The Keys to Great Customer Service, Part 4: Know Your Customers

To provide excellent customer service, first understand your consumers and how they prefer to contact you, then add in a seamless omnichannel approach, and tasteful personalization.

Articles published November 10, 2017

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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.

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. 

What do customers want from a customer service center?

Data from The Northridge Group indicates the 8 easiest methods consumers have identified for communicating with customer service:

  • Phone call: 65 percent
  • Online chat: 63 percent
  • Email: 61 percent
  • Web self-service: 53 percent
  • Mobile app self-service: 52 percent
  • Text message: 44 percent
  • Video chat: 40 percent
  • Social media: 39 percent

Not only do customers expect to communicate with customer service across these multiple channels, they expect to do it seamlessly. For contact centers looking to provide the best customer experience, an omnichannel approach is the way to go. 

Omnichannel Solutions

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 provide multiple channels for customers to communicate with you, and be prepared for them to transition easily between the different channels.

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, however. These different channels need to integrate seamlessly and intuitively not only with each other but also with the customer support model. 

Engaging customers in a personalized way across channels allows for a deeper connection and increased loyalty within customer relationships — and that personalization does not go unnoticed. The Gladly Customer Service Expectations Report reveals that 59 percent of consumers rate personalization from a brand to be “very important.”

A Closer Look at an Omnichannel Approach

An omnichannel approach should include the following components:

Live Chat Support

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 should be an essential part of your customer service strategy if it isn’t already. It also makes your static web page more engaging, because customers can have their questions answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Live chat creates a positive impression for site visitors and leads to improved customer satisfaction and increased sales — not to mention provides a way to gain an edge on the competition.

A report by Comm100 found that 83 percent of customers are satisfied with live chat features. Live chat is key to great service, 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. Data from Forrester shows that visitors who engage with live chat are “2.8x more likely to convert than those that don’t.” 

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. Forrester also shared data from a Bold360 benchmark study that found that a buyer who engages with live chat will spend 60 percent more. 

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, if social media moderation is not done right, it can also damage your brand when not monitored properly. According to the Gladly Customer Service Expectations Survey, 42 percent of consumers will post about a negative experience on social media, and 55 percent of consumers say they rely on social media reviews when making purchasing decisions. 

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.                                   

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 inquiries 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 Support

Email support has evolved into 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 Support

Have you noticed an uptick in businesses utilizing SMS messaging? 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.

Why the uptick in texts? Unlike email, people typically read text messages. SMS messages have a 98 percent open rate and 90 percent of all texts are read within three minutes of being received. Pair this with the fact that roughly 96 percent of the adult population owns a cellphone, and texting seems like an incredible way to get your message across!

Today, approximately 80 percent of customers utilize text messages to communicate with companies. Yet a study from Accenture reveals that a whopping 97 percent of consumers are open to hearing from brands via text message. That means there's room to grow this aspect of your customer service offering. 

Self-Service Portals

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. 

A survey of consumers shared by Zendesk found that 67 percent of respondents prefer self-service options over speaking to a customer service representative.

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 to 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.

Knowing Your Customers Leads to Excellent Customer Service

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?