For many companies, COVID-19 created a major spike in demand as consumers looked to online channels to shop, communicate, and stream from home at levels never seen before. Take online grocery shopping for example. In just three months (March – June 2020), sales grew from $4 billion to $7.2 billion. Additionally, activities such as shopping on Facebook and Instagram saw incredible growth, along with communications on these social media channels. Over the past several months it became abundantly clear that companies needed to quickly adapt their strategies. For those that haven’t done so already, now is the time to meet customers on the channels where they are, and be prepared to keep up with the new normal volumes that the ongoing pandemic has created.
Adapting strategies means ensuring customer service teams are ready and able to meet consumer demands, which includes interacting on channels they use the most and building strong relationships and loyalty. There’s often a misconception that customer service is only for solving customer problems, but that’s no longer the case today. Representatives are brand advocates who can turn any customer interaction into a relationship-building exercise and help companies better understand customer needs by delivering proactive customer service, managing customer expectations, personalizing the experience, and gathering customer insights.
Offer Proactive Customer Service to Support Increasing Customer Demands
Over the last year customer volumes almost doubled, so customer service teams had to work on increasing the number of representatives that could support customer inquiries while expanding connectivity across social, digital, and analog channels. More customer interactions doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to manage higher volumes—it just means proactive customer service is increasingly more important. Representatives can service an inquiry via phone, chat, and social media, but they also can proactively solve issues through automatic call backs or scheduling a convenient time to talk. This allows customers to access customer service during busy hours while connecting at a time that’s convenient for them, and helps companies to keep up with growing demand.
Manage Customer Expectations through Transparency
Multichannel inquires and communications from customers clearly expanded much faster with the pandemic, which means hold times are longer, leading to more frustration amongst customers. To mitigate this frustration, transparency and communication become key to not just providing an excellent experience, but also managing customer expectations. Representatives can accomplish this by immediately (and transparently) responding to customers to let them know about delays and options for next steps, such as receiving automatic call backs.
Taking action to manage expectations is in line with what customers expect from companies today. When companies are transparent and upfront about whether they’re having challenges, customers are typically much more understanding. It’s important that they’re openly communicated with and know a company has a clear plan for improving their response.
Personalize the Customer Experience to Compete in a Crowded Market
Companies can use their multichannel channel strategy to build better customer relationships by adding personalization into the mix. Representatives are typically the first (or even only) direct touchpoint with customers, so they’re on the frontlines of being able to deliver a personalized experience that builds loyalty, which today is important for all brands, but especially big brands. For example, with many businesses and locations closing over the last year, more independent businesses have popped up and are now competing directly with big brands. For this reason, personalization can show that companies—no matter the size—care to connect on a personal level and genuinely build strong relationships.
Gather Insights into Consumer Behavior to Inform Future Strategy
When managing growth through a wider lens, what better way to get to know your customers than through customer service interactions? Representatives can grab insights directly from conversations to improve experiences and offerings through questions like: Why did the customer purchase an item? What is their reason for a return? Would they have preferred a different color? By leveraging customer service’s position with customers and gathering insights around product and service preferences, companies can get ahead of future needs.
Having a robust, methodical approach to customer service will ensure teams are well set up to handle current volumes and expected future growth. By being proactive, managing customer expectations, and providing a personalized experience, customer service teams can become an indispensable asset for companies. As they build relationships and loyalty and stay informed through customer insights, customer service teams can help companies manage growth and stay one step ahead.
Some great points here Fara! I think you’re spot on about the misconception that customer service is only for solving customer problems. There’s now so much more of a relationship that needs to be built, and I think you’re suggestions about personalisation and offering a variety of online channels is absolutely key.
In regard to newer online channels, I was wondering about your thoughts on video chat in the retail sector? Since the start of the pandemic, the use of video chat in the European retail sector has surged by 70%, and there’s a lot of brands now using this kind of platform for bringing the in store experience online, so to speak. (I’ve written on it previously here if you were interested: https://gettalkative.com/info/video-chat-for-customer-service) Anyway, even once the world gets to grips with pandemic, I personally think this kind of tech is here to stay – the same with the strategies you’ve outlined above. After all, shopping via new online channels has been steadily growing even before the pandemic, but like you say, it has unquestionably boosted developments in the area of contact channels and CX. It’ll just be interesting to see how things will develop in the next few years – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Thanks again for a great read.