What would make you leave one brand – your bank or insurer or electricity provider – to join another?
My guess is a poor customer service experience.* But what exactly is poor customer service? A study by American Express found that a rude or unresponsive customer service agent was the most likely cause (33%), followed by being shuffled from agent to agent with no resolution (26%). Also infuriating customers is having to waiting too long to have their query resolved and having to call back to check that the problem is fixed.
The way to improve your customer service, according to Giancarlo Duella, Head of Consulting, Orange Business, is to view the customer lifecycle in its entirety. “By supporting and guiding prospective customers through all the stages of a purchase through to after-sales, you manage their expectations better, give them access to all the information they want about their product or delivery and reduce the number of unnecessary contact center queries than need human interaction. And by offloading the strain on the contact center, you give agents more time to focus on real problems and resolving them,” says Duella. At Orange Business Live, he showed a video which demonstrated all the ways that a brand can now engage with a customer using mobile technology.
Harnessing mobile technology and social networking is the key to improving service. “Customers can be your advocates, and they can also bring you down,” Giancarlo Duella says. “They have so many outlets such as Facebook and commenting on blogs to vent their annoyance now, that their expectations from customer service are higher.”
While the average disgruntled customer is not creative enough to get their dissatisfaction in front of millions of eyeballs, they could easily influence tens, hundreds or thousands of people by writing about their bad experiences on social sites.
“We have to think more about delighting the customer, rather than simply cutting the costs of care. And that means engaging with them throughout their journey” says Duella.
At Orange Business Live in Prague, Duella discussed the idea of a 360 degree relationship. “Consumers are now highly mobile and hyper-connected,” says Duella. “They browse for products and looks for reviews on their smartphones, they may go into a shop but still Google price-comparison while in there. After purchasing, they may want to track their delivery, or email customer support on their smartphone. They may even want to call you on it.”
“The key thing here is that one customer will probably want to interact with you in multiple ways. They may want to purchase online or track delivery through an app. If they have a software problem, they are probably going to search for a solution in a forum before calling you,” says Duella.
A 2012 Ovum study found that phoning an agent was still the most common choice of interaction (76%), but email was a close second on 71%. Over half of customers were happy with automated touchtones, and just over 40% would use web self-service and automated speech recognition. The same study found that 74% of consumers use at least three channels to engage with customer services.
The problem with many customer care departments is that they are so geared to reducing the costs of care that they misunderstand the mindset of the person calling them. If you have to call, you’ve probably exhausted all the self-care options. The costs of dealing with the query might be expensive (on average €3) but it can be a false economy to let the customer finish the call unhappy. Social CRM may only cost a few cents but it is not always appropriate. Nor is interactive voice response (IVR).
Duella’s advice is to make the best use of all the different channels to engage with customers; considering building an app, or implementing NFC in stores. And if they do call your contract center, make sure they leave the call satisfied.
If you’re interested in reading more about 360 degree customer experience, check out the customer care presentation from Orange Business Live
*A study last year by CRMGuru claimed that when customers jump ship, customer service was three times more important than price and five times more important than functionality. However, the study did not cite the vertical markets this applies to.
image © Butch - Fotolia.com
I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.