In the first post of this two-part blog series, “Customer Service Encounters the New Digital World,” we discussed how digital disruption is transforming customer service. This presents both opportunities and challenges to businesses of all shapes and sizes. And without some of the same legacy encumbrances of their larger business counterparts, small businesses can embrace digital technologies faster and with greater agility.
Of course, this doesn’t mean small businesses are doing so. One in four still don’t have a website, and of those with a website only half are responsive and thus deliver good user experiences on mobile devices.
Crossing the Digital Divide
Once a small business has an established digital presence (e.g., website, social media channels, etc.), other aspects of the digital age need to come into focus. Customer service is most certainly a critical part of the digital landscape, albeit one that many businesses miss.
The facts certainly corroborate the importance of delivering a great customer service experience. Sixty-five percent of customers who switch suppliers do so because of poor service. This rush for the exit door is quite understandable when the broader data set is examined; only five percent of customers indicate customer service experiences exceed expectations.
However, there is hope. Digital disruption offers businesses an opportunity to move beyond isolated customer service execution and get their heads above the water. In particular, a much broader vista exposes weaknesses and provides businesses with the ability to move from tactical to strategic execution. Small businesses that make this transition place themselves in a much stronger position to win against their competitors.
Four Cornerstones of Digital Customer Service
The following are four factors that small businesses need to consider when developing and delivering customer service programs:
- “Pull the plug” on the vacuum. Customer service is no longer conducted in a vacuum and as a one-off experience. Customers expect integrated interactions with their suppliers. Businesses that don’t provide an integrated experience frustrate their customers: 68 percent indicate becoming annoyed when they must repeat themselves because the engagement channel changed.
With this in mind, small businesses must ensure their systems capture requisite information across all of the engagement channels (e.g., the website, live chat, email, phone, etc.), and that it is readily available to all customer service agents. Regardless of what department and individual with whom customer is speaking, the context of every conversation must be maintained. This contextualized customer service information workflow is agnostic when it comes to device and channel, as customers have “agnostic” expectations and will quickly grow impatient with suppliers that do not exercise the same values.
- Manage the customer journey. Customers are on a journey—whether they know it or not—and they expect their providers to know their preferences, histories, and aspirations. And this does simply occur during in-person engagements (e.g., phone, in-store, etc.); rather, customer-intelligent customer service engagement is increasingly commonplace. The overall importance of valuing a customer’s time cannot be overemphasized: 66 percent indicate the most important thing a company can do is to provide good service.
A portion of these digital interactions enable customers to perform self-service and resolve the issue themselves. In other instances, human interaction through live chat, messaging, and other communications channels that create human-to-human digital engagement may be required (see our blog post “Using Hosted Live Web Chat to Act, Look, and Compete Like a Big Business” for more details).
- Make and mobilize advocates. The measurement of customer service is no longer efficient operations such as speed to resolution and cost or even satisfaction and loyalty. Rather, customer service in the digital age is evaluated based on repeat business and advocacy. Key performance indicators (KPIs) shift to things such as customer lifetime value and customer profitability.
Digital engagement is a critical facilitator here. And consistent, connected experiences across all engagement channels and all devices are a must. Further, customer service not only seeks to address the issue for the customer outreach in the first place but also proactively pinpoints new and expanded value propositions (with corresponding solutions).
Small businesses also need to take advantage of the interactions they have with happy, loyal customers by offering them opportunities to advocate on their behalf. Possible advocacy activities range from product reviews on relevant third-party sites, to promotion on corporate and personal social media channels, to content (written, audio, and/or video) featuring a customer’s experience with a product.
- Predict the future. Simply knowing what a customer needs and aligning services to satisfy those needs is not sufficient. Businesses need to offer proactive services to customers based on their segmentation and behavior. Guided self-service is the preferred resolution route for a majority of customers. It is also the most cost-effective method.
However, sometimes customers cannot find the information they need or resolve the problems on their own. Intelligent digital engagement proactively identifies customers who need more than self-service, offering them live chat or messaging with human-to-human interaction. And since some customers still prefer to speak to customer service agents for certain issues, phone support should be concurrently offered with live chat and messaging.
Strategies to Implement Today
Small businesses that have embraced the digital age must run towards—rather than away from—the new era of customer service. New business models that offer hosted digital customer services provide small businesses with a fast and easy entry point and the ability to quickly achieve tangible business outcomes.
Some of the digital customer service models small businesses can leverage include:
- Guided self-service. Of all the available different digital engagement options, self-service is definitively the least expensive. To achieve self-service, however, customers need information and often require guided navigation. Getting a customer service solution with an embedded knowledge base and integrating it into an online community is a great starting point.
Yet an online community and knowledge base may not be enough. Customers sometimes need digital directions, and this is where real-time content personalization can make a big difference—in terms of both giving customers exactly what they need and deflecting customer service calls or even chats.
- Live web chat / messaging. Customers hate waiting for online support. Digital impressions occur in less than 90 seconds. Great customer service is designed to solve customer problems quickly and painlessly, and this is a critical reason live chat and mobile messaging have become a business requirement. For example, an estimated 20 percent of all customer experience is predicted to take place via live chat next year. Add that customers typically prefer live chat and in-app messaging over other engagement channels, and it is a win-win scenario for the business and the customer.
- Live receptionists. Not all customer engagements can be addressed through digital channels, and moreover not all customers want to use digital methods for service resolution. Sometimes customers want to speak to a live agent. An omnichannel experience is a must here, and agents who understand the unique nuances of each channel (whether phone, email, or chat) is crucial. Further, as customers move between these different channels (e.g., from email, to chat, to phone), information must seamlessly follow the customer.
- Social media monitoring. Businesses no longer control the service experience. Customers now turn to third-party websites, forums, chat, and social media for customer service. Social media is increasingly seen as a resource. For example, more than one in five customers indicate they use social media to address for customer service issues. If this is not scary enough, consider that an estimated 70 percent of customer service complaints on Twitter go unanswered.
Having social media accounts is not enough for small businesses. They must ensure those accounts are managed, and moreover they need to monitor the social “airwaves” for service issues. Here, choosing the right customer service application is important; it needs to offer an integrated social media workflow that enables virtual real-time visibility and responses to customers who do elect to take their service to social media channels.
Take Customer Service Digital Today
Many small business readers may agree fully in the need for the above engagement approaches and aspire to provide transformative customer service. Yet you are constrained in terms of time, resources, and the expertise needed to configure and manage a digital customer service engagement model. This is where Davinci Virtual comes into the picture.
Our solution offerings are not limited to one engagement channel, but rather cover the gamut—email, phone, live chat, in-person, and more. All of these are backed by our professional team of customer service agents. Broken into teams of agents who serve as subject-matter experts for groups of assigned clients, our agent teams deliver outstanding customer experiences for thousands of small businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Contact us today for more information on how we can help you create a customer engagement model that delights customers and gives you the business advantage you need to compete in today’s highly competitive landscape. You can call us, email us, or chat with us today!