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10 trends that put the customer back into customer service

The true cost of bad customer service is high: according to cloud contact center provider NewVoiceMedia, businesses in the US lose $41 billion each year due to poor customer service.

On the flip side, providing good customer service can be incredibly powerful, as the same research found that after a positive experience, 50 percent of respondents would use the company more frequently. Meanwhile, the Customers 2020 Report found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

These stats are unlikely to come as a shock to most businesses, but it’s not always easy to stay on track. Here at GetApp, we’ve identified trends to look out for that can help you provide the service that will ensure you have both happy and loyal customers.

1. Seamless cross-channel engagement

The age of the customer is upon us, and with consumers calling the shots, you must engage them in the channel of their choosing. This includes new(er) channels such as video chat and social media, as well as traditional ones such as contact center and email. The key to success is ensuring that your customer has a seamless and consistent experience, regardless of which channel they choose to communicate with you on.

2. Immediacy is key

It’s not just where (i.e. which channel) you respond to customers, it’s also when. Response time to customer queries or complaints are of vital importance in today’s 24/7 world. As GetRank, GetApp’s quarterly ranking of business apps, states: “Whereas a nine-hour response time was once completely acceptable, a company is now expected to respond much quicker– sometimes within minutes– depending on the service it offers and the way in which the request was made.”

3. Be a little more social

Social media is a double-edged sword: it gives you both a channel to engage with your customer and promote your business, while also providing a public forum where they can vent their frustration when something goes wrong.

While many companies have had Facebook and Twitter accounts for several years, the idea of providing customer service through these channels is still often approached with trepidation. Now, however, it is a must-have tool for customer service. The good news is that there are a plethora of technologies that can help monitor and react to conversations people are having about your brand online.

4. Proactive and personalized customer care

With savvy consumers being increasingly informed and choosy about the brands they interact with, companies need to make the buying experience more personalized and tailored. This brings together a number of different trends, such as responding to queries in the channel of their choice, keeping on top of social media interactions, and also having access to data that customers have shared, as well as previous transactions.

5. Helping customers to help themselves

With shopping cart abandonment standing at almost 70 percent , your website needs to be a veritable smorgasbord of useful tips and tricks to help customers navigate any issues.

Forrester reports that the use of help/FAQ pages on a company’s website for now surpasses traditional channels such as phone (76 percent compared to 73 percent). That’s why it’s important to build and promote a culture of self help, where your clients can find answers to commonly-asked questions easily, while you lighten the pressure on your staff.

Many SaaS apps such as Zendesk and Teamsupport.com work great here, as they provide the ability to build up a knowledge base of resources such as articles, FAQs, and help videos which your customers can refer to when they have a problem but don’t want to reach out to your customer service channels.

6. The rise of the machines

Self help doesn’t only involve articles, videos and FAQs, but also virtual agents that companies can deploy in addition to their live call center support. Gartner estimates that by 2017, two-thirds of all customer service interactions will no longer require the support of a human intermediary. These virtual agents will be able to sift through mountains of data to provide more relevant and contextual responses to customer queries.

7. Predicting the future

Past behavior isn’t always a good indicator of future trends, but it sure can help. With terabytes of data at their fingertips, companies can better serve their customers by using the knowledge they already have.

Gartner, for example, predicts that by 2018, 50 percent of agent interactions will be influenced by real-time analytics. Predictive analytics will allow companies to offer personalized service based on a customer’s profile, as well as previous interactions and transactions, and other personal information such as where they are based, their age group, and likes and dislikes.

8. Secure and transparent

Where customer data is stored and how it is used is a primary concern for consumers today. In fact, according to our GetData research, respondents rated security as the most important factor when choosing a cloud-based solution. As the GetRank report states: “While every company hopes to maintain a secure experience for its customers, it’s important for a business to consider things like where a customer’s data is being stored, as well as what type of encryption methods are being used, before they make a move to the cloud.”

9. Don’t forget about your employees

While customer service may focus on better engaging your customers, it’s important to ensure that your employees are fully on board as well. Research from Gallup carried out between 2010 and 2012 found that companies in the top quarter of employee engagement tend to experience 10 percent higher customer ratings. Empowering your employees with the technology they use in their daily lives, along with a familiar, intuitive interface, can make a world of difference when it comes to adopting and making the most of these solutions to better serve customers.

10. Go mobile (if you haven’t already)

We’ve all seen a ton of statistics about how important cell phones are –both in terms of adoption rate and usage– but here’s another one: 72 percent of customers have a more positive view of a company if that company has a customer service app. The reasons behind this include things like convenience, more immediate responses, and a personalized experience. Another useful aspect of mobile devices is that they give you access to a customer’s location so that you can provide a more customized experience based on where they are.

Categories: Trends
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Karen McCandless :Karen is a writer for the GetApp lab, as well as editor for the blog. Before working at GetApp, she spent a lot of time reviewing photo and productivity apps for Android and iOS, as well as covering all things B2B, primarily for retail and manufacturing. When not writing about B2B apps, she enjoys trips to the theater, playing badminton, and working out ways to travel more.