The following post was written by Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research.
Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. There’s an explosion of communication channels that customers use—voice, digital channels like email and chat, and social channels like Facebook and Twitter. There’s also an explosion of touchpoints, like smartphones, tablets, and self-service kiosks. Customers expect efficient, consistent, personalized service experiences across these channels and touchpoints.
There’s no denying that mastering the service experience is hard to do. Yet focusing on leveraging digital channels is one way customer service leaders can move the needle on customer experiences.
Understand who your customers are. Customers know what good service is, and demand it from each interaction they have, over any communication channel that they use. Forrester’s data shows that customer demographics affect channel preference, with the younger generation more apt to use digital and online self-service channels. More than that, the channel mix changes rapidly. In the last two years, we have seen chat usage increase by 18 percent, SMS by 20 percent, and Twitter by 19 percent. Start by pinpointing the channels that your customers want to use, deploy them according to best practices, and monitor their uptake rates, which will change over time.
Don’t offer digital silos. Customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you over the most suitable channel for them at that point in time—which could be their mobile device, a chat session, a phone call, email, or Web self-service from their iPad. They expect to start a conversation on one channel and continue it over another without having to restart the conversation. To do this, channels must be well integrated so that agents have a full view of all customer interactions. This is harder than it sounds—only 21 percent of IT leaders report that multichannel integration is one of their current top priorities.
Understand what your customers are trying to do. Steer your customers to use the right channel for their questions, and maximize the value of that channel for them. For example, don’t let them use email for time-sensitive requests—guide them toward a live-assist channel like chat or the phone. Don’t blindly port your Web self-service capabilities to mobile devices. Look at their value-add capabilities—such as the built-in camera or geolocating features of these devices—and use them to add value to the interaction.
Get away from one-size-fits-all service. Customers expect personalized service—they expect you to know who they are, their purchased products, their service issues, and their channel preference. In addition, they would like to know whether you have read and responded to their feedback. To be able to deliver a personalized service experience, customer service applications need to be integrated with other systems that hold customer information—customer databases, commerce platforms, product recommendation engines, Web content management systems, and marketing automation apps, to name a few
These pointers are just the tip of the iceberg in crafting winning customer service operations. There’s also the selection of the right technologies and the implementation of the right business processes. Crafting a good service experience is a job that is never finished. Monitor your success, listen to the changing needs of customers, and evolve your offering to stay true to their needs.