How to find the right customer service strategy in a complex and fast moving world where new channels arise while traditional channels don’t fade out yet, where customers become more self-assured and demanding and where technology and automation evolve quickly?
Today’s consumers expect fast and high quality answers to their questions at a time and channel they prefer. But finding the right strategy to serve these customers best goes further than “I want to decrease my reaction time by 10% or “I want to add new channels to my existing service”. It is about understanding the customer journey and providing an effortless experience to each individual customer. We believe that consumers should be able to get answers to their questions without any effort and this should be at the core of every customer service strategy. Do you also want to provide your customers an effortless experience? In this article we will dive into what that means for an organization and how to achieve it.
Turning bad into seamless with the right strategy
You have been waiting in line on the phone for 15 minutes and when you finally reach a customer service agent, you get to hear that you have to send an email to get an answer to your question? Sounds familiar? As consumers we probably all have an experience like that once in a while which leaves us unsatisfied for several reasons. We lost time waiting in line, we didn’t get an immediate solution and we have to put effort into writing an email and explaining the situation all over again. Importantly, this scenario does not only negatively impact us as consumers but also the organization and the customer service team in particular. An agent has to answer and log the phone call, another agent has to answer the e-mail and the customer is most likely not satisfied with the service.
With a well thought through strategy organizations can change situations like this and turn them into a seamless experience, both for customers and for their employees.
The right channel mix
“Be where your customers are” is a good starting point for the discussion on which channels you should include in your service strategy. The variety of new channels, such as social media, live chat and messenger apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook, make it increasingly difficult to choose the right channel mix. As you can see in the graph below from Gartner, organizations started adding more and more channels to their service over the past few years.
Do you need to be everywhere? No! It’s important to keep an eye on new trends and to understand which communication channels customers prefer to use. For instance, we have witnessed a switch from public channels to private messaging channels over the past years. The popularity of messenger apps as a communication tool shows how important convenience and availability became for consumers.
But are Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp the right channel for you and your customers? Maybe you are a retailer and you see that the majority of your customers visit the contact page of your website and call you. Could you help them directly on the website though a live chat instead? How do you direct them to the new channel? And what do you do if you don’t have the resources and skills within the team to provide fast and high quality service via that channel? Be aware that every new channel increases the average number of contacts customers make during a single resolution journey as stated by Gartner. This makes it important to think about how to handle the extra volume and how to integrate the different channels so that messages from the same customer via different channels will be bundled.
In line with this Pete Slease, Vice President of Garter, advises to consider, which aspects of the digital experience are most valuable to customers and service staff before adopting new channels and expanding the digital service offerings.
The right service for the right situation
In their customer service and consumer expectation study among 4212 consumers, Gartner found that despite the fact that customers will report a preferred service channel when asked, these preferences don’t have a significant impact on the service experience. Instead “(…)achieving a resolution had the strongest relationship with customer outcomes such as loyalty, CSAT and effort”, suggesting that “(…)service organizations should prioritize resolution above choice.”
“The best service is effortless. So keep that in mind when you decide your strategy”, Frank Smit, COO @ OBI4wan.
But how do you create an effortless experience for your customers and solve their problems?
We believe in an approach where technology, automation and human empathy complement each other to achieve the best results. Think about the value a question has for your customer as well as for your organization when deciding how to solve it in the best way”, Frank Smit.
In their bestseller book “The best service is no service” Bill Jaffe und David Price introduced the “Value-Irritant Matrix”, a principle that describes the value that interactions have to customers and organisation independent of the channel. An interaction can be valuable or irritating, both for the organisation and the customer. The authors suggest a different approach to helping customers depending on the value.
Is the value both for your customers and for you minimal? Then try to eliminate the question by for example adding missing information to your website.
Is the value for your customer as well as for your organisation high? For instance, when your customer needs advice on your products or has a complaint? Then engage with your customer in a meaningful way and provide value by helping out with your expertise. In this way your customer feels recognized and might even become an ambassador of your brand. Also your organisation learns more about that customer and how to optimize products or service offerings in the future.
Is the value high for your customer but not for your organisation? See if self-service options like FAQ’s on your website can cover these questions.
Is the value low for your customer but high for your organisation? These kinds of questions are best suitable for automation. A chatbot that answers simple questions or prepares the work of service agents by asking information upfront, such as an order number, speeds up the resolution process for the customer and saves your organisation time to focus on the more complex, valuable cases.
Steering customers to the right service
How do you make sure that customers don’t get lost on their way and immediately find the most effortless solution? Looking at the example in the introduction, there are several things organisations can do to direct customers towards the right channel. For example, by openly communicating upfront which channels can be used for which questions on the contact page of the website or on social media. Is a customer contacting you on a channel that is not suitable for providing a solution? Then be proactive and make sure the experience is still as effortless as possible. For example by registering the information from the phone call and asking a colleague to get in touch with the customer via email. Or by having a chatbot on the live chat of a website answering simple questions and immediately handing over the customer to a live agent or schedule a call-back in more complex cases. By working within the same customer engagement platform as the agent, the chatbot is able to provide the complete conversation history to the agent. In that way the customer won’t experience a break in the conversation.
Never stop optimizing your service
By listening to your customers and analyzing the conversations you stay in the loop of what kind of questions are asked, how well these are handled and how well your different service channels are performing. Are there any pain points? Which questions are frequently asked? What costs a lot of time and energy? Do you see possibilities to create a more effortless experience for your customers and employees? When it comes to automating service processes customer service teams can take things perfectly well into their own hands today. User-friendly chatbot platforms let you build your own virtual assistants without the need to code. Most important is that you know your customers well and think about how to make life easier for them.
In order to find the right service strategy in today’s fast moving environment it is thus important to know your customers well and to focus your efforts on creating an effortless experience for them. “Be where your customers are” but keep in mind that every new channel creates extra volume and challenges to tackle. To access where automation and self-service can be used to improve your customer’s experience as well as your internal processes look at the type and value of the questions your customers have. Finally take your customers by the hand and lead them to the right solution by communicating clear and being proactive.