How to Provide Exceptional Customer ServiceJanuary 23, 2013 By Chris Ezekiel
Today's customers expect in-the-moment service, literally at their fingertips. In fact, 65 percent of customers prefer online support to telephone support. In our always-on, screen-driven world, social and mobile platforms have become a lifestyle. Forward-thinking marketers can successfully raise the level of consumer interaction with their brand via implementation of interactive customer experience technologies on the web, across social media channels and from mobile applications.
Companies like Verizon, Virgin Media and Renault have recognized that there's been a definite shift in how consumers want to receive information, and therefore adjusted their customer service strategies to accommodate those needs. For companies that receive millions of inquiries per month via telephone, email or live chat, this can be an ongoing challenge. Here's how to get started.
- Focus on customer convenience. If your customer has a question, problem, concern or wants to review your product, they should be able to perform these tasks 24/7. Adequately connecting with consumers will require brands to be accessible simultaneously on popular devices to support the in-store experience, including product purchase.
- Harness your knowledge. Customers aren't interested in how your business is run; they just want answers. Therefore, break down organizational silos by employing the right technology to aggregate and deliver personalized information to your customers. For example, what if your sales associate knew which skirt your customer last purchased and could recommend three shirts to complement it? By giving your sales agents access to information about customer buying habits you can help them provide an exceptional shopping experience and drive loyalty.
- Employ intelligent virtual agents. Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are the next wave in customer service. With IVAs, retailers can engage their online customers in unique and innovative ways such as providing product assistance, making recommendations, running sales promotions or providing important customer notifications (e.g., low inventory). Furthermore, IVAs can offer consistent service through web, mobile and social channels to thousands of customers at the same time. IVAs that use natural language can even emulate human conversations, understanding context and delivering personalized/relevant information based on consumer needs.
- Don't skimp on mobile. According to Gartner, there will be more smartphones than computers accessing the internet by 2014. That means you'll have to extend the customer experience to tablets, phones and even game consoles. Focus on design, content and messaging to deliver a consistent user experience across all devices. Moreover, don't just focus on the basics. Use technology to provide personalized information at each point of contact, using text and voice to provide added levels of convenience and service. For example, instead of just providing a touch interface, incorporate speech recognition into your app to help customers more easily find products by simply saying what they want.
- Develop a social engagement strategy. Meeting your customers on today's popular social media sites does more than increase return on investment and reduce customer support costs; it also measures customer interaction and drives loyalty. Having a strategy that leverages social platforms is key to extending the conversation and staying competitive in this always-on society, but many brands find it challenging and resource intensive to maintain a steady voice online and measure its value. Meeting your customers on Facebook, Twitter or other popular social media channels with a customized IVA helps brands connect with their customers in a more three-dimensional way, enabling two-way conversations no matter where and when your customers choose to engage. And to the retailer's benefit, these conversations can later be analyzed to determine sentiment and uncover trends specific to your brand.
Chris Ezekiel is CEO of Creative Virtual, a provider of self-service customer experience management solutions.