Yesterday, I was struck by a very interesting line in a recent Forrester report titled “Trends 2015: The Future of Customer Service”. In the very first line of the report, Kate Leggett says “In the age of the customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.”
The explosion of social media, the easy availability of apps for everything and the always-connected consumer have caused a tremendous change in consumer behavior and
expectations. These are profound changes that no company can afford to ignore. The good thing is that consumers are now more than willing to help themselves. While this reduces the cost of customer service for companies, the challenge is to provide simple, easy-to-use support systems that consumers can use on their own.
Per the Forrester report, for the first time ever, in 2014, Web self-service edged out phone support as the preferred channel for customer support. In a survey of 4,509 US adults, 76% used Web self-service, while 73% used phone support. The interesting thing here, is that Web self-service has grown steadily from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. During that same time period, phone support has stayed stagnant at 73%. So while phone support shows no sign of fading out in the near future, other channels of customer service are showing serious growth. This means that it becomes more imperative for companies to offer customer service options such as a customer knowledge base, chat, perhaps even community support forums.
Multi-channel is a term that’s being bandied around a lot these days, but one of the key takeaways from the research is that customers don’t want just multi-channel support; they really want all those channels to be unified – so that each request is recorded and easily answered in ONE, single system. This is beneficial to all the stakeholders in the situation – consumers, agents and companies.
- Consumers no longer have to repeat themselves when they use a new channel or talk to a new agent
- Agents know the complete history of a consumer’s interactions in a particular situation and can talk to the consumer intelligently and with more empathy
- Companies save time, money and effort by reducing consumer handling time and increasing first-contact resolution.
While most companies do offer service in multiple channels, the frustrating consumer experience has been that each channel is in a separate silo. Thus forcing the consumer to repeat their story in every channel that they use. 75% of US online consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
Most companies have not implemented omnichannel support and most haven’t trained agents in cross-channel service. If all channels feed into the same customer service software, then all companies need to do is to train their agents on that software. This makes immense sense for companies, because agents can then pick up the slack when there is heavier demand on a specific channel. Companies then clearly present to their consumers, that they value their time by obviating the need to repeat or explain their issue multiple times.
With cross-channel trained, empowered agents and the right omnichannel customer support software in place, this is exactly what you can provide to your consumers. Ensure that your agents can view transaction data from your operational systems within your customer service system, and you WILL be the customer service star! And while you are at it, make sure that you can provide exactly the same kind of service to your mobile app customers as well.