Customer service is evolving and technology is working hard to keep up with the rising demands for omni-channel contact. But at the end of the day, customer service still relies at least as much -- if not more -- on the personal touch as on the technological advances.
Consider the statistics: The cost of poor customer service in the United States is a whopping $41 billion a year, according to cloud contact center firm NewVoiceMedia. And although omni-channel contact is vital, 68 percent of all contact center communications is still handled via the telephone. By comparison just 3 percent is handled via social media channels.
Against that backdrop, Matt Kresch, director of product marketing for service by Microsoft Dynamics CRM, has been offering some strategic tips for customer contact center success. We’ve outlined eight of his best suggestions below.
1. Conduct Business Your Way
Your customer service solutions should ultimately echo the key principles that make your company great, according to Kresch. That way, you are at least as likely to retain customers -- even customers who have issues -- as you are to attract customers in the first place.
“Find the places where your current service solution and your corporate ideals don’t line up, then figure out how you can bring concept and reality into alignment,” Kresch said in a blog post. “This could mean improving how you match customers with like-minded representatives, developing a proactive approach to onsite service visits, or anything else you see as a cornerstone of your business.”
2. Find Your ‘Sound’
After you settle on the right solution for your firm, you need to do more than load it out of the box -- you need to customize it for the needs of your specific customers, according to Kresch.
“Look for areas where you and your department excel, and tailor your tools to highlight and enhance those strengths,” he said. “Like the melody of a song, this is the part of your service strategy that you want customers to remember you for.”
3. Good Enough Is Not Good Enough
Retailers will need to transform themselves to adapt to an omni-channel retail world by 2020, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. That includes omni-channel customer service. That means you need to start considering different customer touchpoints and the data they create.
“All of a customer’s outreach attempts should be felt throughout the network, so it’s easy for service reps to access relevant information and provide the right answers quickly,” Kresch said. “Providing good-enough customer service won’t cut it anymore. Customers expect companies to offer a wide variety of methods to solve their issues."
Customers will choose the channels that are most convenient to them at the time, so the experience has to be consistent and all those points of contact have to be linked within a unified service technology, he added.
4. Give Your Customers Flexibility
You’re probably busier than you ever have been -- but so are your customers. That means you need to offer as much flexibility in the customer service realm as possible, especially given that almost 98 percent of Americans use multiple devices to complete the same task, according to a Google study, “The New Multi-screen World.”
“Offering customers a greater number of interaction points leads to more engagement opportunities,” said Kresch. “Of course, all that switching among devices and points of contact means companies need smart infrastructure to meet the demand. A CRM system pulls a single customer’s growing collection of information -- tweets, chats, e-mails, calls to the contact center, order history, and so on -- into one place so that employees can deliver the exceptional experience and level of service consumers demand.”
5. Harmonize Your Omni-Channel
In other words, fine tune your system. It’s likely you are using more than one customer service tool, especially if you are executing an omni-channel strategy. Whether customers take advantage of self-service options or connect with your agents through social media, chat, conference calls, or e-mail, you’ll meet their needs with a single, unified interface if you fine tune the systems, Kresch said.
6. Work in Concert
Fine tuning your systems won’t ultimately matter if your customer service agents aren’t all on the same page. Kresch suggested tracking customer sentiments on every single customer service channel and looking for correlations between agent activity and customer experiences. He said, “You can establish best practices to help keep your contact center humming along.”
7. Share Your Vision
It’s not enough for your CEO or CIO to have a customer service vision. You need to continue casting vision to the whole team, and updating the vision according to new metrics about performance. “By adding to and expanding on your existing knowledge base, you can improve understanding for your customers and coworkers alike," Kresch said,
8. It’s Just Good Business
The bottom line: Good customer service is good business. Revenues increase when a company’s customer experience index rises, according to market research firm Forrester Research.
“It’s time to meet your customers wherever they want to meet you. With an omni-channel customer support program as the cornerstone of your business, you won’t only be satisfying customers, you will also be driving loyalty, increasing revenue, and empowering employees to work more efficiently,” Kresch said. “Start laying the foundation now. 2020 is just around the corner.”
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.