Technology and loyalty: how to meet the demands of multi-channel customers
Rod Moynihan analyses the findings of the recent ‘Multi-Channel Customer Care Report’.
Customers today simultaneously want the warmth of human communication with the speed and efficiency of automated service. It’s a paradoxical challenge for consumer-facing companies; one brought about by increasing levels of consumer expectations and the changing nature of customer communication.
A recent multi-channel customer care report based on a global survey conducted by Loudhouse and commissioned by Zendesk, found that multi-channel customers are less patient and expect more than they did five years ago. Multi-channel use has increased considerably in three years, with more diverse channels available to customers, and distinct customer expectations for each channel. For example, some will complain to a company on Twitter, seek simple answers via self-service and contact customer support through email for complex problems, or seek the immediacy of a live mobile chat.
It seems that no matter how fast we think we’ve got a solution to meeting customer demands, they keep wanting more. But this challenge also represents an opportunity for companies that are willing to face it. Below are a few tips to give you a competitive edge by helping you build a more thoughtful, dynamic multi-channel customer experience service strategy.
Tapping into technology to humanise multi-channel
Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey was that almost two-thirds (61%) of people acknowledged they are more impatient with customer service than they were five years ago. For example, 41% of respondents expect an immediate response when contacting via a phone or in person, with 47% expecting the same via online chat. However, relying solely on automation as an easy solution to this is unlikely to work: 86% saw being treated as a person as more important than benefiting from possible future advances in customer service technology.
These ideas might seem at odds with one another, but it’s really a reminder that every channel you use needs to have a human element to it. You need to build a relationship. And companies will only be able to rise to meet expectations if self-service strategies and automation tools – such as machine learning and AI – are used as part of a larger support strategy that also includes human interaction. For example, Zendesk’s satisfaction prediction tool leverages machine learning to predict how likely a ticket or interaction is to receive a good or bad customer satisfaction rating, enabling a support agent or manager to prioritise interactions and take action to ensure positive outcomes.
Companies that can use the latest technology in the most personal way possible will be sure to earn customer brownie points.
Loyalty isn’t what it used to be, but that shouldn’t stop you
Interestingly, the survey found a new disconnect between customer service and customer loyalty. Customers are now far less likely to return to a company solely due to a positive customer service experience than they were in 2013 (75% versus 55%). This change seems to indicate that consumers increasingly view positive customer service experiences as standard and are not necessarily willing to reward it with repeat business.
But this should not be confused with a lack of interest or a decline in importance of these services. Service levels and real customer engagement and interaction must remain high just to maintain a brand’s standing in the marketplace. Rather than your end goal, great multi-channel service is now the benchmark. Which means every little innovation or tweak you can implement to make your multi-channel strategy more efficient, faster and personal will keep your brand at the front of the pack.
Matching the channel to the job
Another critical way you can improve your customer service is by matching the channel to the job. Amidst a growing multitude of options, consumers today carefully consider the type of inquiry they want to make before selecting a channel. The survey found the telephone is still the preferred channel for resolving a query (47%). Emailing is still in favour, but in slight decline, falling from 48% three years ago to 40% now. Meanwhile live chat has boomed in popularity since 2013, growing from 18% to 32%.
Whether a customer wants to check a price, get details on a product, place an order, arrange a delivery, or lodge a complaint, it’s the nature of the interaction and the amount of time someone has on their hands, that helps people determine the most convenient channel at any given time.
Having the right technology on hand to analyse your customer enquiries is crucial for understanding what customers are searching for and where. Take time to review this carefully and work out what can be changed – maybe you can speed up or simplify a phone service for general queries, or be more responsive toward complaints on social media. Every bit counts.
Customers want service that is fast and human. And while those two ideas might seem contradictory, achieving both is possible with a multi-channel support strategy that factors in the strengths and limitations of each channel, as well as how customers prefer to use them.
Rod Moynihan is director of sales ad Zendesk ANZ.
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