the empowered customers.
According to Forrester Research:
- 90% of consumers say they expect consistency and continuity from a brand across channels.
- Yet, only 36% of contact centers have implemented multichannel integration to provide consistent experiences;
- 70% do not train agents to support multiple channels, and 56% do not offer an agent-facing knowledge management solution.
In other words, we are empowering our customers, who in turn, are overpowering our agents, and so the consistency of the customer experience fall apart as soon as customer picks up the phone to dial in customer service.
How can one fix this? Here are three areas where brands can turn the tide quite easily.
The “always on” experience
Our lives are changing everyday as technology deepens its connection to our lives. Our world is becoming a true 24/7 experience. As such, expectations towards your brand and customer service is under pressure, and constantly increasing. Sadly, customers may perceive a delayed response as “your brand simply doesn’t care”.
In a 24/7 world, offering customer service that saves time and that knows no business hours (always on), is a great opportunity for a brand to distinguish itself from the wolf pack.
It is apparent that the cost of an always on call center is expensive. So, brands that lead the trend have transformed their business model to give customers more control over and flexibility on “when” and “how” they can consume customer service.
Their customers can read FAQs online, they have access to chat bots, they can open a case through social media platforms or on a website, they have access to knowledge and self-service tools to help them solve their own problem, they can tap in customer service whenever they want, where ever they are.
And Mobility is most often at the very core of an “always on” strategy.
According to a study, Microsoft – Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, the most important aspect of customer satisfaction is “Solve my problem fast”. Surprisingly, of the 4,000 customers that were surveyed, 90% expect brand to offer some form of knowledge base.
However, according to IDC Research Canada, 60% of customer service agents need to search for information across 4 information systems to find an answer when a customer calls. So, the questions is, how is this solving the problem fast if the customer need to spend too much time on the phone with an agent?
Companies need to offer a knowledge base to their agents and centralize the information in one place to present losing time when a call comes in. This will have an immediate impact on customer service response time and will increase client satisfaction.
Self-service is gaining a lot of popularity and complements the knowledge base quite well. As I mentioned, clients seek answers fast.
For example, when we go on a website to buy a product, we are often tempted to explore the customer service sections of the website. Your brand could very well be evaluated based on the information available and the ease with which it is obtained.
It is important to provide customers with platforms that allow them educate themselves without having to turn to the phone. This offers several benefits: clients find information more quickly, your business is perceived as being easy to do work with and you reduce the pressure put on your customer service team.
Giving a customer the chance to self-diagnose an issue, to open a case easily, to reach support through chat or other means, are all things that can help someone buy from you.
Keep in mind thought that the more power you give customers with self-service, the more they will expect form the agents when they do end up placing a call. It’s all about consistency.
Again, don’t forget mobile. It is one of the most used platform.
There are many more areas where your brand can invest in, and technologies you can adopt, both for your customers and your agents. I think that the most important thing is to ensure your customer service strategy accounts for a consistent customer experience.