The Keys to Great Customer Service, Part 4: Know Your Customers Knowing how to provide great customer service is essential to your operation, but it can’t truly be effective without a thorough understanding of your customers and how they want to communicate with you. What do Customers Want These Days? An effective way to determine what your customers are expecting is to look at your current support channels and seek to understand how your customers prefer to contact you. Fonolo, a leading provider in cloud-based call-back solutions, determined the following six most popular ways that consumers like to communicate: Website: 85 percent Call Center: 75 percent Email: 65 percent Live Chat: 58 percent Mobile Web: 32 percent Social Media: 21 percent As you can see, customers are now demanding an omnichannel approach as part of the customer experience. Organizations need omnichannel support capabilities to easily guide the consumer from their website to a phone call, email, live chat, social media, text, etc. In other words, your organization must offer multiple channels for customers to communicate with you, and be prepared for them to transition easily between the different channels. Omnichannel What exactly is omnichannel support? Picture omnichannel like a big circle, with the customer on the inside. Surrounding the customer are different channels of communication. An omnichannel approach delivers a personalized and consistent customer experience, no matter what communication method is used. For example, a customer may commonly go to your website first, then call in for support on an issue that can’t be resolved online. The customer and support agent work together with the online components to make sure the experience is as enriched as possible. According to research conducted by the Aberdeen Group, omnichannel contact centers had 55 percent fewer customer complaints and 44 percent more in customer retention on an annual basis, compared to multi-channel contact centers (which have several independent channels). Research like this shows that an omnichannel approach is increasingly beneficial to contact centers and, more importantly, their client companies. It’s not enough to just offer the customer more ways to reach out and engage with the brand. These different channels need to integrate seamlessly and intuitively not only with each other, but also with the customer support model. If a brand offers a mobile app, but it doesn’t offer a practical way to engage with customer service, it’s a missed opportunity. Engaging customers in a personalized way across channels allows for a deeper connection and increased loyalty within customer relationships. A Closer Look An omnichannel approach should include the following components: Live Chat The benefits of live chat include increased customer service, increased revenue, reduced costs, and an overall better customer experience. Live chat allows you to provide personalized service around the clock and needs to quickly become an essential part of your customer service strategy. It also makes your static webpage more personal, because customers can have their questions answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It creates a positive impression for visitors to your site and leads to improved customer satisfaction and increased sales. Live chat is another way to gain an edge on the competition, and it’s a key feature that websites must have to be competitive. A study by ATG Global Consumer Trend found that “90 percent of customers consider live chat helpful.” Live chat is key, because customers have someone who can immediately help them if they become confused or have a question, which can make or break a sale. This helps eliminate bounces away from websites and ensures a complete transaction. Live chat allows your customer service agents to communicate clearly and is simple for both sides to use. With live chat, customers avoid long wait times and navigating through an automated system. Interestingly, live chat is generally the first point of contact for new customers before they pick up the phone. A study by Forrester Research found that 44 percent of customers said having a live person help them when they’re online shopping is an important feature to them. Live chat can lead to increased opportunities for upselling products. Once a customer is engaged with an employee who can understand their needs, the employee is in a perfect position to recommend additional purchases that may be the right fit for that person. An Anderson Consulting poll found that “almost 62 percent of internet consumers said they would purchase more products online if live customer support were available.” In a similar survey, Emarketer.com found: 63 percent of customers were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. 62 percent reported being more likely to purchase from the site again. 38 percent said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself. The cost savings and convenience for both staff and customers makes live chat not only a viable option for business today, but an essential tool for any organization that thrives on providing excellent customer service. Social Media Moderation Social media can be a powerful customer relationship tool, driving traffic to your brand. However, it can also damage your brand when not monitored properly. VB Insights reports that there were over 879 million customer complaints on social media in 2014. This proves that customers are vocal on social channels and companies need to listen, analyze, and act upon those complaints. A company should train its customer service team to keep up with social traffic and respond accordingly. Here are two staggering statistics from a thinkJar survey in regards to social media: 55 percent of customer requests for service on social media are not acknowledged. 72 percent of Facebook interactions are never completed in any channel. Esteban Kolsky, CEO of thinkJar believes “companies that use social media as a megaphone, versus a telephone (bi-directional engagement), will not succeed. In my opinion, in today’s digital and on-demand economy, not responding to customers on social media is as damaging as not responding to a phone or email request.” Organizations need to be using social media to answer questions and solve problems. You can improve your customer relations by regularly monitoring social media to answer customer questions and replying as they come up. This gives you the opportunity to connect with customers as they are experiencing problems, have questions, or just want to share feedback. Email Email support has now developed to become one of the most basic means of transmitting information in business-customer relationships. Most non-voice support processes today integrate email support. Having the email queries of customers and prospects answered promptly, accurately, and efficiently will help improve customer satisfaction, thereby enabling retention and repeat business growth. Email support covers the areas of customer service, technical support, help desk support, order fulfillment, problem resolution, transaction, verification, and many more processes. Customer service agents need to be fully trained to provide exceptional professional email support. To facilitate the process of email handling, customer service agents need to get educated on the recent and emerging email technologies, allowing them to leverage the latest use of email techniques. Text Have you noticed that some progressive companies have started to text you information? The driver will text you when he has arrived, you get a text confirming your plane tickets, or your doctor sends you a reminder so you won’t forget your appointment the next day. So, why are some companies starting to send texts all of a sudden? Unlike email, people typically read text messages. Fact: 90 percent of all texts are read within three minutes of being received. Couple this with the fact that roughly 91 percent of the adult population owns a cellphone, and texting seems like an incredible way to get your message across! Today only 7 percent of consumers resort to texts to communicate with businesses, far behind email, phone calls, social media, live chat, and even direct mail. Make no mistake though: Consumers would love to text businesses, but few realize it’s a possibility. Self-Service Another major preference that’s on the rise is self-service. People want their problem resolved as quickly and painlessly as possible, and sometimes that means looking for a way to solve it themselves. Salesforce ran a report that determined 72 percent of people think using self-service features is a fast and easy way to solve their issue. Another statistic from Microsoft states that 90 percent of customers now expect self-service support, and 60 percent have a more positive view on an organization if their self-service support is mobile-responsive. It is extremely important to create a knowledge database of your customers’ frequently asked questions. After seeing a pattern of the same type of calls, this information should be moved to the self-service FAQ. This database needs be regularly updated and monitored based on customers' interactions. As demand for self-service applications rises, you should also ensure other channels are integrated into that experience, so a customer can get help when needed. Representatives should manage it and make sure customers are getting their problems resolved. Another important statistic to consider is that 75 percent of users think calling is still the most effective way to get a quick response (New Voice). This is likely to transition from phone to chat, text, and social over time but, either way, the consumer will still demand personalized support when needed. What do you get out of it? Great customer service isn’t easy to achieve or maintain, but it’s worth it. Knowing your customers and understanding the trends is essential to providing consistent service that allows your customers’ problems to be resolved quickly and on their terms. Providing multiple channels for your customers to interact with you allows you to engage your customers where they’re comfortable. Overall, excellent service leads to increased customer loyalty and more business, which helps grow your bottom line. Taking the time and effort to ensure your customer service is the best it can be, saves you from negative customer experiences and keeps your organization on top of customer needs. What trends and preferences are you seeing with your own customers? Bobbie Jo Barry Bobbie Jo Barry has more than 18 years of contact center experience in multiple areas, including designing client facing solutions, managing day to day operations of two contact centers, leading workforce management and contact center managers to success, managing client relationships, and providing employees with a foundation for success. She has vast experience with omnichannel solutions and various business technologies, including design and implementation of CRM/ticketing systems and IVR applications. She has proven her ability to innovate and create successful tailored solutions for clients, as well as adapt to the client's changing needs.