How To Bring Your Customer Service Into The Digital Era

Mark de Bruijn

In this digital economy, customer service is a core component of the customer experience. But how do you bring it up to speed for the decade to come?

For a long time, personal aftercare simply consisted of face-to-face contact. If something was wrong with the product, you just went back to the shop where you bought it to get information and maybe even a new product. Every shop had a human face, and orderly one-on-one contact took place.

All of this changed in the 1980s and ’90s. Large retail chains popped up everywhere, and home deliveries started taking off. Shops became more anonymous and the same applied to customer service, which usually took place by telephone and was centralized via huge call centers. Minute-long telephone waiting queues were no exception.

The Internet, and especially social media, changed this relationship forever. This was by necessity, as poor customer experiences spread like wildfire. But people also realized that this same Internet and social media created more opportunities for lifting customer service onto a higher plane.

Poor service = bad news

Poor customer service is nearly always bad news for your business. It is a clear-cut fact: attracting new customers is more expensive than holding onto existing ones. When you see costly new customers disappear as quickly as they arrived, you are in fact undermining your own business.

And then there is something else: according to research, poor customer service makes both new and existing customers susceptible to price fluctuations. When moderate service negatively effects the entire customer experience, they tend to turn to the competitor.

How do you lift customer service to a modern level?

1. From expense to growth engine

Outsourcing a helpdesk to a large and “cheap” call center is often no longer the right strategy. Customer service is a prominent part of the customer experience, and therefore deserves a full-fledged role within the organization. It increasingly forms the foundation for growth: satisfied customers are returning and loyal ones. A customer base cannot grow if more clients leave than come.

2. From operational KPIs to holistic, company-wide targets

The performances of individual helpdesk employees and the helpdesk in general are often measured by KPIs, including response time and the number of cleared tickets per hour. Though some of these performance indicators are useful, they do not reflect where the company ultimately wishes to go with its customer experience.

Make satisfaction with services measurable, and investigate the cohesion between this factor and the turnover from your existing customer base.

3. Use modern technology

CRM from the cloud, intelligent chatbots, Big Data analytics … a modern customer service agent has many tools for boosting services. Use these tools, or else your competitor will. Advanced tech solutions are simply essential for many of the points mentioned here.

4. Ensure a complete customer view

Perhaps the most important aspect of proper services is a good customer profile, with information on purchases, personal preferences, and messages on social media. This is easiest to achieve by using a single software solution that collects and records all these contact moments and integrates data from the entire customer journey. Otherwise, you risk creating a fragmented image, as touchpoints are registered by a multitude of unconnected systems.

5. Any device, any moment, anywhere

Today’s customer expects 24/7 service, everywhere and via any device. Customer service should be designed around this expectation. Make sure the customer can approach you in every possible way: by phone, social media, text message, chat, and, if this adds value, face to face.

6. Involve customer care in development

Out of everyone in the organization, service employees probably have the most direct interactions with your customers. They are the first to hear about experiences and issues with your product or service. You can use this feedback to renew or even develop entirely new concepts. Also ensure regular consultation between product development and customer care.

7. Treat helpdesk employees as full team members and offer them sufficient development opportunities

Providing service is people’s business: without good employees, there is no good service. Employees’ focus must lie entirely on customer satisfaction. This is the most significant KPI that must be made measurable.

A rapidly changing workforce consisting solely of agency workers and students is not conducive for service quality. Provide helpdesk employees with training opportunities, for instance to reinforce their sales or marketing capacities.

8. Digital where possible, human where necessary

Good customer care does not mean pursuing human interaction for every customer contact. Staff should be able to organize simple matters such as changing contact data or requesting return deliveries on their own via automated systems. In this way, the available human capacity also brings more benefits to truly valuable service assistance.

9. From reactive to proactive

Research demonstrates that a majority of B2C customers do not report complaints; however, one-quarter of B2B customers do. This may sound nice, but it isn’t good news: unsatisfied customers will not be back anytime soon to purchase something from you, or they may never even return at all. When they don’t inform you about complaints, there is no way you can change that dissatisfied feeling.

Contemporary customer service is therefore not reactive, but proactive. Keep informing customers about how to report complaints. Offer them abundant opportunities for assessing your service, including customer service itself, such as via response forms on the website. And really listen to social media, as this is where most complaints first appear.

10. Communicate openly in case of problems

Keep your customers proactively up-to-date via your social media channels. Are your services suspended because of a technical malfunction or delivery issues? If you communicate sooner and more honestly, there is less chance of angry customers on the phone or making their complaints public via social media.

In times when the customer experience lies increasingly at the forefront, customer care is an essential part of service that should not be underestimated. Those who use people, business, data, and technology appropriately will leave the competition far behind.

For more insight, read the CMO Council report Context, Commerce + Customer: Best Practices to Exceed Expectations.

Mark de Bruijn

About Mark de Bruijn

Mark is an energetic and positive marketer with a focus on creativity, teamwork, digital, data and technology. Responsible for SAP Hybris in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa). He is passionate about SAP Hybris solutions for marketing, sales, service, commerce and billing.