Making Customer Service Effective in the Digital Age
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is a complex and interactive process to understand customers and fulfill their needs according to the company’s resources, capacities and capabilities for the products sold or services provided. In this context, the customer’s expectations begin when he purchases a product or subscribes to or rents a service.
Therefore, customer service is an end-to-end process that starts from the moment of sale until the end of the life cycle of a product or service or its use to the customer. Thus, this concept originates with the customer and ends with the customer.
Customer service synonyms: customer support, help desk, service center, customer service, troubleshooting team, client service, after-sales service, customer helpline.
Customer service is an integral part of any organization. For any company to survive and grow, their focus and efforts must be channeled towards creating a good customer service team.
Good customer service should aim to enable the following:
– Retention of old customers
– Loyalty to the Company’s products and services
– This in turn should build customer trust in the brand
– Increase product effectiveness and value among competitors
– Translate to higher sales so that it positively affects overall revenue (because the same customer buys the product or service repeatedly or recommends it to family and friends)
– Resulted in the Company saving on customer acquisition costs due to customer churn (which is almost 5 times more expensive)
– Strengthen positive word of mouth and increase the Company’s goodwill and equity
– Earn less spending on advertising, promotion and marketing activities
So, all these efforts will ultimately lead to the prosperity of the company and an increase in market share which is beneficial to employees and vendors as well as its longevity.
However, unhappy customers are an opportunity and companies should not miss an in-depth experience through customer feedback to analyze the root causes of problems that lead to poor customer experiences.
Furthermore, companies should invest time in reviewing their current working mechanisms, reorienting processes, improving their products or services, their features or offerings, maintaining and training staff or bridging existing gaps according to customer feedback.
Customer Service Representatives, their quality and different channels:
Customer service representatives (CSEs) are true brand ambassadors for any company as customers interact with them on the phone, via online chat, on company websites or portals, in email, social media and online forums, face-to-face interactions in service centers. .
Therefore, the CSE must:
– Talk to customers politely
– Listen to him
– Give him some respect
– Understanding the need or concern
– Finally, most importantly, provide solutions or alternatives according to the problem or need.
Being polite and humble without resolving customer questions won’t help. Likewise, providing solutions but in a harsh tone will also backfire. This is a viscous circle of hope. Customers want everything – courtesy, empathy and solutions. And he is right because he has paid for his product or service. The customer is always right and is king.
A Company must:
– Maintain their CSE motivation.
– They must be well trained in product and soft skills
– They must be able to communicate well with customers
– Be patient, take ownership and work to provide resolution to customers.
Each organization contributes in some way or another by working for its customers – it can be a B to B (Business) model or a B to C (Customer) model. In the long term, to achieve its goals, every organization must align customer centricity with the vision and strategy of the organization. This is an aspect that should not be missed by the Company, not even by PSU or any Government organization.
The guide to great customer service is very simple:
– Remember, it’s important to build a good relationship or connect with customers
– Have qualitative interactions with him
– Intention to solve the problem no matter what.
– Smile when talking to customers.
– Acknowledge the fact that most customers prefer human interaction over communicating with machines. So treat customers like you would want your service provider to treat you.
Different industries can have different levels of customer engagement according to their business and can have different ways of assessing or measuring their customer satisfaction.
Customer needs may differ for the retail industry with respect to telecommunications, utilities, logistics, finance, outsourcing, government, healthcare, media, manufacturing, IT, real estate, service industries, and so on.
Customer Service Background: The concept of customer service dates back to the early 1800s and it all started with the industrial revolution where products were designed and manufactured according to customer requirements.
However, since then, as we have seen, customer behavior has become dynamic, unpredictable and influenced by many factors, therefore it is never consistent and changes faster than the stock market. Dealing with customers is often challenging because it’s like solving a jig saw puzzle every time.
Problems encountered in Customer Service due to:
1. Limited authority with each service channel
2. Communication barriers between customers and CSE
3. Waiting for the decision from the person concerned/team
4. Every customer problem is unique and expectations may vary at different levels
5. Lack of staff available to serve customers (due to leave, absenteeism, attrition) leading to high pressure
6. Technical problem or unknown (no schedule or alternative available)
7. Company policies that sometimes become obstacles
8. Lack of knowledge or skills
9. Customer reluctance to accept resolutions
10. Competition leads to higher expectations
How do we measure customer service effectiveness?
1. Online survey (as part of CSAT tool) as part of product purchase (mostly asking to rate customer experience on E-commerce websites). CSAT is Customer Satisfaction.
2. Surveys in IVR (Interactive Voice Response) as part of the CSAT tool
3. Mystery shopping disguised as a customer
4. Live and remote monitoring of customer interactions (random sampling) and evaluate the quality of each interaction
5. Feedback calls, SMS, emails or IVR calls made to customers to confirm whether their questions/concerns have been resolved or not
6. Analyze and take action based on customer feedback on Website, social media, Customer Portal
7. Assessing customer behavior towards its brands, products and services by applying Business Intelligence, Data analytics, Search Engine Optimization, and other techniques.
What is CSAT?
The Customer Satisfaction Survey is a powerful tool that the Service provider shares with the customer after he has interacted with the Customer service representative to rate his experience along with ratings on service-related parameters including problem solving. This tool is the Voice of Customer that provides insight into the customer experience, whether it lived up to expectations and what was lacking or could have been done better.
For most companies, the CSAT is tied to an employee’s performance rating and has an impact on their annual bonuses and raises. Why doesn’t the CSAT rating impact everyone in the organization because every employee is expected to do his or her part contributing to or adding value to the customer experience? Thoughts to ponder.
With digitization, everything has changed completely and a transitional phase has emerged. Thanks to changing technology and other powerful factors:
1. Customers are becoming very demanding and their expectations are increased with the ease of technology. They want to control everything through the click of an app. They don’t want to waste their valuable time visiting a Shop or Service Center waiting their turn unless it’s unavoidable. They don’t want to call Call Centers, wait in queues and then talk to people who behave like robots reading scripts and not as human interfaces.
2. There is so much competition, which has given the world many options available online as well as offline and it is also cost effective. While there is a Big Basket for each Grofer. There are OYO rooms for every Make My Trip and Yatra. There’s Amazon for every Flipkart and Snapdeal.
There’s an Ola for every Uber. There’s a Zomato for every Swiggy and Food Panda and the races are endless. There is a Big Bazaar for every Reliance Fresh. There’s Chroma for every Reliance Digital, and there’s Jio for every Vodafone, Idea, and Airtel.
3. With new VCs and investors coming from all over the world, the business landscape has evolved and grown manifold adding to everyone’s profits including income.
4. Furthermore, it is clear that people’s income (including disposal income) increases along with lifestyle. Luxury has become a necessity in today’s universe.
5. The government’s policy of inviting foreign funds, FDI, has been beneficial to create a friendly and investor-friendly business climate.
6. Start-up culture, Tech Parks has been a huge hit.
7. Mergers and acquisitions have become the norm these days.
Thus, technology has bombarded our daily lives. The Daily Routine has been customized according to the smart phone and what the application demands. Social media has changed our lives completely. Posts on FB, Twitter, and Instagram are more valuable than friends in real life.
So, if personal and professional life has transitioned very quickly in the new millennium and in the last 10 years to be precise, customers are justified in demanding excellent customer service with a better level of reach.
Sad but true, we are still missing some of the basic and essential things a customer needs in the digital age even though he or she is probably the most tech-savvy person on earth.
1. Most product companies and service providers are lacking in providing personalized services for each customer that are tailored especially keeping in mind his needs. This is a challenge with hundreds of downloads happening every day for most Companies.
2. Decide on the most suitable and preferred mix of touch points or communication channels available to customers 24 times 7. The company cannot rely on the FAQ provided in its app for all its customers. Or running the analytics engine may not be enough to analyze its behavior. A mere email survey may not collect complete feedback on customer experience. All channels are equally important at different times and for different reasons and for different customers. A farmer using the service may still prefer to visit the Service Center in person while someone whose internet plan is running out may just call the Call Center.
3. Even Robotics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Chatbots have limitations and cannot answer all of them or replace human interaction. Let’s keep that factor in mind. However, in most Call Centers, the CSE has a very limited role acting like a robot blindly following a script.
4. The in-app help menu is a basic need, but is the organization smart and fast enough to engage with customers quickly if any dissatisfaction or accidents are reported in the app?
5. Was each CSAT survey carefully considered to arrive at a conclusion? Who took ownership and why?
6. Are service commitments still offered? How often does the Company engage with its customers and to what extent?
7. How to educate customers not only about new offers and schemes but also guide customers what plans should match last year’s spending or usage?
8. It’s time to stop and think. With Big Data analytics, internet of things, is the quality of enterprise interactions improving or deteriorating? How does the customer satisfaction graph look like? What about the turnaround time for completing tickets on the Portal or their app?
9. How does collaboration with customers make their applications more useful and customer-friendly? Inviting customer feedback and suggestions for improvement and not just triggering customer requests to follow on FB, Twitter? Ensure speed, agility, update question bank, post rating + customer reviews, check feedback and suggestions of apps and portals regularly?
10. How to ensure compliance with the code of ethics and handling of ethics with important instructions followed as a mandate: no data leakage, privacy violation, data sharing with third parties?
11. Keeping Customer Service employees motivated as happy employees will make customers happy.
12. The challenge of retaining customers and building loyalty. With better offers, every day customers switch to different Service providers.
An example where the service could be improved (even though their app is user friendly but some requests where the customer can’t rely on the app alone)
1. Paytm: To complete the KYC (Know Your Customer) process, the customer must visit the nearest store or the payment clerk visits the customer to fulfill the process requirements. These guys seem to be untrained, lack a helpful attitude and professionalism. The company here lacks in setting expectations and training its customer service staff.
2. Ola/Uber: Their app and Call Center are great. However, due to relying on third parties, sometimes taxis are not clean, drivers speak rudely or don’t follow the route listed on the map or arrive late for pick up. In such cases, the Taxi Company must have very strict audits and regular checks to catch the violators.
3. Amazon/Flipkart: They rely on third party couriers for more than 40% of their shipments and these couriers make false commitments which often lead to delays. And no one takes ownership of any delays or losses.
Whatever the communication channel, what do customers want?
A. Provide Mobile Access That Simplifies Their Tasks. Customers want and need information.
B. Take responsibility for your business and its actions. Your employee made a mistake.
C. Communicating Solutions.
D. Providing the Best Service.
In short, give them what they really want that no one else has to offer.