It’s no secret that a strong customer service strategy is the cornerstone of a successful business. Even if your products or services are exceptional, if the customer experience is tainted with one poor interaction, customer loyalty can be lost.
A stellar customer support strategy is meant to enhance the consumer experience as they interact with your brand. Whether they’re curious about the product and have questions, are making a purchase, or need to return something, the steps to accomplish this should be easy and engaging.
But it’s not enough to simply create a strategy and let it run its course. A company must be constantly working to maintain and improve the customer experiences for continued revenue growth. Let’s explore some of the most effective ways to sustain your customer service strategy.
6 Ways to Maintain a Strong Customer Service Strategy
We all know that consumer relations are an important area for businesses to gain a competitive advantage, improve employee and customer engagement and, perhaps most importantly, retain loyal customers. HubSpot recently found that only a 5% increase in customer retention has the potential to increase revenue by 25-95%.
It’s incredibly important to retain customers, not only because it’s more expensive to acquire new ones, but because repeat purchases have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a business’s bottom line. Here are six ways your organization can maintain your customer relationship strategy to improve the consumer experience and, in turn, retention rates and sales:
1. Continue to Communicate With Customers
From surveys and reviews to VOC and other tracking methods, organizations should be constantly communicating and collecting data to determine customer satisfaction long after they have made a purchase. In HubSpot’s “The State of Customer Service in 2020” report, they concluded that companies with high growth are more likely to understand their customers’ thoughts and sentiments about their brand. Some of the most successful strategies included tracking customer happiness and collecting direct feedback through a satisfaction survey.
Finding this information doesn’t need to be difficult or costly, simply continue to reach out to buyers throughout the customer journey and after-sales process. Ask them to complete quick surveys and monitor reviews to make positive changes and ensure customers feel heard.
2. Close the Feedback Loop
On the topic of feedback, it’s not only important to collect it; companies must also work to acknowledge it. When a customer reaches out to explain their negative experience or writes a less-than-stellar review on social media, there’s an opportunity to improve how they view your brand. According to CMS Wire, closing the loop means a company directly responds to customer feedback, no matter if it’s positive or negative.
Continue and end the conversation by offering to make changes or ask the customer to try their brand again while providing them with a discount to reduce churn. At the same time, if a customer leaves a positive review and a brand responds with a thank you, this can increase brand loyalty and turn passive consumers into promoters. Reaching out to consumers this way is proactive customer service.
3. Create a Longstanding Program
There’s no better way to increase customer and employee engagement than by encouraging them to interact and become brand promoters. Creating long-term programs dedicated to understanding the consumer, are great opportunities to receive and study feedback and turn it into action.
Customer-facing programs, like rewards and referrals, make existing customers feel like their individual experience is important, and introduces new consumers to the product or service in an exciting way from a trustworthy friend.
4. Invest in Self-Service Solutions
In the same 2020 HubSpot report, the company was surprised to find that building self-service solutions is a low priority (No. 10 out of 12 options) among businesses. Self-service solutions essentially help customers help themselves. Just like how a self-checkout at the supermarket can help shoppers who are in a rush and only need a few items purchase them quickly, tools like chatbots and other automation can create a better experience for online shoppers.
They can receive answers to their questions quickly, saving both them and the organization time. As customer expectations continue to grow and service teams must do more, self-service tools help everyone have a better experience and be more efficient.
5. Use Automation to Create a Personal Experience
Maintaining your customer service experience is all about continuously improving the interactions consumers have with your brand, and a big part of that is personalization. At a high level, this means knowing their customer history and personalizing interactions to treat them like a person and not just a transaction number. More specifically, it can also be about providing them with unique offers and opportunities that they would like.
Of course, getting to know a customer personally takes a lot of time and effort. It’s impractical to expect a customer service team to understand the intricacies of each customer, but that’s where having a unified customer data platform and automation can help. Smart chatbots with access to unified customer data can be used to a business’s advantage. While artificial intelligence of this nature isn’t a replacement of your people-savvy staff, they are an easy way to make customers feel heard and make their experience more immediate, without sacrificing personalization.
6. Improve Your Digital Customer Service
As more customers than ever make purchases online, it’s important for companies to improve their digital customer service strategy in hand with their in-person interactions. On top of utilizing automation and self-service tools that can quickly collect data and diagnose problems, digital systems must be integrated with other information stores for seamless customer experience.
Customers require access to support in whatever medium is most convenient to them in the moment. For instance, if they are shopping on your mobile app for the first time and have trouble navigating, there should be an effortless way to contact customer service within the app, vs. having to switch devices or channels. Today’s customers expect an easy and hands-off experience, and digital tools can help businesses achieve this by providing a seamless process for resolving problems.
Strive to Improve Your Customer Service Strategy
As you work to maintain an excellent customer service strategy, you should expect to make changes to your processes along the way. As you receive customer feedback and data, you may uncover untapped opportunities to improve their experience and use their advice to the benefit of your organization.
Customer service technology can help you maintain and improve your approach to customer service. Kustomer empowers your service team to deliver an exceptional and personalized brand experience driven by unified data and customer insights.
There’s an unlimited number of opportunities to impress customers and deliver an experience beyond their expectations, and the right tools help you capitalize on them. We are always keeping up with the latest trends to provide the solutions our partners need, to create, execute and maintain an exceptional customer service strategy. Request a demo today to schedule your quick 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help your business thrive.
While at times 2020 can feel like a real-life “Black Mirror” episode, it did force many CX teams to transform at lightspeed, re-evaluating how they got their work done and what a successful customer service interaction looked like. According to research conducted by Kustomer in April 2020, 79% of customer service organizations reported that COVID-19 had impacted them significantly.
But 90% of those organizations also believe that customer service is more important than ever in these times of crisis. Many organizations are struggling to understand when they’ll go back to “business as usual”. And the fact of the matter is, they likely never will. The new way of working that 2020 forced upon CX teams will have lingering effects, and consumers are now used to doing business in a whole new way. We’ve outlined the changes and challenges we predict will stick around into 2021 and beyond, and how organizations should prepare to cope with them long-term.
Digital Transformation Is Here to Stay
Practically overnight CX organizations were forced to work entirely remotely. Some agents didn’t even have laptop computers to work from home with, others had slow internet making it nearly impossible to handle inquiries in laggy legacy systems. According to Kustomer research during COVID-19, 39% of CX professionals reported difficulty working remotely, and 23% reported that they did not have the correct tools in place to successfully work in a remote environment.
More than five months later, many organizations have put processes in place and applied technology bandaids to make remote work function. And the good news is, it’s entirely possible to deliver efficient and effective support in a remote environment. According to PWC, 82% of office workers would prefer to continue working remotely, at least part of the time, even after COVID-19 has subsided. And a whopping 73% of executives say working remotely has been a success.
These shifting attitudes are here to stay, and provide many added benefits to organizations. Workers have more flexibility in their schedule and save time commuting, and businesses can potentially garner cost-savings by downsizing office space and cutting back on in-office perks. So while some organizations have implemented temporary fixes to get through this quick shift to digital-first, a long-term technology solution to enable smart remote work is now imperative.
Customers Want You to Show Them They’re Valued
During times of crisis, customer needs change. 2020 has never made that more apparent. Some organizations chose to shift their success metrics away from average handle time, as customers demanded (and valued) longer interactions. Zappos even opened a customer service line that people could call to chat about literally anything … even if it was completely unrelated to shoes. According to our COVID-19 research, CX teams reported that customers valued empathetic service above all other customer service attributes during the pandemic.
This shift in consumer expectations may have boiled over in these strange, isolating times, but customer expectations have long been shifting in that direction. Customers aren’t satisfied with being treated as ticket #12558369, that needs to be resolved as quickly as possible without any real human emotion or interaction. They want to be treated like a valued customer, with real thoughts, emotions, feedback and values.
As AI and automation take on more of the busy work in the CX space, and more consumers shift to online vs. in-store shopping, customer service agents will take on a much more important — and challenging — role. They will become the face of the company, reflecting its values and building lifelong relationships. Think of all of the DTC disruptor brands with cult-like followings — yes they have chic branding, but they’ve also built a community of advocates based on how they treat (and value) their customer base. We could all take a page out of their book.
CX Will Be More Important Than Ever
It’s clear that the “Superhero of 2020” award should go to customer service teams. The influx in customer service inquiries, the immensely challenging questions, the need to provide empathy and humanity during an incredibly stressful time … all were imperative in a strange and stressful year. But good customer service can do more than just solve a customer’s problem. It can also proactively drive revenue.
Kustomer’s recent consumer research looked at data across generations, and one thing is clear: younger generations demand, and value, excellent service. Consumers aged 18-24 ranked customer service as the number one attribute when choosing where to do business (whereas the general population ranked it below price). Additionally, younger generations are more willing than older generations to pay a premium for good service (61% of consumers 34 and younger vs. 48% of consumers 55+), and they are willing to pay more of a premium at that (20% of consumers 18-24 are willing to spend up to 15% more for exceptional service, vs. only 7% of consumers 55+).
This demographic data allows us to take a peek into the future. In the next five or ten years, these individuals will become heads of households, and customer service will determine where they spend their money, and how much they spend. It is imperative to prepare now for what is to come — and exceptional service is no longer optional.
Want our full list of predictions, along with tips on how to deliver exceptional service in 2021? Download the full guide here.
In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Paolo Fabrizio, author, speaker, and customer service expert to discuss digital customer service. Paolo has plenty of experience working with the integration of digital channels and with hiring and training digital customer service assistants. Paolo does this by leveraging conversations in social media, live chat and instant messaging apps for various industries with his knowledge of the digital landscape. Given his past experience and insightful courses, businesses would benefit from his advice on this episode. Listen to the full podcast below.
What is a Digital Customer Experience?
Paolo starts his conversation with Gabe by defining digital customer experience. This type of service is the conversation happening with the customer over digital channels. When Paolo refers to digital customer service or digital channels, he focuses on three main types: social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps. By learning to leverage these platforms and channels, businesses will notice an increase in customer satisfaction. To further define digital customer experience, Paolo states, “Digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations, to retain and attract customers.” Simply using the digital channels is not enough, instead these tools should be used with purpose and strategy.
The Digital Customer Service Assistant
Paolo goes on to discuss the importance of the characteristics of successful customer service reps in the digital realm. There are different skills required for reps in digital customer service than in more traditional channels. He says, “One of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message. That makes a difference.” Having this ability to empathetically communicate with the customer builds a sense of trust between the customer and the emotionally intelligent rep. It’s this empathetic communication that initially assures the customer that the agent will take care of their needs. Due to the dynamics of the digital platform, being able to immediately detect the tone of the customer and their needs will help harbor a more efficient and productive customer experience.
Courses to Help Your Customer Service Team Embrace the Digital Landscape
Lastly, Paolo speaks about three of his courses he offers on his website: Road Map, Coaching, and Crisis Response. The “Road Map” course offers help with designing an effortless experience when creating a customer journey map. By creating an effective journey map, especially when it comes to digital platforms, businesses will see customer satisfaction improve. The second course, “Coaching,” widely demanded by an array of customer service managers, helps to integrate customer service management skills into the digital realm. Paolo goes on to introduce his newest course titled, “Crisis Response.” Paolo mentions that this course helps everyone from managers to smaller teams with how to develop, “Your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.” These courses are available through Paolo’s website, customerserviceculture.com. These three principles, journey mapping, management skills, and crisis response are frequently discussed among traditional CX channels. As businesses learn to apply them to their digital platforms, their customer service team will be able to keep improving with the industry and the customer.
To learn more about digital customer service and the work of Paolo Fabrizio, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Digital Customer Service Revolution with Paolo Fabrizio
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about digital customer service and to do that, we brought on author, speaker, customer service expert, Paolo Fabrizio. Paolo, thanks for joining and how are you?
Paolo Fabrizio: (00:26)
Fine, thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:28)
Yeah, well, Paolo, we were just talking pre show a little bit about him being in Milan, Italy, and with all that’s going on in the world. I’m glad to hear that he is safe and secure, at least for the moment. So that was all good news to hear. Today, as I mentioned, we’re going to talk a little bit about digital customer service. Paolo, can you take just a minute and tell us maybe just a little bit more about yourself and kind of what you do?
Paolo Fabrizio: (00:54)
Yeah. Well, I have clients and integrate digital channels. When I say digital, I refer to three main pillars, which are social media, live chat, and instant messaging apps that will have clients of many various industries integrate such channels and hire and train digital customer service assistants — maybe we’ll talk about this topic later — and also helping managers manage new digital teams, setting up new KPIs as for digital channels and sometimes software selection. So I think we’ve got something that’s struggling together, talking about [inaudible] products and doing a lot of interesting stuff here in Italy and also in Europe as well.
Gabe Larsen: (01:40)
I love it. Oh, wow. Yeah. Well we better talk a little more. I didn’t realize there was so much connection on the software side as well. We’ll do that post post recording here. Awesome. Well, let’s dive into this topic maybe just for the big picture– you were touching on a little bit, but for those of us who aren’t as familiar with digital customer service, how would you define that? Or kind of label it, big picture?
Paolo Fabrizio: (02:02)
Yeah. Well, my first idea and what I bring with passion and every day is that digital customer service is not just using digital tools, digital platforms or digital channels; it’s taking care of each digital conversation you have with your customers in order to leverage conversations to retain and attract customers. So, I’ve always– I’ve been working so many years within companies before becoming a consultant five years ago, and I had the chance to cover so many customer facing roles. But I’ve seen then, and I still see sometimes today, that customer service organization is still much underrated. And it’s still much seen as a cost area instead of a profit area. The only way to turn this key and to turn this engine on is to work on interaction and conversations. So we’re living in a world where everything is based on speed and time. So if you make my time wasting, I get disappointed. If you let me save my time, I will be more– I will tend to stay with you for a longer time. So in terms of loyalty, that makes a difference; how quick we are and how effective we are makes a difference.
Gabe Larsen: (03:26)
No, I love that. And I think that’s obviously what we’re all looking for especially as times have changed, we need to be more and more effective. How do you kind of think about this question, I think it comes up often, it’s kind of the agents versus digital customer service assistance or people versus technology? How do you kind of talk through that when we think of this customer service, this digital customer service concept?
Paolo Fabrizio: 03:53)
Yeah. The starting point is that there are a lot of people doing a great job, helping customers using traditional channels, such as phone or email.
Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
Paolo Fabrizio: (04:04)
But what I’ve seen as a consultant in many various industry is that if you let them change and switch from a traditional channel and let them handle the same customer, talking about the same topic on apps, on live chat, on social media, sometimes they make a mess because they are not ready, even though they got a big– a long expertise. They’re not ready to handle that situation because there are new factors that emerge on conversations across digital channels. In fact, one of the most important traits that I look for when I hire agents in order to let them become digital customer service assistants is emotional intelligence. The ability to build empathy is the ability to instantly detect customer’s sentiment from the very first incoming message, that makes a difference. So it’s partially a brand new job, even though we’re talking about sometimes very experienced people doing a great job. And after a couple of years — talking about this topic on my books and on my other online activities — last year I started working a lot with clients here in Italy and Europe to help them hire and train internally or sometimes externally — if they work with outsources — people who had some specific experience traits and some other areas of their potential that can be a power working on that. And we’ve seen great results after six or 12 months after they started to benchmark the results of these small digital team insight within customer service and the major, the bigger one, working on traditional channels. So they noticed. I got a client, the retail area, supermarket area that after 12 months they experienced that they’re small seven people team of digital customer service got one point better at customer satisfaction, four stars compared to the 3.2 of their same room, big traditional channel customer service. They increased 25% productivity. So in their peak hour, which is between 11:00 and 12:00 AM, they usually serve between six, eight customers over the phone. And they served between 15 and 17 customers over digital, especially on the social. So, you can enjoy, I wouldn’t say immediate, but very, very fast, great results in terms of productivity and also from the customer side, which is crucial customer satisfaction.
Gabe Larsen: (06:55)
And how do you, I mean, you touched on this a little bit, but how do you train them and hire them differently? I mean, we have kind of the standard agents, but then this is kind of a new world. These are sometimes different channels. What does that look like? Is it a lot different in the way you trained, is a lot different the type of people you hire?
Paolo Fabrizio: (07:11)
Yeah. Yeah. Because sometimes I’m working with different industries and also different structures, different people in terms of the level of expertise. But, my approach is more or less the same. Of course I customize, but the first thing for me is to listen and watch and analyze what they’re doing now. So I’ve got a first assessment step, which is also made online, of course, and then I’m able to detect what’s not working in their conversations. So I can find the pain points from the customer side, having worked so many years on the other side, okay, within companies; and after detecting the pain points, I define with managers, new guidelines, do’s and don’ts and tone of voice. And then I start working with them with the HR manager or customer service manager together to select a small group of people based on the current and predictable volumes of digital conversations. And I prepared, and I usually assess people with private personal interviews, temporize tests based on sentiment detections–
Gabe Larsen: (08:26)
Paolo Fabrizio: (08:26)
— and then other tests. So I am able to learn how much they are motivated to leave the contact center. So do you want to lift the phone, or are you willing to roll your sleeves and try to learn something new? And second, do you have just a customer service approach or do you also have a commercial sales approach, which is very important when you deal on public channels, such as social media or online review sites? So I’m looking for those traits and when we define, when we hire together a small group starting from small, and then scalable group of people. I prepare and deploy a training program, which is usually divided into three steps, a workshop based on the guidelines we already set and define with management line.
Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Paolo Fabrizio: 09:18)
Half of the time, try exercise. Exercise on your platform, on client’s platform, dealing with real live conversations with customers.
Gabe Larsen: (09:28)
Paolo Fabrizio: (09:29)
So in the morning, there is theory; new guidelines, new laws, so to say. In the afternoon, you need it to apply so you can fix and realize what are the issues that you may find. After a couple of weeks, a follow up with a laboratory training in the morning and checking out what’s going on or what needs to be fixed in the afternoon. And the third part is that one to one coaching in order to get a consistent tone of voice by each of the digital customer service assistants. So it’s pretty articulate, but very interesting.
Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah, no, I love it. Interesting. I didn’t want to go into this too much, but it is very interesting. We talked a little bit about this idea. You’re really focusing on the digital side of it. And when you have– I just feel like those channels are more underused, right? As you said, they’re not the typical channels, phone and email are the typical channels. When companies are handling support through social media or live chat messaging apps, what are some of the peculiarities that you see, some of the differences you see when you work with some of these companies through those channels? Anything you could share there?
Paolo Fabrizio: (10:41)
Well, I still see many mistakes. So the first mistake is not considering how important an incoming message through social is, but it’s important if the same message is delivered through email. So in terms of “Shall I respond?, When do I need to respond?” So in terms of considering what the customer’s expectations are. So today, if you ask a question to a customer service through email, you may expect a response within 20, 24 hours maybe, or less. But if you send the same question, which is a neutral question, no urgency through Facebook, you expect an answer. You’re telling me that you expect an answer within six or eight hours. And if you use Twitter, you expect it within three hours. In motorway lanes, so email is the slow lane. Social is lower. Facebook is low. Twitter is very, very, very slow. So I’m using all the– pushing on the throttle to overcome the rest of the cars. So, first of all, you need to realize what’s behind the use of different channels. Then you need to customize the content because I usually work on what’s been said. I always say that if you write an excellent answer on this, on this paper, right? It’s an excellent answer for the customer. But if you use the most wonderful platform and you write bullshit, that’s bullshit. And that does not really depend on the platform or the access of it. So you need to customize, and beware that you need to change tone of voice moving from, switching from a digital channel to another. So social media– sorry, Facebook has got an informal party voice; Twitter, more journalistic, pragmatic tone of voice, live chat: professional informal, instant messaging between social and live chat? And then there are also other things when you have a live chat conversation, which to me is the most difficult channel to be served by agents because it’s a live direct conversation like the one we’re having right now. It’s like having a phone conversation. You cannot distract. You cannot check things for two minutes without advising what you’re doing, otherwise, the customer think, “Are you still alive, are you having another conversation? You’re not interested in me?” So you need to, taking care of each detail in terms of tone of voice, in terms of rules of engagement– engagement rules, and other things. This is much underrated. Still now, even though here in Italy and Europe something’s changing very, very rapidly in the last 12 months.
Gabe Larsen: (13:40)
But a lot of them moving more towards this type of stuff, I assume, correct?
Paolo Fabrizio: (13:47)
Gabe Larsen: (13:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Interesting Paolo, I love this topic. I just feel like there’s so many people who are starting to see the benefits and really the customers are pushing them towards this digital, these digital channels that they weren’t as used to before. No more is phone and email. I mean, certainly those are still the primary ones, but so many businesses are experiencing some of these and I think you’re right on the cusp of, we did some training. We need to know how to use them, why to use them, how to integrate them, how to train around them, et cetera. So if someone wants to learn a little bit more about you or some of the stuff you do, what’s the best way to do that?
Paolo Fabrizio: (14:23)
Well, the best way to do it is to have a look at my website, which is called customerserviceculture.com. Then from mid-April on, it will be totally translated into English. That’s good news, including new blog posts. And also my online training courses will be available also for English speaking.
Gabe Larsen: (14:43)
And what are those courses?
Paolo Fabrizio: (14:46)
You know, the main focus are three. So the first is called the roadmap. It helps you develop a digital customer service strategic plan. So where should I start from with video lessons and other interactions? The second one Is called coaching digital customer service managers. And it’s been demanded by customer service managers, who are experienced, that need to integrate their digital skills. One-to-one live coaching. The third one, the newest one, is called crisis response and it’s also extending not just to managers, but also to small teams of five people. And where we work on your conversations across social channels, in order to help you optimize the quality of your conversations and be able to handle even very complex situations and conversations.
Gabe Larsen: (15:40)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, Paolo, I really appreciate that. We’ll make sure we include some of that information so everyone can check that out. Thank you again for joining and hope you have a fantastic day.
Paolo Fabrizio: (15:51)
Thank you so much, indeed. Best of luck for Kustomer.
Exit Voice: (16:00)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
We recently held an exclusive invitation-only online Speakeasy with CX executives in California. These leaders ranged from digitally-focused to family-run organizations, across all sizes and industries. The primary purpose of the event was to engage our Kustomer community to discuss complex topics during these difficult times. The conversations naturally flowed from how their businesses are handling the COVID-19 crisis, to transformation while resources are crunched, and finally their top three strategies for success.
What Is Being Done NOW
An executive began by reciting a quote from their CEO: “don’t let a good crisis go to waste.” And boy did that ring true. A key theme that kept surfacing was the importance of unifying product and CX. It’s critical to get buy-in and support from product and engineering around co-owning the CX goals. For instance, you may set a goal for the amount of CS contacts per thousand transactions, and the product team should take this information into account during development.
Several other executives stated that they had a growth problem during the pandemic. Finding the right resources to help the business scale was an issue. Others stated that their CX issues were a mixture of stagnation and scale, and they were seeking to optimize workflows to minimize the impact of furloughs. Regardless of whether the business was scaling or contracting, everyone agreed that baseline tickets were rising and removing friction between product, engineering and support was critical. A great example of this success was raised during the conversation: “How many times have you issued a support request to Netflix?” Most everyone responded: never.
Transformation While Resources Are Crunched
There is an old technology world competing with a new technology world that is now thriving. Is the old technology still relevant? Many organizations are moving towards modern technology and digital transformation.
One executive stated that they were part of the old school class of folks who thought that CX couldn’t be done from home. And yet, they transitioned their CX team to work from home in a week. Interestingly, the CX leader started the process a few weeks before COVID hit as she had a funny feeling. They configured laptops and had them out to agents who previously did not have access to laptops at all.
Another executive stated that their agents, based in London and Austin, already had laptops to successfully work from home, but 200 agents in the US needed monitors to work from multiple screens. Employees came back to the office for basic accessories like chords and power plugs. There was some hesitation about voice quality or even security using home computers, but that went away after the first week. The pandemic accelerated their business continuity plan and now challenges occur more due to kids, school and scheduling.
Many companies saw a surge in volume, so job enrichment and training had to be put on the backburner. They needed more people or more resources to get the job done. However, work from home presented some challenges around measuring metrics and understanding who can sustain remote work and who may not be up to par.
One executive stated, “I think there were people getting away with it at the office and the home office is not conducive to working. Kids are maybe getting in the way. Some folks are struggling and may not be candidates for working from home.”
Luckily, many individuals think technology can help. The CEO of one organization used to work at stodgy banks, and he doesn’t want that for his current company — he wants to be different. He wants to adopt AI and transform into a modern financial institution. Other executives stated that their companies were not as forward-looking on AI, and convincing management could often be a challenge.
Moving the Customer Experience Dial
A CX executive began the conversation by stating that moving the needle 1% is a good thing, and focusing on one single metric that does so could lead to success. In his case, it was support cost as a percentage of revenue. This metric scales because it is clear to everyone.
“If you double the revenue, you can double support costs,” he said. This metric sets a north star and ties every team back to the results. The CX group doesn’t own the code, the product or messaging, but once you touch the customer, you can take what the customer is saying back to the other departments. If a customer tells you a problem, it’s your job to take that problem to the business, and potentially increase revenue as a result.
Organic growth occurs when there is no friction. Look at a disruptive company like Netflix. You never contact Netflix support, and you don’t have friction. Everything slows down if you don’t eliminate friction.
Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste
It was overwhelmingly agreed that baseline tickets were rising and that it was important to remove friction between product, engineering and support. In a recent report by Kustomer, How the Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, the data mirrors the conversations at the Speakeasy. Our study found that 79% of customer service teams have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, while only 1% reported no change at all. Of the customer service representatives surveyed, 48% observed longer wait times for their customers, 39% reported a lack of resources and 64% said they needed greater efficiencies. According to reports, inquiries are up across phone, email, web and social media channels.
In order to address this, Brad Birnbaum, Kustomer CEO, recommends leveraging technology that can “automate low level support with the help of AI.” This allows a greater number of customers to be served immediately, while freeing up agents to deal with more-complex issues — and 57% of respondents said they were seeing more of these than normal.
To reiterate a comment from one of our CX leaders, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
Your Top Ten Takeaways
1. Do a better job of capturing feedback and delivering to the product team
2. Build a strong product team for better customer experience
3. Reduce CX costs by 50% under the notion of do no harm to the business
4. Offer personal value-based services
5. Innovate support solutions like an effortless experience
6. Improve the bottom line AND customer satisfaction
7. Improve knowledge of the product and industry across the company
8. Hire people with industry-specific knowledge
9. Implement self-service as customers want to serve themselves
10. Use all the data you have to make support an effortless experience
Just because your company offers around-the-clock customer service doesn’t necessarily mean you’re offering great service to your customers. Consumers who are attentive enough to reach out for assistance in the first place will always be able to spot the difference between above-and-beyond customer support and disjointed, sloppy service.
3 in 4 customers identify customer experience as a top consideration in their purchasing decisions.
2 in 3 find excellent customer service more compelling than marketing and advertising.
1 in 2 believes that most brands could improve their customer service.
1 in 3 would break up with a beloved brand after just one negative customer experience.
Certainly, the last thing you want your customers to experience is bad customer service following an already negative experience with your product or service. The type of customer service you deliver should matter to you because it matters to your customers.
But how can you treat your customers right? Well, you can start by exploring our essential customer service qualities list. Not only are the tactics below simply good skills to have for customer service, but they can have a direct impact on your business’s viability. By exhibiting the following customer service skills and qualities, you can help deliver an excellent experience, promote brand loyalty and ensure customer retention.
Great customer service starts with respect for the customer. During each and every customer interaction, it’s important to remember that each customer is a person — not a ticket — and to treat them accordingly. Simple ways to do this include using the customer’s name, thanking them for their patience and keeping your emotions in check, even if the customer starts to get worked up.
Additionally, providing personalized customer service through an omnichannel approach shows that you respect your customers’ time, energy and attention. If your customers find contacting you to be too laborious or time-consuming, you won’t be off to a great start. Instead, make it as easy as possible for them to reach you when they have issues or concerns.
2. Active Listening Skills
Active and effective listening is one of the most important qualities needed for customer service. It requires a deep and insightful understanding of what the customer is saying — and what they’re not saying. Only when you dedicate the time and attention to hearing the customer out completely can you begin to work toward a satisfactory resolution.
Showing that you’re concerned for the customer and attentive to their needs is all part of active listening. Be sure to stay present during all conversations, repeat the customer’s concerns or questions back to them as a confirmation and use the right tools to keep track of the information your customer has already provided.
To offer the most successful customer service, you’ll need to practice empathy and emotional intelligence. Being empathetic means putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and making an effort to understand the emotions they’re experiencing.
For instance, something as simple as a shipping delay can cause a lot of stress, especially if the customer purchased it for a loved one or a special occasion. And, even if your customer doesn’t articulate any specific emotional dilemma, recognize that their reason for contacting you is partly driven by feelings. In your interactions with the customer, demonstrate that you care about the things they care about and do your best to put their mind at ease without dismissing their concerns.
4. Strong Communication Skills
In addition to the above good customer service traits that relate to listening, it’s equally important to have the right approach when it comes to responding. Exceptional customer service skills include speaking clearly and articulately, providing just the right amount of information and asking the right questions at the right time. Even your choice of the right words and affirming phrases like “can,” “help” and “resolve” can point the customer service interaction toward a more positive conclusion.
5. A Positive Attitude
Speaking of positivity, another important customer service quality is a positive attitude. This, of course, should be paired with an empathetic approach so as to not dismiss your customer’s worries.
A warm, approachable demeanor is always appropriate, and, in the right moments, a dash of humor and a cheerful tone can help ensure customer satisfaction. Even when the going gets tough, a calm and positive outlook can help diffuse negativity and underscore the resolution you’re working toward.
Patience is a virtue — and it’s also one of the most important customer service rep skills, too. For agents tasked with assisting frustrated customers, solving challenging dilemmas and accommodating high volumes of customer service inquiries, patience isn’t always easy.
However, the ability to stay level-headed and attentive enough to follow a customer’s journey and reach a solution helps contribute toward an exceptional customer experience. After all, the last thing a frazzled customer wants to encounter is a customer service professional who loses their temper.
Determination goes hand in hand with patience and related customer care skills like tenacity, persistence and focus. Sometimes, the answer to a customer’s problem is not always obvious or immediate. It takes a determined and focused approach to get to the bottom of some issues, and just as much effort to ensure that things turn out the right way.
8. Product and Service Expertise
Deep knowledge of your products and services — and the confidence to talk about them in detail — are key customer service attributes. When a customer reaches out with a question, they certainly don’t want to end up speaking with someone who is just as clueless as they are. To thrive in customer service, you should know your product or service inside and out. Armed with essential information, you can more successfully and expediently understand your customers’ needs and find the right fixes.
9. Creative Problem-Solving Abilities
Adaptability, flexibility and an outside-the-box approach to customer dilemmas are some of the best skills to have for customer service success, especially when there’s no obvious right answer to the customer’s problem.
When customer service agents can confidently come up with creative solutions on their own, they won’t need to loop in a busy customer service manager for every issue that arises. As a result, customers will feel like they’re in good hands and are sure to appreciate the personalized assistance.
Providing efficient customer service is more important than ever. It doesn’t mean you should work through customer support inquiries as quickly as possible, though. Rather, efficiency means minimizing effort and maximizing results.
To do this, take advantage of chatbots and other AI tools to address your customers’ basic needs and gather information so that skilled customer service agents can jump in when their expertise is really needed. Additionally, adopt an omnichannel approach to provide customers and agents with the most streamlined process without repeated information or redundant responses.
Now that you’ve brushed up on the best customer service qualities, request a demo to find out how Kustomer’s CRM platform can help you embrace these critical characteristics and deliver personalized service to each and every customer.
In the realm of customer care, there’s tried-and-true, traditional customer service, and then there’s digital customer service. While there’s certainly plenty of overlap, the latter takes a more focused perspective and is designed to support digital consumers by taking their omnichannel customer journey into consideration.
This might have you wondering, what is digital customer service, exactly? And how can digital customer care improve the overall customer experience? Read on for answers to the most common digital customer service questions, plus tips and strategies for delivering a top-notch digital customer experience (DCX), no matter where your customers are.
What Is a Digital Customer?
A digital customer is someone who uses digital channels to connect with businesses, consume branded content and make purchases. These channels include web, mobile, social and email. They can maintain a relationship with a brand without ever setting foot in a brick-and-mortar establishment, but may communicate with brand representatives over live chat, email, text or the phone. Importantly, a digital customer may engage with a company across multiple channels.
What Is Digital Customer Experience?
The digital customer experience (DCX) encompasses all aspects of a customer’s interactions with a brand through digital channels, and the overall brand perception and satisfaction rate they’re left with as a result. This includes touchpoints like:
Visiting a website on mobile.
Viewing social media ads.
Browsing through products online.
Reading customer reviews.
Logging in to their personal account.
Testing out a promo code in the checkout.
Completing an online transaction.
Receiving an order confirmation email.
Connecting with an AI chatbot for assistance.
Processing a return online.
And every other step along the digital customer journey.
The collection of these activities and impressions, DCX, is also sometimes called digital client experience or digital consumer experience. In most cases, it can also be considered an omnichannel customer experience, given the way in which customers will approach the same brand from various channels.
As a result, another important aspect of DCX is the customer’s experience when switching between channels. For instance, when hopping from a mobile device to a laptop to take a closer look at a product saved in their shopping cart, most online shoppers wouldn’t think twice about the logistical considerations related to making that a seamless experience. But, if siloed systems require the customer to run the same search and provide the same basic information over and over again, the experience probably won’t leave a great lasting impression.
What Is Digital Customer Service?
Customer support has drastically changed over the past two decades to accommodate these somewhat elusive digital consumer behaviors and high customer expectations. Over the next few years, customer service experts predict that ensuring consistency across customer touchpoints will be a top priority for businesses.
But even today, customers look for a rich support experience that efficiently and effectively meets their needs. Simply put, digital customer service, or digital customer care, is what businesses must provide to help meet the needs of their digital customers.
But it’s not just about solving a ticket in a transactional manner; it’s part of a whole new customer engagement philosophy. The best digital customer service approach works toward building and cultivating a great relationship with customers. In this relationship, the brand treats the customer as a real person with a name and a history and a habit of hopping from one digital channel to another.
Additionally, it requires a proactive strategy wherein the business anticipates as many of its customers’ needs and expectations as possible ahead of time — and addresses these with the right infrastructure. Then, when a particular issue arises, the digital customer service team can work toward a personalized solution within an already supportive environment.
How Can Digital Customer Service Improve Your Customer Experience?
To provide successful digital customer service, brands must be able to support customer needs anytime, anywhere. And, the customer should always be able to pick up right where they left off. One-third of consumers agree that the tedious process of having to re-introduce and explain themselves to multiple agents is one of the most frustrating aspects of customer service experiences, according to Hubspot.
However, Accenture found that 91% of customers are more likely to purchase from brands that recognize them by name, remember their purchase history and provide personalized offers and product recommendations. With the right tools in place, brands can deliver the best digital customer experience possible, solve issues as they arise and even provide incentives and suggestions that are tailored to the customer’s interests and past activity. Great digital customer service promotes customer satisfaction and retention.
Moreover, exceptional service can increase customer acquisition through word-of-mouth and reviews. A study from American Express revealed that, on average, U.S. consumers will discuss a negative customer experience with 15 people but would share a good experience with 11 people. The numbers go up to 17 and 15, respectively, for millennial consumers. So, a positive DCX not only stops negative feedback from spreading like wildfire, but it also leaves favorable brand impressions with about a dozen additional consumers for each satisfied customer.
How Can You Provide Excellent Digital Customer Service?
In order to provide seamless digital customer service and a seamless DCX, you’ll need to direct your efforts toward digital customer experience management. Let’s explore a few best practices to work into your strategy.
First, take advantage of automation, AI and self-service tools that can quickly collect data and diagnose problems. When a customer need arises, these tools can allow customers to access immediate information — and potentially a quick solution. Or, they can collect the most important details and open a customer support conversation. The best tools will be able to manage or assign conversations and even deliver automated messages based on certain triggers you’ve identified, saving you time and energy to address more complex customer needs.
Next, make sure you’re set up with a system that stores and transfers customer data to support more seamless customer care. For instance, a skilled customer service agent who is prepared with the background information gathered by a chatbot can get right to work solving more complex issues. The customer service team will appear more capable and expedient when they don’t have to backtrack. Plus, customers have come to expect customer service handoffs that are as seamless as their digital browsing and buying experiences.
Finally, remember to gather customer feedback on the support and overall DCX you’re providing after each digital customer interaction. When customers have a chance to offer their opinions, they typically feel more satisfied with the interaction overall. Plus, you can use customers’ valuable feedback to improve your processes.
Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?
Our tools equip some of the best digital customer experience companies and most beloved brands out there. Request a Kustomer demo to find out how.