Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington

Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer are joined by Edmund Ovington to learn the secrets to breaking down language barriers. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Why Your Team Needs Language Translation Software

VP of Global Alliances at Unbabel, Edmund Ovington shares why language translation software is a hot topic in the world of CX and how leaders could greatly benefit from these services. As a CX leader, it should be a priority to relate to your customers on a personal level, as this generally leads to higher NPS scores and overall customer satisfaction. For the many companies that are struggling to expand globally, Edmund suggests investing in the superpower of resilience: language translation software.

And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay if no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine.”

The way these services work is through asynchronous communication, meaning there are multiple platforms that this translation method works through. The easiest is email; however, Edmund mentions that instant messaging or live chat works just as well. When a customer sends a message in another language, Unbabel instantly translates their words into the preferred language of the agent, and vice versa for instant digital communication.

Thinking Globally

Platforms such as Unbabel make it easy for companies to broaden their reach on a global scale without building in other countries and having to hire droves of native speaking employees. It offers internal benefits by allowing companies to stay centralized at an already well-developed location all while providing customer service benefits across the map. As Vikas points out, “It goes back to acting globally and thinking locally.” When a company removes that language barrier by adopting a mode of active translation, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for relationships with consumers on a much larger playing field.

You can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak.

Tools that enable brands to expand their reach are especially useful for leaders because they help to remove the extra steps for effective communication. Companies that use such tools have been able to enter certain markets and grow within those markets without friction.

Building a Deeper Connection with Customers

Lasting customer loyalty is earned through the creation of meaningful connections. Customers feel more confident in brand interactions when they can use their native language because it’s the language they’re most comfortable using. It can be exhaustive and frustrating for customers who don’t speak English fluently to communicate with customer experience agents who don’t speak their native language. When these customers can relate to an agent that speaks their native language, it wins the company major points and a deeper connection with that customer. They’ll stay loyal to the brand and continue coming back because they know they’re heard and understood. “You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections.” Breaking language barriers and taking advantage of tools like Unbabel will make your brand known for going above and beyond customer expectations; for doing more than just the bare minimum.

To learn more about international communication and building customer relationships regardless of language, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Removing Language Barriers to Enhance the Customer Experience | Edmund Ovington

TRANSCRIPT
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about language resilience and this expansion of key superpowers. To do that, we have two special guests and I’ll just let them take a second and introduce themselves. Let’s start with Edmund. You’re up.

Edmund Ovington: (00:25)
Hey Gabe. Hey Vikas. Lovely to be here. Thanks for having me. My name is Edmund. I am the VP of Global Alliances here at Unbabel. Based in Atlanta and excited to chat today.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
And Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:43)
Awesome. Awesome. And you know me. I run Marketing over here at Kustomer. So, I mean, let’s start big picture. We talked about this idea of resilience and it’s definitely very relevant in this post-COVID CX world. Why is it so important in customer service and how is it actually a superpower?

Edmund Ovington: (01:00)
Yeah. You know, this year has been interesting and I guess the truth is the, whereas a lot of people have probably stood on stage and talked about resilience and agility and flexibility for a long, long time. Actually doing it has probably come back to roost this year and it’s been a fun test of whether people are just talking or already walking. So yeah, with language, I really think about this idea of two aspects. One being, if you’re a growing company, how easy is it for you to launch new markets, testings, but then also what happens if things go wrong? If regulatory means you get shut out of the market and you can’t deploy as you thought, or as the macro economic climate changes or whatever, and how you set up from day one to deal with that. Deal with the tumultuous journey that every scale-up consumer company faces, especially in a interesting world where you can kind of sell anywhere.

Edmund Ovington: (02:04)
You don’t really know where your demand is going to come from. And the world is not as controlled as maybe it was if you’d launched a business 20 years ago. And then the other side is if you’re a very large company selling to consumers again, this year is a great example of how do you maintain and how do you have the DNA to keep an amazing experience for everyone globally when the world is changing so much, right? Whether it’s country shutting down or whether it’s suddenly, you’re not able to ship things to people because borders are sharp, whatever it might be. How do you keep the integrity of your expectations, your own bar of excellence around customer experience without just constantly firefighting, right? How do you keep some sort of strategy, some sort of thread rod through the middle? And we’re finding, we’re all seeing obviously that the best companies in the world have set themselves up for this, that they’d really built this in from the day one and they’re not now scrambling to put it together.

Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, Vikas, you’ve seen this globally. In many cases, languages plays a role, it kind of can make or break the customer service experience. Why do you feel important as companies think about expanding globally that they consider language as part of that expansion?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
Well, I think first and foremost, I think what Edmund alluded to is that the barriers to entering new markets has reduced greatly, right? Yes, there are regulatory; however, distribution, technology from a commerce perspective, there’s amazing platforms out there that allows you to do the currency of the tax. And you can get up and running pretty quickly. And then distribution into these new markets, it has become a less friction, more frictionless, right? So I think that’s a great opportunity for any DTC brand, any retailer, any fintech company, et cetera.

Gabe Larsen: (03:55)
Yeah. Go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
The flip side then is if you’re going to do business in these markets, how do you kind of act globally, think locally? And I think that’s where language plays such a strong role, especially in building that customer relationship. It’s not enough to have your website or your app available in that local language, but now when people actually engage you, are you showing empathy and a desire to transact with them? We think about this at Kustomer, this concept of the me. The me and the consumer, right? And the consumer wants to be, they don’t want you to think of you as an American brand or a British brand, right? Yes, you might be but I don’t want to do business with you in your language, do business with me in my language. And I think that’s where we’re seeing the customer experience evolve to.

Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Has this been around a while, you guys? It seems like to your point, Vikas, people are so focused on the first part of the experience. The website needed to be in the language or the, but now it’s shifted. Like you have to have this post-sales experience in something that is not about you, but about them. Was there, is that, did I miss that? Or is that a newer trend?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:05)
No, it’s been around forever. However, it was something that was only available to the multinationals, right? Because at the end of the day, the way you went about it, in the olden days, quote unquote, for some of us who’ve been in the industry for 20 years, is you went and hired local language speakers, right? And so we’re going to do business in the Czech Republic. So we’re going to go and hire people that either speak or can write and track if that’s how we want to do business. And don’t want to force them to speak to us in English only. Well that doesn’t work if you’re a high growth DTC brand with a team of 20 and the team might be a mix of English and Spanish speakers. So I think technology was a limiting factor and it was something that was only available to these multi-nationals and Edmund, I’m sure this is something you can speak to because obviously this is your bread and butter.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, Edmund, what do you say? Why has language becomes so important in this kind of post, well, let’s call it post-COVID, but in the general customer service arena?

Edmund Ovington: (06:10)
So we actually validated our company with this use case, if you like. Like where we’re coming on seven years old now, and the first few years, we were almost exclusively selling to B2C companies that were blowing up that were hitting the right moment in that hockey stick. And didn’t quite know whether it be they’re a social media platform or a DTC company as Vikas was talking about, just couldn’t predict. And so we realized that they could keep this lean team, this excellent, this almost SWAT team approach and deal with all the languages using our solution without having to hire those native speakers. And so we realized this was superpower, right? And we got that, but wow, hasn’t 2020 shown that that was not just a superpower, but like something you have to have. You have to have the ability to cope with the whole continent, going offline to some degree in terms of your on the ground resources and being able to shift things. For a lot of companies, this is shifting to work from home. For a lot of our customers, it was a moment switching off maybe Filipino agents and turning on Mexican agents as one of our customers were talking to yesterday, but within hours, right? Because you’ve got millions of customers to keep happy. And some of these organizations as well, although COVID was disrupting the world, the gaining customers, the peripheral customers, the DTC customers, their volumes were going sky high, right? So suddenly they’re dealing with more demand than they expected in a world where they can’t get any of their supply chain actually activated. And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay. If no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine,” right?

Edmund Ovington: (07:58)
This is if someone’s locked at home and they’re suddenly spending a lot more money online than they used to, if you can give them an amazing customer service and importantly in their preferred language, not their, not just because they happen to speak English and we’re all arrogant and think everyone does, like actually deal with them and make them happy in the language they prefer, you’ve won their heart, right? You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections. So I think that’s what we’ve really seen this year for the best companies who have done this and we’re ready for this and now winning customers for life every day. Every second.

Gabe Larsen: (08:34)
Yeah. Well it definitely seems like it is. It’s a nice cherry on top, right? I think it makes you feel that added specialness, right? Maybe you could walk me through the process because I’m having a hard time visualizing it a little bit. But if I wanted to experience this kind of additional benefit, I’m a customer, I pop on somebody’s website, normally where I’m calling in or I’m on a chat, walk through. I chat in Chinese and they write me back in English, but how does this now work the way you guys see it in an optimal flow?

Edmund Ovington: (09:08)
Yeah. Let’s use that example. So you were based in Beijing and you write in simplified Chinese, right? The most [inaudible] in mainland China, form of Chinese.

Gabe Larsen: (09:19)
Give an example that I can understand because I don’t know if I can do –

Edmund Ovington: (09:24)
Yeah. Pretend you could and you’re right. So you’re writing on a website, you’re asking when your package is going to arrive or some sort of simple thing. So before, I’m the brand. I have to hire someone who’s both capable, but also happens to be able to write in that language. But maybe I’m based in California, right? And so finding people with that skillset, you want to work in that role, it’s pretty tough. For the first time now, I can have Vikas now answering that question, right? And he gets it immediately translated in real time to him into English, with all of the product names, everything perfectly translated exactly so he understands it and then he replies in English. But the most important thing is the end user gets a seamless, simplified Chinese experience that makes them think they’re talking to a native user and they don’t even know.

Edmund Ovington: (10:16)
And it’s, it’s exactly what the same response times, whether it’s an email or a chat that they would expect before. And so this kind of uninterruption of both the agent, so the agent does the same job they’re always doing. They do know it’s a Chinese customer, but they don’t have any change to their workflow. The system they’re using at Kustomer looks exactly the same. It’s beautiful. And then on the end, most importantly, the end user feels like they’re having a warm cuddle from someone who speaks their language and that’s exactly what you want.

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
Oh yeah. I can see how that works. What channels is that best for then? It’s really email and chat, is that where that’s typically going?

Edmund Ovington: (10:56)
So we predominantly launched in what I call asynchronous channels. Email’s the easiest one to comprehend, but there’s also web forms and many others. And then three years ago we started to deploy what we traditionally think of as live chat, right? Website chat. Like you just used an example that the one where you’re sat there expecting a response immediately, and that’s kind of the, it’s a real time exchange. But now actually, depending on what the brand we’re working with is setting in terms of expectations with our end user around messaging, it could also be a very asynchronous chat, right? It could be an in-app message where people are very happy to have a half hour response because they’ve written something longer. We can adapt to all of that. So basically our mission is to say that no matter what digital channel you or your clients choose, that could be WeChat, that could be WhatsApp, that could be Apple business messaging, it could be anything, right? The consistency of the experience is always that you always can pick the best agent to deal with that customer. Give them the best outcome in the channel that the client prefers in the language that the client prefers. And it kind of feels, if you think about that circle of the right agent, the right system with customer, kind of is the final part, right? It’s saying also the client gets to decide the nature, the language of that experience that they prefer.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:14)
And then think about that, right? I mean, Gabe, it just creates the more intimate relationship. I mean, you’ll often find for people that are multi-lingual will generally speak different languages in different environments, right? I might speak English in a business environment, but I might speak Hindi or Punjabi or Spanish or French at home. So now the brand actually gets to, if I choose to not speak my, quote unquote, professional language and speak my personal language with the brand, create that intimate relationship, because now I’m thinking of them as I would a family member or friend. So it just strengthens that relationship that the brand can have with the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
And Edmund, is that, I mean, I assume it’s true. I mean, it feels like it’s true, but are you seeing some change in NPS or customer satisfaction? Are you seeing that this is moving the needle when it comes to that relationship? Indefinitely from an intuitive standpoint, it seems like it would add that nice cherry on top, but any success stories or movements you’ve seen, as companies have experienced this kind of change in language equals a change in relationship?

Edmund Ovington: (13:24)
Yeah. So for me, there’s two layers of that. The operational layer is the, just full stock, you get to pick the best agent, right? And so what we see, if you look across all of our deployments, you do see an increase in C-SAT. And we’d like to take a little bit of credit for that. But in reality, a lot of it is just because for the first time you can pick the place in the world, maybe the BPO vendor, that has the best agents, and you can bias towards the agent’s tenure scale suitability to the job, not just the fact they speak Dutch, right? And it’s suddenly, the pool widens, the talent gets more specific and everything goes nicely in place. So yes, we see a significant increase. And then secondly, yeah, I remember it was three and a bit years ago now, but I remember having a wonderful conversation with one of the big Telcos in Canada because a lot of my family lives in Toronto and we were talking about how Toronto is like one of the most beautifully diverse cities in the world.

Edmund Ovington: (14:22)
And how, if you are a utilities provider to assist you like that, wouldn’t it be an amazing USP to be able to say, “We don’t think that just because you moved here, you should be forced to talk to us in English. You should be able to have, if you prefer, the language experience in Portuguese, in Hindi, whatever you want, that makes you feel like you’re valued as a customer.” And that suddenly becomes something that actually companies can put forward. And I think especially in 2020, maybe that’s a very powerful message, is that you can be a company that doesn’t just do the bare minimum. You don’t just serve customers and say, “Yeah, we responded to their email,” and you actually go out of your way like you’ve been standing on stage and saying, and really deliver a personal service because that’s the term that’s been used for 15 years now. Personalization. Personalization is a very human thing, right? It doesn’t mean you send me the answer I want. It means you speak to me in the language metaphorically or in real life that I would want it to be spoken.

Gabe Larsen: (15:21)
Is personalization 15 years old? Is that right?

Edmund Ovington: (15:24)
So it was like exactly the length of my career. So yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Dang, [inaudible]. I need to get with the flow.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:31)
Well, the thing is it’s been used in the marketing world, right, for ages. I think reality is, I think we’re just now seeing it in the customer service world, right? And I think this is why you and I often joke about the term customer experience and you’re like, “Customer experience has been around.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you marketeers have stolen this, kind of stolen this term. And now, customer service professionals are starting to think about the customer experience, right? So that’s kind of the pivot that those of us that have been in the contact center world are definitely observing.

Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
All right. I can take that. Well, and then I like this concept. I can see how the customers could be more satisfied, but you highlighted some internal benefits that I don’t know if I had seen as much. One is the hiring concept and you just passed over it a little bit, but you’re right. I mean, I’m opening an office in Abu Dhabi and now I’m like, “I got to make sure I get these right languages because this is where I’m going to do it.” And all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, hey. Language, maybe it doesn’t matter.” You move to scale. Is that what I heard you say?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:37)
Well, think. If Edmund, if I can interrupt, just think about this, Gabe. Let’s say I’m a US-based company and I’ve got my support operation and I’ve got it three layers deep, right? I’ve got a tier one, tier two, tier three. Now I’m going to go and operate in France. To go and create that same tier one, tier two, tier three structure in France is going to get extremely expensive. And also there’s a time to ramp, right? So now, just as an example, you could actually run everything from the US but maybe because of time zones, you’re like, “You know what, we’re going to have tier one in Paris, but we’re going to actually run tier two and tier three out of the US but in French using something like Unbabel,” right, where now to the French consumer, it’s seamless. But if they go beyond what the tier one can handle, because I think that’s the challenge, particularly for a lot of high-growth companies is I would basically have to replicate this odd in each language. And that’s why before it was only something big companies could do and not something that was available to the masses.

Gabe Larsen: (17:43)
Yeah. You were at that point of just having to not open an office and maybe you don’t even want to open an office in France. Open it up and you can run that out of what already is a well established facility in California. That’s pretty powerful. How does this work with in house and versus outsourcing? Does this, I mean, is there any kind of overlap here, Edmund, or is everybody just doing this in house when they’re kind of hiring employees in this category? Does that fit into this at all?

Edmund Ovington: (18:13)
Yeah. Great question. So I think the things I’ve been learning since we pivoted from just really helping fast-growing companies to now being predominantly, actually focused on large enterprise companies. And the reason that we realized this is powerful is that they’ve lived in a status quo of painful operational decisions, a huge scale based on language, right? Whether it be the vendors they choose from an outsourcing perspective, whether it be the location strategically. And as you say, the in house versus out out house and national versus offshore is painful, right? And what we found is that when you remove languages, the inhibitor of a decision, you suddenly open up a new world. And what we’re finding is that each company has, I think of it as like three circles. Then each company has various, different deployments within these areas. So number one is the idea of like the SWAT team, which could be tier four, tier three excellence in terms of the technical stuff. But quite often, they’ll want this at HQ, right? So quite often they’ll want this either at regional HQ or global HQ, the best of the best, often in-house. And allowing them to deal with every language is powerful.

Edmund Ovington: (19:24)
Then the second layer is saying, “Okay, then we want like the volume end of this. Then we want to be able to deal with whatever happens, whatever. We launch a new Xbox at Christmas. Like that’s going to blow things up, but we don’t quite know how much,” and that’s out of flux and deal with that. So maybe they pick India or the Philippines with an outsourcer who can hire 2000 people in a week without blinking, right? Very different. And they can do, they can have that in all languages.

Edmund Ovington: (19:48)
And then the final one, which is maybe the most exciting this year is also saying on top of that, maybe you want a gig economy model around that, right? So maybe you want to use one of these new gig providers. This is more, literally anyone anywhere in the world on a per transaction basis that provides that final layer of scale. And the beauty for me is I don’t care what a company decides to do. I can layer on top of all of that and make sure that all of that’s in every language. And that’s kind of the exciting part is whatever journey a company wants to go on, either now to fix their mess, or because they’re small and growing to plan and build resilience for the future, they can do it all without just without language becoming a blocker or a confusion or a pain.

Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Yeah. I like it. Removing language to enhance global expansion. Alrighty. Well, Edmund, really appreciate it. Let’s see if we can wrap. Talked about a couple of different ideas. As you think about organizations trying to expand, dealing with post COVID. I mean, you know better than anybody, I think about some of the challenges they’re facing, sum it up for us. And then, Vikas, we’ll give you the last word. How can organizations expand and scale, thinking about language maybe not as an inhibitor anymore, but as maybe an advantage?

Edmund Ovington: (21:00)
Yeah. Well, I always think the answer is as simple as the question, right? But the beauty is that in 2020 and beyond, whereas the last decade was obviously largely dictated with deploying your resources based on where you can find people who speak the language, you no longer have to do that. And you can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak. And that’s a whole new paradigm, right? Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it is really well. Which means if I was building a company today, that’s a B2C brand, I have a whole load of new opportunities to think about the way I test markets, I grow markets, I aim my way into markets, whatever I want to do, without friction. And that’s pretty cool. I’m really excited that that’s now on the table for the partners we’re working with and your customers are very much in the same place

Gabe Larsen: (22:02)
I love it. Don’t ever worry about saying cliche things. Vikas gives me all the time for using all the marketing buzz words. I’m like, “Kustomer is a conversational, AI powered….” He’s like, “What does that mean?” I’m like, “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty.” So you’ll never get me to say cliche. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
You know, I think it goes back to acting globally and thinking locally. And I think for me, the biggest thing is whether you look at a combination of Kustomer and Unbabel, but just unlocking opportunities that once were only available to the big companies, right? You mentioned the Xbox, or like Microsoft. Yeah, of course, we’ve got billions of dollars. We’ve got tons of resources, but now I could be releasing an app, right? That’s now going to be available globally and I could deliver the same experience and I think that’s a very unique opportunity for people that are thinking about it. It’s obviously something that can be used by enterprises, but if I was starting a brand new DTC brand today, it would allow me to go and penetrate these markets and deliver an amazing experience. So I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for anybody who’s thinking about how they set up an operation today that wasn’t available to them five, seven, eight years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (23:25)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, hey guys, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Kustomer’s Look Back at 2020

Kustomer’s Look Back at 2020 TW

I would say that 2020 has been unprecedented, but let’s face it — we all want to permanently retire that word. From both a personal and professional perspective, it is undeniable that the past year has brought immense challenges, and you wouldn’t be alone to wish it was all just a fever dream.

While we are literally counting down the seconds until the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021, it goes without saying that there are some permanent lessons that can be learned from the hurdles we faced in 2020. It was a year of success for Kustomer, with immense product developments, award wins and acquisitions, but customer service was also more important than ever before.

Without further ado, here is Kustomer’s look back at 2020.

Lessons From a Challenging Year

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.

Changing Consumer Attitudes Means More Digital Commerce

While it is inevitable that commerce will partially shift back to brick and mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to ask a question, or call a customer service number for assistance, now may find it more convenient to click on a chat widget while they browse your site online, or reach out to you on social after seeing your ads.

In fact, according to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved. Consumers are also more open to self-service options, with 53% of consumers preferring to self-serve versus speaking with a company representative. The same percentage of consumers also think that chatbots improve the customer experience, with that cohort growing to 62% among consumers aged 18-24. It’s therefore important to consider new, digital-first service options for 2021 and beyond.

Speed and Efficiency Beat All

Many CX teams were forced to do more with less during the global pandemic. An unfortunate result of forced closures meant that the economy shot into a depression, and organizations needed to be scrappier than ever. Kustomer research revealed that 63% of CX organizations needed to cut costs during the global pandemic, and 46% reported a need to reduce staff. At the same time, the volume of customer inquiries was rising (by 17% on average), and 57% reported needing to deal with more complex problems than usual. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported an urgency for more efficiency, and 59% reported the need to adopt more automation to achieve efficiency.

While it is true that some organizations have seen digital inquiries somewhat normalize after a spike earlier in the year, the pandemic has revealed significant gaps in CX strategies. What seemed like a nonurgent need—adopting new technology to increase efficiency—is now staring CX organizations directly in the face and preventing them from being successful. Whether it’s a similar unthinkable event that shakes the economy to its core, or simply a busy holiday shopping season overwhelming agents, organizations must be prepared to scale efficiently, at lightning speed.

Customers Are People Too

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 it’s 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.

To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and enables them to deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service. There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information. Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.

Kustomer’s 2020 in Review

This wasn’t just an important year for the customer service space, it was also a momentous year for Kustomer as an organization.

January – Kustomer kicked off the year at NRF, where we not only rubbed (pre-COVID) elbows with CX retail experts, but also learned about the importance of delivering an exceptional experience to create customers for life.

February – Kustomer launched our first ever podcast — Customer Service Secrets — to help leaders transform their customer service, with practical information from thought leaders and practitioners who share their secrets to delivering exceptional customer service.

March – COVID-19 transformed business as we know it in March 2020, and as a result Kustomer began offering our Unlimited Package to customers for free, to enable seamless cross-functional communication and dynamic team oversight in a remote environment.

April – In April Kustomer officially launched Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across the Kustomer CRM platform. Kustomer IQ leverages advanced artificial intelligence to help agents more efficiently analyze and take action on customer requests, which was even more impactful during a time when agents were being asked to do more with less.

May – Kustomer kept the momentum going in May by acquiring Reply.ai — a top-rated customer service automation company — and began offering enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities in the Kustomer platform.

June – For the first time, Kustomer was recognized in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center. We believe this recognition underscores Kustomer’s important role in the space, where we are paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences.

July – In July, Kustomer kicked off a new and exciting partnership, after being selected as the only enterprise customer service CRM platform in the Shopify Plus Certified App Program. Our enhanced integration with Shopify Plus helps brands and customer service agents optimize and personalize their experience, all within the Kustomer platform.

August – Kustomer was honored to be named the fastest growing SaaS company by SaaS magazine. Driven by the move to digital-only experiences, changing consumer behavior, and demand for omnichannel service, businesses in many industries turned to Kustomer in record numbers in 2020.

September – Kustomer released powerful new consumer research in September, breaking down what modern consumers expect from the customer experience. The research revealed that consumers rank customer service as the second most important attribute they consider when shopping, right below price, speaking to the importance of delivering on consumer expectations.

October – While we couldn’t get together in person, that didn’t stop Kustomer from hosting our premiere event of the year — Kustomer NOW. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, like Drybar founder Alli Webb who spoke about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind.

November – In November we took the next step in the “Kustomer Journey” and announced that we signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook subject to customary regulatory review. Once the acquisition closes, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however customers need it.

December – Close on the heels of the announcement, Kustomer hosted Social Commerce Live, an action-packed, free digital event showcasing the power of social channels to build lifelong relationships with your customers. You can still watch on demand and gather insights from brands like Glossier and Bravo.

Kustomer Top Content

In case you missed it, check out some of Kustomer’s top content from the past year, where we explore break down the current state of affairs in CX:

E-Book: How to Leverage Artificial Intelligence for Competitive Customer Service
Report: What Consumers Expect From the Customer Experience
Guide: The 2021 CX Prep Guide
Webinar: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Organizations
Blog Post: Top Metrics and Strategies for How to Measure Customer Service Performance

 

Consumers Love Live Chat, but Businesses Aren’t Adopting It. Here’s Why.

Consumers Love Chat, but Businesses Aren’t Adopting It. Here’s Why. TW

One of the biggest shifts over the past few years? A digital-first mindset. While phone support isn’t going anywhere, when you force consumers to switch platforms in order to get their questions answered, you give them a reason to abandon their purchase or generate negative feelings. The less effort, the better — and with the digital-first consumer, chat is often better.

In an effort to understand how brands are currently using live chat for business, why some have not yet done so, and whether there is a disconnect between customer needs and brand expectations, Kustomer went out and surveyed over 100 CX professionals and compared these findings with our recent consumer research.

What is Live Chat for Business?

Live chat is a customer service widget that allows your questions to be answered effortlessly within the web browser. Live chat allows customers to effortlessly communicate with customer service representatives in real time, without having to leave the platform they are already doing business on. The live chat allows customers to communicate with customer service at stores or brands in real time without having to talk with a customer service representative.

Why Consumers Love Chat

Think about the online shopping experience. You find the perfect Christmas present for your son, but have a question about whether batteries are included. So, instead of picking up the phone or searching for an e-mail address to contact the business, there is a chat window right there on the page that can allow your questions to be answered effortlessly. While switching channels may not sound like a deal breaker, the data says otherwise.

According to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, 79% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred medium or platform, and 81% of consumers would abandon a purchase due to a poor service experience.

Chat, as well as social media messaging, allows you to instantly meet your customers where they are, whether that is browsing online for products, checking their shipping status, or perusing your social channels. Research from Matt Dixon revealed that only 9% of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude or behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. And chat does a great job of delivering this effortless quality customer service experience.

The Business Disconnect

Curiously, businesses are not aligned with these consumer preferences and wants. Only 25% of surveyed customer service organizations are currently using chat, and 18% report they currently use chatbots. When taking into consideration the effortless, fast service that modern customers demand, the vast majority of businesses are missing a huge opportunity and leaving themselves open to competitors.

The top two reasons that companies have not yet adopted chat software, speak to a lack of time, resources or strategy internally: the organization does not know where to start, or they have staffing constraints when it comes to managing more channels. However, the third most popular reason speaks to the massive disconnect between CX organizations and consumers: businesses report that they don’t think their customers want or like it. However, according to Kustomer’s recent consumer research, customers rank live chat as the second most popular channel or tactic for contacting customer service, right below phone.

Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chat
  1. Don’t know where to start
  2. Staffing constraints
  3. Customers don’t want / like it
  4. Lack of customizable solutions
  5. No budget
  6. Lack of executive buy-in

Additionally, many organizations report that they are prevented from adopting chat because of the lack of customizable solutions. Seventy-five percent of CX teams say that matching the chat experience to the overall brand experience is important, so slapping any old chat widget on your site just won’t do. Make sure that your customer service CRM can allow your business to build or integrate chat widgets seamlessly, ensuring that all customer data and history is integrated within the chat experience, while maintaining brand guidelines.

When it comes to chatbots, the reasons for lack of adoption differ slightly from live chat:

Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chatbots
  1. Not sure of the benefits
  2. No budget
  3. Lack of resources to manage chatbots
  4. Customers don’t want / like it
  5. Tried, isn’t effective
  6. Lack of executive buy-in

As chatbots are quite new, and often involve buying a pricey solution or building one with an internal team, the top reasons for lack of adoption make sense. But 61% of the younger generation prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning that the benefits are clear: your customers now expect chatbots as an option.

Additionally, chatbots free up agent time for more complex and proactive support. They can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support.

Look for a platform that leverages chatbots and AI-enabled deflection to act as a first line of defense, optimizing a customer’s ability to self-serve so agents can focus on the most important cases and deliver the highest impact.

Want the complete findings from our research on chat? Download the report here.
 

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio

The Digital Customer Service Revolution With Paolo Fabrizio TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “Using Digital Channels to Reach Your Customer Base | Paolo Fabrizio” on Spreaker.

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)
Yes.

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)
Yes.

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)
Yeah.

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)
Yep.

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)
Yes.

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.

 

Top 8 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know

Man in coffee shop with iPhone

Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming customer service trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.

Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.

What are Customer Service Trends in 2021?

Customer behaviors have drastically changed since the pandemic hit in 2020. There’s been a shift in what customers find valuable and important. The changes in consumer behavior and digital-first shopping transformed customer service trends have taken on a new identity in 2021. Throwing out the old and bringing in the new, here’s an analysis of some of the critical customer service trends happening right now that every business should be addressing.

It’s all about enhancing the digital customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at the current trends in customer service that can help you run your business and satisfy consumers:

8 Current Trends in Customer Service

Keeping up with what’s new in customer service trends can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most. We recommend addressing these trends in your CX strategy:

1. Promote a Strong Company Culture

Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.

2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized

Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.

With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile. According to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.

The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.

3. Build Strong Customer Connections

Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something does go wrong.

4. Take the Omnichannel Approach

This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2021. Often confused with multichannel support — or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.

5. Focus on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business

Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.

As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.

Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed

6. Be Responsive on Social Media

Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.

“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”

7. Use Chatbots to Your Advantage

Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.

8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support

Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.

Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?

Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.

Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.

Live Chat vs Messaging Apps: The Modern Hybrid Solution

When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messaging app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective. By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow — and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach. Below we have a list of live chat benefits and which platform is the best to use going forward. You can also read about Kustomer Chat’s new features here.

Live Chat Benefits: Understanding the Possibilities

If you’re on the fence about including a live chat feature on your website, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t be. First and foremost, companies who have included a live chat feature see an immediate competitive advantage. Forrester reported that companies saw a 10% increase in the average order value when customers engaged in chat before making a purchase. Live chat also leads to about a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour. There’s no doubt that one of the biggest live chat benefits is that customers prefer the consultative and instantaneous experience.

But before we define each of the live chat benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” messaging.

Synchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with “Live Chat”, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.

Asynchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with email, social media, or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions.”

What’s Wrong With Live Chat Solutions?

Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.

The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
  • CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
  • CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available, chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message. Or worse, the website hides chat completely.
  • CON: Missed/dropped chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.

How to Modernize Live Chat

With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device led to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.

Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
  • PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
  • PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
  • PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
  • CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
  • CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
  • CON: Customers can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.

While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie live chat functionality, like using agent availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up—setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.

Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing the customer with both live chat benefits: the ability to chat live with an agent, but also maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.

Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale — like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site — but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous live chat and an asynchronous messaging app. Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform to fully reap all the live chat benefits. The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary information when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business — and with Kustomer chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.

Looking for live chat solutions for your company? Kustomer’s chat makes it easy to deliver the experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest additions to our chat offering, read our product updates here.

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