A few decades ago, customer service went a little something like this: put forth your brightest smile and A-game for in-person meetings with prospective stakeholders; listen attentively and steer your prospects down the right product path; and watch excitedly as they either signed their name on the dotted line or kindly said they would take their business elsewhere. Fast forward to today’s 21st century business climate, however, and the customer service game has considerably morphed—boasting a plethora of nuances that are enough to keep any business owner up at night.
So why has customer service become so complicated?
- Consumers can be more discerning than ever before as the advent of the Internet brings them in contact with a sea of companies offering similar core competencies to your own—and possibly at a cheaper price set.
- In today’s communication-driven world, if you are responsible for even just one poor customer experience, the repercussions can be viral.
What the Numbers Reveal
Industry pundits alike express a similar sentiment in that the more options consumers have to conduct business, the greater likelihood they will put your customer service best practices under a microscope for considerable evaluation. After all, if you can’t deliver an unparalleled customer experience, why shouldn’t they take their business elsewhere? Just consider the following statistics recently aggregated by Salesforce:
- 89 percent of consumers stop doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.
- Word of mouth is becoming increasingly powerful as evidenced by the fact that consumers are two times more likely to share bad experiences than they are to talk about positive ones.
- Service is more important than price. In fact, a customer is four times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service-related as opposed to price- or product-related.
- The memory of a consumer is long. So long, in fact, that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative one. As a result, 55 percent of consumers would pay more if it meant they could enjoy better service.
For a business owner, these numbers confirm that every move you make in the customer service arena is being dissected with more granularity than ever before. Moreover, they demonstrate that your competition is always a step behind you, ready to catch any customer who may be questioning your standards of excellence.
It All Comes Back to Technology
Fortunately for business owners across all industries, as the demand for unprecedented customer experience continues to increase exponentially so, too, do the technological innovations designed to augment the experience. Let’s take a look at some of the bleeding-edge technologies that can go a long way towards amplifying the customer experience.
Today’s consumers want to be able to reach you immediately and across the platform of their choosing. Just consider the fact that 42 percent of consumers expect brands to respond to their social media posts in just 60 minutes. Further, 79 percent of consumers opt for live chat because they expect to get an answer more quickly than if they used other communications channels.
In other words, today’s competitive businesses need to offer multi-channel support across a variety of platforms—from social media to live chat to videoconferencing to webinars—as there is no telling which avenue audiences will prefer. A robust multi-channel strategy is one that has specific tactics and best practices for each communications funnel. Companies need to be prepared to create a seamless communications pipeline for customers; maximize first contact resolution across all platforms; and boast great agents across each vehicle.
Gold-Standard vs. Legacy Technology
To guarantee top-notch customer service, companies must also invest in the right technologies and be willing to do a rip-and-replace of legacy, antiquated equipment. And it all starts with embracing VoIP technology.
There is a reason IDG Enterprise predicts that by 2018 the VoIP market revenue will soar to $20 billion. It’s because VoIP technology offers a plethora of advantages for businesses such as advanced routing functionality, crystal clear audio quality, and call forwarding. Additionally, VoIP allows companies to take advantage of an auto attendant, which allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without needing an operator or receptionist. An auto attendant not only saves businesses money but it also amplifies the customer service experience.
In addition to VoIP, many companies are sinking their teeth into unified communications (UC) solutions, which can especially help smaller organizations enjoy a robust small business phone system. A comprehensive UC solution, for example, allows companies to rely on presence technology and instant messaging in order to find the right subject matter experts to address customer queries instantly. Moreover it allows businesses of all sizes to take advantage of collaborative technologies such as desktop sharing, voice chat, file transfer and peer-to-peer video chat.
Having the right technology and multi-channel support is of the utmost importance but companies must also be cognizant of the importance of real-time monitoring—aka assessing consumer sentiment about their brand in real time.
Today the competition is fierce and consumers are always a click away from letting cyberspace know what they think of your brand. Therefore, modern companies need to cast an eye toward monitoring technologies such as: social media tools, like Social Mention and Twitalyzer; Google Alerts, which let you know in real time what is being expressed about your company; and message forums, or places on your website where your target audience can leave comments and suggestions. Companies that hope to compete aggressively in today’s marketplace will not shy away from negative publicity; conversely, they will keep their eyes and ears open and have online reputation measures in place to counteract any negativity.
Redefining the Customer Experience
Customer experience has undoubtedly taken on new levels of depth, particularly as technology has advanced. What was once a mundane part of a business’s world has become perhaps the strongest factor as bad press can go viral within a matter of seconds. While consumers continually redefine expectations that come with solid customer service, your company can set new precedent when it comes to delivering quality service and take the lead in the space. Ready to take on the challenge?