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Top 5 tips for supporting the 21st century customer

Top 5 tips for supporting the 21st century customer
February 6, 2012in Technology2012-02-062013-03-18technologyen
More companies these days would do well to follow the doctrine of Marshall Field. The 19th century US retailer, who coined the term "the customer is always right", also said that goodwill is the one and only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy. Customer service is a key...
top 5 tips for supporting the 21st century customer
More companies these days would do well to follow the doctrine of Marshall Field. The 19th century US retailer, who coined the term "the customer is always right", also said that goodwill is the one and only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy. 
Customer service is a key differentiator in an age where products can easily be replicated and getting customer support right is a crucial step in retention. It can shift a higher proportion of revenue to repeat buyers, which in turn helps companies to reduce customer acquisition costs. Contact center managers must manage the constant challenge of balancing the quality of customer support with cost. As the volumes of customer support sessions rise, it is imperative to keep costs under control.
Today, there are more technological choices to help us manage this problem. Here we discuss five trends with Dan DaCosta, head of solution marketing for telephony at Orange Business Services that could revolutionize your operation. 
1. interactive voice response 
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems use an automated voice or touchtone keystrokes to direct customers through a series menus. They have a bad reputation in popular culture, but some innovative companies have made advances in this area and achieved successful results. Natural language speech recognition systems that ask the customer what they want to achieve and interact with them almost like a real person are particularly popular.
"We manage a natural IVR for a major airline, which deals with reservations and other tasks," says DaCosta. "The trade-off is that you must invest more time in designing the IVR and tweaking it." 
2. customer-specific routing 
DaCosta contends that different demographics will gravitate to different communication channels. Younger people with more affinity for digital communication may find it easier - and in many cases more appealing - to carry out tasks automatically without interacting with a person. In contrast, older customers can be irritated by anything other than speaking to a real person. If they are higher-income customers representing greater potential sales, it may be worth accommodating them. But how can companies differentiate between the support offered to different types of customer? 
At the basic level, speaking or dialing an account number would be enough to help a back-end CRM system inform a call routing system about what to do with an incoming contact. Caller ID systems are also becoming increasingly useful for this, says DaCosta. "If they are calling from their home number or mobile phone, then the company can quickly identify who you are." 
3. mobile phone support 
Mobile phones represent another useful communications channel, especially for younger customers. Companies take advantage of smartphone functionality to push text and diagrams to customers, for example, perhaps even sending product manuals electronically. "If I travel somewhere and I register with the airline, and if the flight is delayed they can send me an SMS text message," DaCosta suggests. 
4. social media 
Many software companies are beginning to move into social media support. Cisco, for example, sells products that monitor social media feeds for keywords, such as a company name, and indicators like the commonly-used Twitter hashtag #fail. If support staff can proactively catch an unhappy customer, it could enable them to turn a bad experience into a good one. Many customers that started off unhappy have become loyal repeat buyers, simply by having support staff show that they are being heard, and that the company cares. 
5. multiple chat sessions per agent 
As digital channels become more popular, online chat will become an increasingly important part of the mix, DaCosta says. Companies can use agents who may already be located in low-cost countries thanks to easily outsourced contact center operations. These agents can manage multiple chat sessions via a web browser, offering customer support more efficiently using pre-defined text responses. As customers ask questions, the agents can save time by choosing readymade replies from a database. This provides the customer with an impression of personalized help, while keeping costs low. 
Perhaps the biggest challenge for modern companies is unifying all of these different contact channels into a single experience. Ideally, a company will want to have a single view of the customer, and be able to route them around the organization seamlessly without having them repeat their personal details to multiple people. 
By working with a partner well versed in multiple technologies, along with the business process outsourcing skills necessary to manage outsourced support staff, companies may stand a better chance of achieving a joined up customer support operation that would have made even Marshall Field proud.  
A version of this article appeared in Enterprise Briefing also published by Orange Business Services. Read about Orange CRM solutions here

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