The technological leaps forward of the last few decades have fundamentally changed the ways in which businesses can interact with their customers. In the age of the internet and the smartphone, there are two overriding facts that companies must understand about the way that they deliver their customer service.
Firstly, the internet means that the age of a business being able to do well just because of its location is over. With the amount of options available to them and a global delivery system waiting to be utilised, it is certainly true that your customers are unlikely to need you in the same way that towns used to need the only local sweet shop.
The internet means that your customers can always go elsewhere if your service is not good enough.
Secondly, the advent of the multi-device internet means that customers want to be able to access information and answer queries at any time and from any place. A company that doesn’t do all it can to inform and educate a tech-savvy customer base is likely to begin shedding sales.
Technology is changing what is required by a company customer service process, but innovative new forms of business technology can also provide the solution for companies who are looking to update the way they do things.
The Value of Happy Customers
Customer service is all about creating happy people. A happy customer adds value to your company in a number of different ways.
Numerous studies have shown that the cost of acquiring a new customer is often significantly higher than the amount it costs your business to retain one by giving them great customer service. A study by Bain & Company argued that if improved customer service leads to an increase in customer retention of 5%, then this can result in profit boosts of between 25 and 95%.
There is also research that shows that a great level of customer service often encourages customers to be more profitable to you in the short term. Figures from Bolt suggest that around 85% of customers would be willing to pay more than the standard price if it could guarantee them great service, and 61% said that having information and assistance easily available often encourages them to spend more.
Finally, satisfied customers are not only likely to provide you with a regular source of cash inflow, but you are also likely to benefit from referrals and personal recommendations. In 2012 Nielson showed that around 92% of respondents tend to place a high degree of trust in personal recommendations from people they know. So, if your customer service is good, more people are going to recommend you to the people they know, and this recommendation may have more impact than a high level of marketing and advertising.
How Technology is Changing the Way Customers Interact with Companies
But saying that providing a high level of customer service is beneficial to your business does not take into account the way technology is changing how customers will be able to interact with your business, and the idea of what good customer service is, is changing to suit these new tech realities.
There are several main technological innovations of the last number of years that are principally driving this change in the nature of customer-business interaction.
Firstly, the number of ways that customers can use to get in contact with a company has bloomed out into an array of varied and distinct channels. Even just 15 years ago, a customer was pretty much limited to sending them a letter or calling them up.
Today though, you can add email, social media, certain kinds of instant messaging, forums and even video demonstrations to this list. Understanding the different interactions that can be fostered by these different channels and what kinds of information are best communicated through them is becoming increasingly important.
Secondly, these changes have allowed customers to become much better at independently finding the information that they need. This means that companies need to be able to provide customers with as much information as possible to allow them to help themselves, while still retaining the ability to perform personalised, in-depth customer service processes for those that need it. Research shows that while 67% of customers try to find the answers to their questions themselves, 44% still think that having a live chat function or hotline is still a fundamental part of customer service.
Using Technology to Make Your Customer Service Better
If a company is going to react in a proactive way to the broader, deeper changes that are happening in the world of customer service and feel the benefits of increased profits, recommendations and happy customers, it is going to need to utilise technology in a smart and up to date way.
Here are some examples of ways in which technological innovations are improving customer service;
Bringing down costs without losing service quality
Cloud call centres are a great example of innovations in technology used to make improvements to a much maligned form of customer service: the call centre. We have all heard someone moaning about how they were kept on hold for 45 minutes and then given really rushed advice by the person on the other end of the line.
Software like ContactWorld (from NewVoiceMedia) places a complex, mass telephony infrastructure and data storage system onto the cloud, meaning companies can begin to prioritise key customers in an efficient way and making sure people get to the right agent first time. Cloud call centres also allow companies to plough more resources into training and expanding their workforce by eliminating the need for hardware costs and the potential savings made by a BYOD strategy.
Utilising all channels in a coherent way
One of the dangers of multi-channel customer service processes is that the quality or coherence can waver between the different channels themselves. There are a number of customer service applications that can help a company spread their customer service process over numerous channels, and still keep a centralised form of organisation and management.
Applications like Tweetdeck allow companies to manage multiple Twitter profiles and interactions, while programmes like Desk (from Salesforce.com) create a central hub through which all channels are funnelled, allowing a company to continue to hone and modify its processes.
These two examples shows the ways in which utilising innovative technology can bring real and positive customer service gains for companies that are brave enough to take advantage of them.
Do you have any other great pieces of business technology that can be used to make customer services processes better for everyone?