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

 

Top 5 Customer Experience Predictions For 2021

Top 5 Customer Experience Predictions For 2021 TW

Customer experience (CX) is a determining factor in whether customers are loyal to a brand or not. Over 80% of companies who prioritize customer experience report an increase in revenue. So, how can businesses ensure their CX is up to scratch?

Brands must stay on top of CX trends.

2020 brought huge changes to the business world and impacted customer service and operations across the board. Next year will undoubtedly bring even more fascinating developments. Below are five emerging trends that we predict will shape CX in 2021.

Remember, you heard it here first.

1. Improved CX With AI

The words “artificial intelligence” (AI) conjure images of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iconic Terminator role, or epic Hollywood showdowns between man and antagonistic machine. But don’t worry, 2021 isn’t going to feature any giant robots wielding machine guns. At least, we hope it won’t.

It’s no secret that AI is transforming the way businesses interact with their customers. Microsoft predicts that by 2025 as many as 95% of customer interactions will be through AI.

Sales and CX teams are using business VoiP services equipped with AI to quickly address customer queries and improve their communication. The transportation industry is waiting in anticipation as automated cars threaten disruption. In finance, financial services companies leverage AI to recommend personalized products and services to individuals. It’s moving fast, and businesses need to keep up with AI developments to stay on top of their game.

AI re-imagines customer experiences and end-to-end customer journeys. The result? Integrated and personalized customer experience.

With AI, brands can be available to their customers at every stage of their journeys, instantaneously. Leveraging AI can help businesses better understand customers and deliver better CX, resulting in higher conversions and decreased cart abandonment.

One of the biggest challenges facing customer service teams is handling an increase in customer support calls, emails, and social media inquiries. Customer service teams can employ AI to handle low-level support issues in real time, and gather initial information for live agents before intervention is needed. This results in lower wait times and fewer frustrated customers.

In a world where good customer experience can make or break a business, AI is a great tool to ensure customers feel their time is valued and stay loyal to a business. Here are some examples of how businesses use AI to streamline CX:

  • Automated answering service for sorting and routing support
  • Automating manual tasks like tagging
  • Intelligently routing to the most appropriate agent
  • Augmented messaging that allows chatbots and human agents to work in tandem. The bots handle simple queries, and the agents can take over when it gets too complicated.

Enhanced support through call monitoring and real time suggestions for representatives.

Two major trends in AI customer service software that will continue to grow in 2021 are chatbots and virtual assistants. Here’s a closer look at how both technologies can automate business functions and boost CX:

Chatbots

Businesses in various sectors have already employed chatbots to better deliver on customer needs and improve the speed at which business can help consumers.

The chatbot market size is projected to grow from $2.6 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion by 2024. We’ll see businesses using chatbots to cut operational costs and streamline customer service processes. They can’t completely replace humans, but chatbots can:

  • Provide instant answers to simple customer queries, 24/7
  • Collect customer data and analyze it to gain insight into customer behavior
  • Reduce pressure on customer service staff by automating low level support, allowing them to deal with more difficult inquiries
  • Increase customer engagement and conversions

Virtual Assistants

Virtual assistants allow users to interact with spoken language (Hey Alexa! Hey Google!) and help to relieve pressure on support staff by enabling interactive in-app support for users. AI virtual assistants are rising to new challenges and playing a vital role in automating customer service interactions.

In the next few years, virtual assistants are set to become more customizable, contextual, and conversational.

Contrary to popular belief, virtual assistants aren’t being used to replace humans completely (Blade Runner, anyone?), but to streamline CX while freeing up human agents for important tasks.

2. More Businesses Will Switch to an Omnichannel Approach

Customer experience is becoming complex, with 51% of businesses using at least eight channels for CX alone.

In 2020, many businesses closed up shop and transferred themselves completely online. Many are still adapting to new strategies of providing digital customer service, as well as enhancing their CX to cater to customer expectations in a virtual space.

As we approach 2021, brands need to focus on providing seamless, omnichannel CX to foster brand equity and drive sales.

Consumers demand consistent and highly personalized experiences as they interact with brands on various digital devices. For example, they might start interacting with a brand on Twitter and continue the conversation through e-mail. They’ll expect a seamless and integrated experience, no matter the platform.

A successful omnichannel CX seamlessly integrates online and offline communication channels to form a unified and unforgettable experience from the first to last point of contact.

If a customer base is interacting with a brand through phone, e-mail, live chat, social media, and SMS, as well as offline, a unified customer experience is a must.

In 2021 and beyond we’ll see more businesses further their digital transformation using instant communication to remove friction throughout the customer journey, and we’ll also see businesses tapping into customer data to personalize CX. As businesses plan their 2021 CX strategy, we’re likely to see big changes as brands acclimatize to an omnichannel customer service approach with increased virtual support.

3. Data, Data, and More Data

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the power of customer data in driving business outcomes and ROI. With customers expecting personalized, in-the-moment online experiences, the value of real-time data insights is paramount.

At present, predictive analytics helps retailers increase their margins by up to 60%. This number is set to grow as AI reaches greater capabilities.

Brands collect transactional, behavioral, and sensor data to form a customer ID that informs business goals as they move forward. This customer data is crucial to understanding what their CX does and does not get right.

Businesses are gaining deeper customer insights by collecting transactional customer data, analyzing customer behavior, segmenting personas, and more. Once all this data is collected and stored, predictive analytics can help businesses to understand how they’re succeeding or falling short of their objectives.

Businesses are using all this data about their customers to enhance the customer experience. How? By providing feedback in real-time, predicting customer needs, and identifying which customers they might lose. As a result, CX agents can satisfy their customers and prevent problems from arising.

We predict this trend will continue into 2021, as brands continue collecting meaningful data to build an omni-touch, real-time experience that allows customers to feel heard and understood.

4. Customer Service Goes Remote

With the recent advancements in technology, customer service and support have been able to optimize operations online. This has changed not only best practices and strategies, but also what customers expect from businesses.

This trend has a huge impact on businesses, employees, and, inadvertently, customers.

Remote working has plenty of benefits for all parties. Businesses can save significant costs on rent and technology, and hire from a more diverse talent pool. On the flip side, employees can work from anywhere (including their beds) and reduce commute time. No wonder most people who have tried remote work never want to go back!

Adapting to this shift can prove challenging. Remote working teams need to learn new methods of providing effective customer service from their homes or co-working spaces. It’s also essential that they find tactical ways to streamline project collaboration and to share information and customer data.

They’ll need to adapt to communicating in a virtual space, employ automated software to streamline operations, and find methods of staying motivated and on top of tasks.

As customer service goes remote, customer service teams will continue to face challenges when it comes to delivering an impeccable CX without setting foot in the office, but with the right technology, that allows for remote collaboration and oversight, it’s possible.

5. Personalization Will (Still) Be the Key to Success

In 2021, we can expect more from businesses to customize their CX and meet customer expectations.

Today’s consumers expect personalized experiences to be tailored to their needs. Businesses need to focus on providing customers with relevant and valuable information. Customers demand proactive, valuable, and relevant outreach from CX teams, without having to share their personal information.What’s more, over 60% of consumers expect that companies send personalized offers or discounts based on items they’ve purchased.

The customer needs to feel valued and listened to throughout their journey with a business.

Nowadays, customer service teams can communicate with customers in their own digital spaces, through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram. Companies will likely increase efforts to contact customers through online platforms to provide order updates, offer support, or send promotions.

There are many ways businesses can continue to offer meaningful CX in 2021 and beyond. Make sure you know your customers’ communication preferences, and personalize the conversations and outreach you conduct. Personalized emails generate six times higher transaction rates, so stop treating your customers like strangers!

There you have it, five customer experience trends to watch out for in 2021. These trends have been driven by rapid advancements in AI and data collection, the advantages of an omni-channel approach, and the global shift towards remote work. In the future, we’re likely to see continuous developments in these areas which will continue to develop and shape CX.

Don’t get too comfortable, though. We expect that by the end of 2021 these predictions will look completely different! Let’s see what the future of CX holds, shall we?

 

Guest blog post written by John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and customer engagement strategies provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Vault and RTInsights.

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences TW

If the events of this year taught those of us in the customer experience world anything, it’s that we can never stop innovating to be more customer-centric. We can’t hope that we will “get by” just a little longer with legacy CRMs and support tickets. We must embrace change and adapt quickly to meet today’s consumer expectations for a smart, omnichannel experience powered by a modern CRM—the key to scaling CX, meeting explosive growth, and adapting to change.

Some argue that 2020 has signaled the decline of ticket-based support systems. Why has the pandemic emerged as the straw that finally broke the legacy CRM camel’s back? The data tells the tale. Recent analysis of e-commerce trends shows a staggering 10 years of growth in just 3 months at the beginning of 2020. And that was just the early stages of lockdown. As chaos and uncertainty took hold, CX teams were inundated with customer calls and support tickets as they struggled to keep up with questions, changing plans, requests for assistance, and the demands of going direct-to-consumer.

How Modern, AI-Driven CRMs Power Intelligent Customer Experiences Inline

But that’s only where the challenges begin. 2020 also forced organizations to accelerate digital transformation by 6 years to adapt to the “new normal” of stay at home orders, remote workforces, supply chain disruptions, shipping delays, and the economic slowdown. Along with this digital transformation, many CX leaders are realizing they need to follow the lead of the direct-to-consumer disruptor brands that are differentiating themselves, and thriving, by delivering a modern consumer experience.

The DTC Disruptor’s Secret Weapon: Intelligent CX Focused on the Whole Customer

As the pandemic took hold, most direct-to-consumer innovators were many steps ahead and better prepared to deal with the curveballs 2020 delivered. These businesses started with the right culture, philosophy, and customer-centric CRM platform. They built their business to connect with customers at scale. A great example of this is The Farmer’s Dog, a company dedicated to delivering safe and healthy pet food, who totally nailed the customer-first approach. Their customer service agents connect on an emotional level with their buyers using whatever channel the buyer selects to educate and foster authentic relationships. This takes a level of insight tickets can’t provide.

UNTUCKit is another great example of a customer-centric brand. They ensure their stellar shopping experience is supported across every customer touchpoint, especially support. Team members have a virtually seamless process for seeing customer history, gathering the right data points, and resolving customer inquiries.

What Makes a Modern CRM?

If tickets aren’t the ticket, what is the secret to direct-to-consumer success today?

Visibility to Care for the Whole Customer

Now more than ever, customers feel they’ve lost control and trust. Zappos and Amazon have set the bar high with proactive, rapid, data-driven customer experiences. Modern CRMs can help brands rebuild that trust through data-driven conversations informed by a view of the whole customer. Agents must have complete visibility across systems to understand the consumer and their entire situation. But with a plethora of data, and a growing number of channels to monitor, we need AI to unlock these insights. Efficiency is the name of the game in customer service, and AI is a true force multiplier, enabling customer service teams to work more efficiently and focus on the customers who need the most help. Contact centers using ticket-based systems, while relying on siloed customer data, simply cannot deliver the type of experience customers demand today.

Omnichannel Customer Experience

Omnichannel support means a customer can connect with your business anywhere, anytime, and with any method—or even with multiple methods or channels.  If a customer wants to reach out via email and then switch to chat, so be it! It’s the experience a new generation of consumers expect. This requires companies to break down silos and integrate their data for a picture of the whole customer across channels. Consumers must be able to switch channels mid-conversation and leverage the best channel for each conversation’s purpose. Our research shows that nearly 90% of customers are frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. That shouldn’t be a surprise—we all know customers want what they want.

Omnipresent, Guided Self-Service

Just as customers expect more tailored and personal communications, they also demand self-service options for immediate resolution. As our new AI e-book explains, AI is being rapidly adopted in contact centers to act as the first line of defense, amplify performance, and create strong efficiencies. The volume, velocity, and variety of customer data today overwhelm organizations without the technology, processes, and operational capabilities to integrate siloed data and personalize communications. AI is transforming customer experiences, and for good reasons.

Happy Agents, Happy Customers

Research shows companies with excellent CX have employees that are 1.5X more engaged than employees at companies with less satisfactory CX; additionally, companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%. AI is also vastly improving agent productivity and reducing churn for contact center leaders. AI can have a dramatic impact on the customer experience and satisfaction, which in turn makes the employee experience far more interesting and exciting.

AI makes jobs more meaningful and less frustrating by deflecting much of the grunt work and alleviating manual and repetitive tasks agents hate. Agents don’t need to waste time transferring and redirecting customers. Rather, conversations can be automatically classified and routed to the appropriate agent for a speedy and personalized resolution. Not only will this reduce wait and handle times, but it will also maximize team capacity by directing real-time conversation traffic to the right person at the right time.

Realizing the Intelligent Customer Experience

You need a modern CRM to help you execute your digitally advanced, customer-first approach. Leading contact centers have indicated that integrated platforms and data analytics are important in gathering insights into the customer journey. Enter the Intelligent Customer Experience, a culmination of all of the improvements we just discussed.

Intelligent CX means leveraging a modern customer-centric approach and advanced AI to create a smarter, faster, and more enjoyable customer experience. It’s about delivering results fast using the power of AI and data from all channels, whether that be via a call, chat, email, tweet, or all of the above. Your customer service agents will feel more informed since you’ll be empowering them to provide real value, not just closing a ticket or processing a transaction. AI uses context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help, while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

We’ve seen dramatic changes since March of this year that have accelerated every aspect of digital transformation. We recently launched Kustomer IQ for omnichannel deflection, sentiment analysis, and intelligent routing. Check out more details here.

Customer Care Delivered in a Remote Environment

The pandemic has certainly upended the notion of the traditional 9-5 office. Companies are racing to adapt to a distributed work model, and technology is the biggest driver in adjusting to operating remotely. The next generation of customer service CRM does more than just manage support conversations. It enables the delivery of the customer experience from anywhere, through remote work orchestration and oversight. Taming the CX frankenstack is another step toward easing the remote transition. Modern CRMs must allow organizations to streamline integration of platforms, data sources, and channels to make remote work.

Collaboration is key to delivering an exceptional experience, so the modern CRM should provide a platform for customer service representatives to work together, to deliver service and support more efficiently and effectively. Collaboration between agents enhances the quality of answers provided to the customer by leveraging subject matter experts. At Kustomer, we believe the collective knowledge of experts makes your customer service organization stronger overall. In fact, we’ve embraced the use of Collaborators, users from other teams outside of support that can view conversations, customer history, and searches. By setting up Collaborators, other team members or departments can help you solve customer questions with internal notes and @mentions, see customer feedback, and more.

The Demise of the Dreaded Ticket

2020 will be the beginning of the end for legacy CRMs and transactional ticketing systems that were built to manage cases, not customers. Personalized support has been a key tenet of the business-and-buyer relationship from day  one. Every customer wants to feel like they are known, respected, appreciated, and well-served. They certainly don’t want to be insulted by an interrogation. Traditional ticketing systems will be left behind, as customers expect more and the world continues to converge quickly.

Intelligent, modern CRMs enable true connections to be made with customers in their greatest times of need, by making it easy for agents to come from a place of understanding and context, consistently. This requires unlocking the value of data shared between different teams (such as marketing and customer service), creating new roles to act on the data, and leveraging new and modern technology.

Download the AI for CX e-book to learn more, and take a look at how Kustomer can provide the tools you need for exceptional DTC customer service.

 

4 Key Takeaways From #MakeTheSwitch Week

4 Key Takeaways From #MakeTheSwitch Week TW

In case you missed it, last week Kustomer hosted a series of events all around switching from traditional ticketing systems to a modern CRM for customer service. The week was action-packed, filled to the brim with insights from Kustomer executives and customer-centric brands like Lulus and Ritual.

It’s not too late to gather insights from the week. Below you can find four key takeaways from #MakeTheSwitch week, and what they mean for your brand.

1. Treat Customers Like Humans, Not Tickets

Many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. 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 helps them deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service.

Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, thinks that the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman during a Thursday afternoon webinar. “We were never thinking in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”

Eric Choi, Community Support Manager at Zwift, said during a Friday afternoon LinkedIn Live that he made the switch to Kustomer because his team was looking for a platform that was more human, and allowed them to interact with their members in a more organic way. “The old ticketing system made me feel… like a deli counter. You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on.”

When all customer information is available at the click of a button, agents are able 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.

2. Unlock the Power of Data Through a Customer Service CRM

As Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum said in his Tuesday afternoon LinkedIn Live, an effective CRM should allow you to fully understand the relationship that your business has with each and every customer, and leverage data in order to do that. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. And you shouldn’t have to pay more for operational solutions AND modern communication tools in order to provide effective support.

Coleman agrees that e-commerce companies “absolutely have to be able to access data around what your customers are contacting you” about. Before making the switch to Kustomer, Lulus didn’t have any data because their platforms weren’t talking to each other, and that was a big issue. A modern customer service CRM should be designed to connect seamlessly with your other data sources and business intelligence tools, while taking the place of your support platform, contact center routing software, and process management solution.

3. Cut Down on Tickets With an Omnichannel Approach

In a multichannel support environment, each channel lives in its own silo with its own dedicated team of agents, with limited communication or sharing of information between channels. As a result of this fragmented experience, customers will have to take the time to repeat to the second agent what they told the first agent. In addition, multichannel support leads companies to focus on resolving tickets, rather than building stronger customer relationships, because agents lack a holistic view of each customer.

After switching to Kustomer, Coleman truly realized how many omnichannel conversations were taking place within Lulus’ customer base. With a truly omnichannel customer service CRM, Lulus “ended up merging or cutting [their] tickets down significantly.” Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels.

Michelle McCombs, Vice President of Safety and Support at HopSkipDrive, has now structured her team so they are all omnichannel. With Kustomer’s timeline view, and intelligent queues and routing, her team doesn’t have to go and find what they need to do next. All of her agents “live right there in their one space and… and get to work.”

4. Make the Agent Experience Effortless and Fulfilling

Ultimately, agent happiness directly translates to customer happiness. The more information that agents have at their fingertips, and the more they are able to focus on quality instead of quantity, the happier they will be, and the happier they will make your customer base.

Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual, has experienced this first hand. “It goes without saying customer service can be a thankless job and even … the best spirited individual can find those tougher days. So for me, it’s looking at the agent’s experience and understanding what the points of friction are and removing them, so what is already a tough job doesn’t have to be any tougher,” said Rickards. “When I talk about agent happiness, if you look at the internal surveys we do, to see just how people are on a quarterly basis, a lot of the questions that would indicate day-to-day stressors…we improved on those results post-Kustomer switch.”

Coleman agrees, and sees how making the switch to a more effortless platform can impact agent development. “I do feel that we’ve had less turnover due to the fact that the platform is easier, to the point where we’ve been able to actually focus our leadership on actual leading instead of micro managing,” says Coleman. “And what I feel is the most honorable and noble career, which is the service of helping other people, it gets lost in the abyss of really complicated workflows. And so Kustomer has given us, has given me as a leader, so much value, because I’m actually able to lead people for who they are based on their individual strengths and opportunities.”

Click here to learn more about how making the switch could be a gamechanger for your team.

 

Believe It or Not, Now Is the Time to Prep for the Holidays. Here’s How.

Believe It or Not, Now Is the Time to Prep for the Holidays. Here’s How. Stat

Many of us look forward to the holidays. We get excited about the prospect of parties, family gatherings, holiday cheer and presents galore. But the holiday season also brings a big lump of coal: an increase in needy customers reaching out to your team in need of immediate support.

According to Kustomer data, inbound customer service inquiries increased by almost 120% during the holiday season in 2019, with particularly dramatic spike in activity on Instagram, e-mail, voice and chat.

Many businesses struggle to maintain a high level of support during spikes in activity. They may need to hire a flurry of seasonal employees who have a short training period. Last year, $284 billion dollars were spent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, so the stakes are high. The question becomes, how do you handle the seasonal rush without breaking the bank or disappointing customers? Read on to learn what customers expect, and how to deliver with smart strategies and smarter technology.

Customer Expectations During the Holiday Season

Spending isn’t the only thing skyrocketing during the holiday season — so too are customer expectations. Here is what consumers expect from brands during the upcoming holiday season.

Immediate Service

During the holiday season, the turn of phrase “too much to do, too little time” hits a lot closer to home. Between normal day-to-day life, holiday celebrations, traveling and gift buying, consumers don’t want more of their time taken up by customer service.

According to recent Kustomer research, 77% of customers expect their problem to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service. Customers demand that you respect their time, especially during the busy holiday rush, and if you don’t, they are willing to leave for another retailer. In fact, 70% of consumers would not shop with a retailer again if they had to leave a chat before being helped, and 71% would do the same if they waited so long on hold that they hung up.

Available on Any Platform

Especially during the peak shopping season – Thanksgiving to Christmas — consumers are on the go. They may be traveling to spend time with family, taking a much needed vacation, or multitasking during the work day. What does this all mean? Customers are more willing and able to reach out on new platforms that are most convenient for them.

While 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer, availability on multiple platforms isn’t enough. Eighty-six percent of customers said they get frustrated when they have to repeat information to customer service agents. This means that if customers switch channels or need to be transferred, they don’t want the context of their previous interactions lost.

Most of the time, when a customer contacts a company, the team manning that channel will create a ticket. If the customer then contacts the company through a different channel about the same issue, a second ticket will be created with each team working their respective tickets. This results in a fragmented experience and the unfortunate need to repeat information.

How to Wow Your Customers During the Holiday Season (Without Breaking the Bank)

The typical strategies businesses use to please customers have one thing in common: they cost money, and aren’t scalable. What are some strategies and technology tools that you can put in place to wow your customers WITHOUT breaking the bank?

Prepare Early

There’s something to be said about beating your competition to the punch. According to research by Digital Commerce 360, 56% of customers chose where to shop during last year’s holiday season based on past experiences. In addition to common seasonal marketing strategies, delivering a stellar experience NOW can help you drive business in the future.

The companies that are practically synonymous with brand love, and have customers that are loyal to the death, have one thing in common: they have prioritized customer experience since their inception. In fact, customer experience is becoming more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty. Ensure that during busy seasons, when your inquiries and orders quadruple, you can continue to make customers feel just as valued as on the slowest day of the year. By preparing early, you can put the right tools, staff and strategies in place to not only deliver the perfect holiday gift, but also the perfect holiday customer experience.

Get a Little Help From Your Robot Friends

When resources are thin, technology can make a huge impact on your team’s efficiency. Oftentimes the most tedious tasks on an agent’s plate are manual and repetitive, and may not require human intervention. Luckily AI can handle simple tasks like tagging and routing conversations to the most appropriate agent. And consider the power of chatbots during peak shopping periods. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers. In fact, 67% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative.

Chatbots can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like changing a booking 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.

Be Available Wherever Your Customers Are

Omnichannel support shifts perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building, which is incredibly valuable during the holiday season, when companies have the opportunity to attract an entirely new cohort of customers. Individuals have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels. If executed properly, omnichannel support provides a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint after acquisition.

Ensure you have the right technology in place to integrate your combination of communication channels in order to capture the free flow of conversations across platforms and display the data in a single screen. A best-in-class solution should create a unified home for all your customer data, regardless of the source, not only the data generated from customer conversations.

Download our full holiday prep guide for additional strategies and customer insights that are sure to prepare you for the upcoming holiday season.

 

How Automation Can Help You Scale Your Business

How Automation Can Help You Scale Your Business TW

The digital landscape that we live in today has made it simple and seamless to access the information we need, instantly, from the palms of our hands. This means consumers are more comfortable and in-tune with their ability to reach out to your customer service team.

Making it as easy as possible on them, however, should be one of your top priorities. As your business grows and you must tackle more customer service inquiries, you need a strategy that allows you to scale your business. That’s where automation comes in.

Automating low-level service allows your business to meet customer needs without compromising quality and bringing in too many customer service agents. Let’s take a closer look at scalability and how automation can ensure an effective transition.

What Does it Mean to Scale Your Service?

While growing your business is equally important to scaling it, these two concepts are not one and the same. Scaling your business is what comes after you gain that initial growth.

As explained by HubSpot, scaling your business means that you have the funds, resources and overall organizational ability to take on an increase in sales, and therefore, and an uptick in work across the board.

Scaling a business is very similar to scaling a photo on the computer. The idea is to enlarge the picture without taking away from its quality. Scalability in business is all about utilizing the tools you have to maintain business growth without compromising value.

Automation and Scalability

Scalability sounds great in theory, but it often takes a robust strategy to turn the idea into reality. Automation makes scalability highly achievable by essentially providing more service to the customer without increasing the need for human resources. In the context of customer service, automation can mean actions such as automatically routing consumers to the right agent, and gathering information before the conversation even begins. Involving chatbots allows customer service agents to get a head start by knowing the information chatbots have already gathered and diving directly into more complex work. With more opportunity to take care of all queries that come up, scalability becomes second nature.

How Kustomer Can Help you Scale Your Business

Scaling your business can be a fairly simple concept when you choose a provider with a robust solution. Kustomer provides a platform that powers personalized and efficient omnichannel customer service by using powerful AI capabilities that make scaling your business almost effortless.

With automation, your company can better meet customers’ needs by contextualizing conversations, which also allows you to reduce the number of manual tasks that have fallen on customer service agents in the past. Even more, all of this can be achieved without compromising the overall quality of service, allowing your business to deliver on customers’ expectations and uphold a positive reputation.

Automated processes may be the next step in the journey to improve your business. Learn more about how Kustomer can help you scale your business with our Definitive Guide to Scaling Customer Service.

From cross-channel conversations to automated business processes, the Kustomer platform can help your business improve overall efficiencies by automating routine actions and eliminating manual tasks altogether.
 

Why Data Will Power the Future of the Contact Center

Why Data Will Power the Future of the Contact Center TW

Until now, the omnichannel, cloud-based, 360-degree customer view-enabled contact center was mostly a pipe dream, touted by technology vendors and thought leaders, with a majority of businesses falling short of this gold standard. Most customers still expect to fight their way through a dead-end IVR, endure multiple transfers, and repeat their information to agents who have zero context on who they are or why they’re calling.

As technology grows more robust, however, more and more businesses are starting to overcome these bottlenecks, more of which are related to a lack of data transparency. Businesses are using AI and machine learning-enabled platforms to unify their data across the organization, route customers based not only on queues but context, and design self-service platforms that facilitate end-to-end support.

Treat Every Customer Touchpoint as a Potential Data Source

For many businesses, their website is the seat of personalization. By collecting data on customer’s viewing history and purchasing habits, they can provide personalized recommendations and proactive support based on context, such as offering help through web chat to a customer who’s having trouble completing an online purchase. But a truly omnichannel experience is one where personalization follows the customer, whether they’re on the phone with an agent, shopping online or visiting in-store.

This means that data you collect from your website must be reconciled with the customer’s activity in all other channels to build a complete 360-degree view of each individual customer. When an agent interacts with a customer, regardless of channel, they should be able to see the customer’s buying history, sentiment and previous interactions (across every channel), status of their orders and customer’s preferred channel.

Says Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum, “Imagine having a conversation with a friend but not being able to remember anything about that friend, or any interactions you’ve had with them previously. It would be difficult to have a truly personal or meaningful conversation. That’s how traditional retailers have historically interacted with their customers, with a large blind spot around customer preferences and history.”

Optimize Human to AI Interactions

“Agents for complex issues, AI for simple ones” is an oft-repeated principle for successful human-AI interactions in the contact center. However, customers still find themselves calling when a chatbot does not function as anticipated. For this reason and others, the contact center is often still considered a cost center rather than a revenue driver. Once businesses learn how to optimize their self-service channels, while giving customers recourse to contact a live agent if needed, agents will automatically become the go-to touchpoint for complex issues and expert recommendations, and thereby come to be perceived as subject matter experts.

Without the burden of responding to repetitive inquiries, agents can focus on building a relationship with the customer. As Birnbaum says, “It will become the customer service agent’s job to reflect the company’s mission and values, and act as a trusted partner. The changing expectations of consumers means that customers want to do business with companies they believe in, feeling as though they are a part of the brand. Customer service agents can help do just that, through both proactive and reactive support.

To learn more about common blockers contact centers must overcome to power the future of customer service, download the CCW Special Report on the Customer Contact Vision for 2025.

Download CCW Report


To Deliver Personalized Customer Service, You Must First Become Truly Omnichannel

Finger on iPhone

Although many companies bill themselves as purveyors of exceptional, personalized customer service, the reality is markedly different. In fact, for most, a typical customer service experience can devolve to tropes often reserved for speed dating. Too frequently, customers find themselves having to reshare their name, history, and problem ad nauseum when communicating with a brand’s customer service team. And so, what should be a straightforward and personalized experience often becomes a fragmented, impersonal one.

The numbers paint a bleak landscape. According to the CCW Digital Market Study, 49% of organizations felt their biggest concern was a lack of 360-degree view of their customers—as a result, they couldn’t provide a unified experience across all channels. What’s more, insufficient data and disconnected systems make it a challenge for businesses to know enough about their customers to personalize the customer service experience.

Think about it: can you truly deliver on the promise of personalized customer service when that personalization happens inconsistently—or incompletely even? It stands to reason then that customer service cannot be truly personalized without also being truly omnichannel as well.

Let’s take a look at what defines personalized customer service, the benefits of personalization, how you can provide a more personalized customer service experience and the role omnichannel plays.

What is Personalized Customer Service?

Conversations connect people—they always have. And customer service agents must be encouraged and enabled to establish genuine connections with their customers. To do so effectively, they must also have adequate background information and context—on any client, on any platform, in any market, and at any moment. Silos will only inhibit them from delivering on customer expectations and forming a loyalty-building bond. They should understand who they’re servicing and how—and they should have that knowledge at a moment’s notice.

Artificial Intelligence magazine defines personalized customer service as the service provided by an agent that caters precisely to what the customer is looking for. This enables the consumer to gain a connection to your company and feel confident that you have a tailor-made solution that leaves them feeling satisfied after the interaction.

The Omnichannel Approach

In today’s hyper-connected world, you can’t simply think like the customer, you must communicate like them too, and be channel agnostic.
People today connect asynchronously. They have no allegiance to any platform or any one service. And their channel proliferation is happening at breakneck speed. One moment they can be @mentioning your brand on Twitter, while another they’ll be shooting over a screenshot of said @mention over text.

They communicate with friends and family in this manner, perhaps even with co-workers and superiors as well, and expect the same sort of nimble, contextualized, and convenient communication in other facets of their lives. And while they may have a channel of choice, companies must understand that said channel can change over time. Or, over the course of a week.

To put things further into perspective, today’s average consumer uses 10 separate channels to connect with companies. You heard that right—10. By giving customers an omnichannel approach, you increase the chances of reaching them and making it easier for them to reach you.

Benefits of Providing Personalized Customer Service

Delivering top-notch customer service is of the utmost importance. Doing so in a personalized manner, via the combination of human interaction and automation, can bring success to your business in more ways than one. Some of the benefits of providing personalized customer support include:

  • Repeat business
  • Enhanced customer loyalty
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • More meaningful conversations that help you improve your strategy

Learn more about how personalizing the customer experience can enhance your business in our personalization how-to guide.

How to Personalize the Customer Experience

Quality customer service is an ambitious tactic. In fact, according to research from Dimension Data, 81% of organizations believe that customer service is a major competitive differentiator. By personalizing the customer experience, more companies can enhance the quality of service they are providing and get a leg up on the competition.

Achieving personalized customer service can be achieved in three important steps:

1. Get to Know Your Customer.
If your business utilizes a platform that has access to all customer information in a single view during the interaction, customer service agents have the context they need to provide personalized experiences This cohesion allows agents to deliver quality, personalized service, and the ability to solve a customer’s problem in a timely manner.

2. Always Meet Customers Where They Are.
When it comes to increasing customer satisfaction and solving issues simultaneously, companies need to incorporate an omnichannel approach. When customer service agents can meet customers wherever they are, whenever they need assistance and not lose context as customers switch channels, they’ll be able to solve issues quickly, efficiently and personally.

3. Use Artificial Intelligence to Your Advantage.
Companies that are ready and willing to thrive in the digital age understand the value that comes with automation. Using resources like chatbots allows technology to take care of the analytical and manual work, giving agents more time and flexibility to handle complex tasks and issues presented by customers. Not only does this free up human resources, but it also enables your customer service team to build stronger connections with customers, building strong customer loyalty.

How Kustomer Enables Omnichannel Customer Service

For too many brands, the need to keep up with the growing number of channels has meant adding solutions at the expense of the customer experience. This multichannel approach has created silos of customer service agents and information. Each channel is staffed with its own team and creates its own record of customer information that isn’t broadly shared among the rest of the customer service organization. For example, if a customer had interacted with an agent earlier on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations or the solutions they each offered, leading to potential agent collision.

Truly omnichannel platforms like Kustomer enable agents and customers to have a single-threaded discussion about a topic that spans all of the channels their customers may use. Agents and customers can seamlessly switch from one channel to the next as needed during a conversation while seamlessly progressing the discussion. And customers never have to repeat information because agents always have the context of every conversation through a comprehensive timeline of previous interactions, purchases, and customer data all in a single view, on a single platform. As a result, you can deliver truly personalized, omnichannel customer service even as the constellation of channels continues to grow.

To learn more about Kustomer’s omnichannel approach, get the Guide to Delivering True Omnichannel Support.
 

How Customer Service Conversations Can Resolve Tricky Situations

Man with water, coffee, in a office

Today, customers know more than ever before. They have access to continual customer reviews via social media, use self-service resources to educate themselves on products and services, and are well-versed in the digital space to find the information they need. With 4.33 billion active internet users across the globe, there’s no doubt that your customers are browsing your website, social media platforms and review sites to get to know your brand.

While we’d all like to think that visits to our websites all hold positive intentions, some customers may come to complain or discuss their negative experience with a product or service you’ve provided. These tricky situations may require having a customer service conversation, one in which your agents can turn what started as a discussion with a dissatisfied customer into a positive situation. With the right skills and resources, you can train your customer service agents to engage in highly effective conversations that leave your brand with a positive reputation.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what defines a positive customer service conversation, some of the benefits that come with having an optimal customer service team and how Kustomer can help your agents better support your customers.

What Makes a Customer Service Conversation Effective?

In a recent episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, hosted by Kustomer’s VP of Growth Gabe Larsen, titled “How Customer Service Has Transformed Over the Last 20 Years,” Kustomer CEO Brian Birnbaum joined Larsen to discuss how the customer experience has drastically evolved thanks to the adoption of online support. Today, many customers are using online chat to connect with brands for support, and will only continue to do so in the future.

When a customer service conversation occurs, agents are expected to support each person in a way that will drive loyalty and retention. On the podcast, Birnbaum shared his thoughts on the topic and how customer service staff can step up their game to ensure an effective conversion:

“I would say make sure you’re supporting your customers in the way that they want to be supported. Right? … The bar is going up and up every single day, right? … When you have a bad experience, you’re taking it to Twitter, you’re telling all your friends about it, right? So over-index on those amazing support experiences and the ways to do that would be through the higher caliber of agents here that are very well trained and then a tool that’s going to enable those agents to be successful. And certainly, our product can help you do that. But I would focus on that. I think that’s one of those amazing support experiences that will drive customer loyalty and retention.”

To have an effective conversation goes beyond setting the bar high, however. Customer service agents should be well equipped with not only the skills and knowledge needed to provide positive interactions — they can also benefit from valuable resources to streamline their response. Overcoming tricky situations may be intimidating and difficult to navigate, but the right response tools can ease the process. Here are a few ways to have more effective customer service conversations:

Have the right skills.

According to Indeed, some of the top customer service skills include: communication, empathy, patience, active listening and quick thinking. Customer service representatives should be equipped with these skills to handle tricky situations as they arise.

Remember: Not all customers are created equal.

In another episode of Customer Service Secrets, Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania joined Larsen to discuss why focusing on the right customer gives companies a major advantage. He said that customer treatment simply isn’t “one-size-fits-all,” and focusing on the customers that can bring more value to the company are the ones that can really help the business grow.

Take in customer feedback.

Allow customers to rate the conversation or provide feedback to help agents improve the customer experience based on past interactions.

Top Five Benefits of Effective Customer Service Conversations

Customer service conversations can go a long way; when customers feel heard and receive a personal response from the company, both the customer and the business win. Here are some of the many benefits:

1. Positive Brand Reputation

When customers feel more comfortable sharing their questions and concerns with your company, it could impact the outlook they have on your business entirely. An Accenture Strategy Research Report found that 42% of consumers will stop giving a brand business if they’re frustrated with the company. Additionally, 21% of those consumers admit that they’ll never go back after walking away. An effective customer service conversation can solve issues before they turn into lost business.

2. Customer Loyalty and Retention

When customer service conversations go well, consumers are more likely to continue purchasing a brand’s products or services regularly. According to a 2017 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of customers surveyed across the globe consider effective customer service to be one of the most important factors in determining their loyalty to a brand.

3. Repeat Business

Customer loyalty goes a long way; it generally means that repeat business is inevitable. In fact, according to the Accenture report, nearly half of consumers spend more money with companies that they’re loyal to. An effective customer service conversation can help consumers feel more comfortable and confident in your business — enough to come back for more products or services — especially if a problem is solved or a relationship is built during the conversation.

4. Competitive Advantage

Companies within the same industry are constantly searching for strong differentiators, but customer service has become a competitive priority. In fact, a Gartner survey found that 89% of companies compete on the quality of their customer service on its own. An effective customer service conversation, via live chat, social, e-mails or customer care line, can be what sets your business apart from industry competitors and keeps customers choosing your business over their other options.

5. Friendly and Helpful Customer Service Staff Members

Effective customer service conversations don’t only have an impact on your consumers and the bottom line of your business; they also largely affect your customer service support team. The Microsoft service report found that 30% of customers say that speaking with an agent who is both knowledgeable and friendly are the two most important factors during a customer service interaction. Staff members can feel a sense of satisfaction by having effective customer service conversations, motivating them to be even more helpful and friendly for future interactions.

How Kustomer Can Help You Support Your Customers

Kustomer’s business model is built around helping companies better connect with their customers to meet their expectations. With many people spending more of their free time at home, customers have ample opportunity to reach your team and are expecting their wants and needs to be met with a real-time response. With Kustomer’s customer service CRM platform, you can achieve continuous omnichannel conversations by using artificial intelligence as a supplemental tool to aid agents and deflect low level support.

These unprecedented times have encouraged us to conduct a special report: How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Customer Service Organizations, which analyzes how businesses are reacting to the global pandemic. Many of the results are very powerful, for example, 79% of customer service organizations have felt a significant impact of the coronavirus, with about 1% reporting no impact at all.

Throughout the report, you can learn more about meeting customers’ needs during the pandemic and further understand other valuable insights that can get your business through these tough times.

For more general information about how we can help your customers feel heard and assist you in providing quality customer service, contact us directly or request a demo today.
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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 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.

In 2020, 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 can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most in 2020. Here are eight we recommend weaving into your business strategy:

1. Taking Care of Every Customer by Promoting 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. Building 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 goes wrong.

4. Taking the Omnichannel Approach

This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2020. 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. Focusing 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. Using 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.

3 Reasons You Need Customer Sentiment Analysis

woman on phone sitting on steps

A common saying states that perception is reality. Regardless of its validity, perception is widely accepted, and it can have significant consequences on either an individual or an organization’s reputation and credibility.

Organizations face this every day: how to deliver the best possible product while also winning trust through superb service. Even a superior product can fall victim to upset customers — according to an Accenture Strategy Research Report, 47% of consumers admit they won’t even engage with a brand after being disappointed. Today’s complex, omnichannel environment makes these stakes even higher.

Analyzing sentiment and empowering agents with data allows them to go above and beyond, providing customers with an experience that promotes not only satisfaction, but also encourages loyalty.

What is Customer Sentiment Analysis?

KM World defines customer sentiment analysis as the processing of information to determine the opinion of a consumer. The time consumers take to ask questions, resolve issues, and share both positive and negative experiences can be used to help an organization evolve.

It’s important to understand that the way this information is gathered has changed drastically in the last two decades. What was once handled by either a letter or phone call to a company has now evolved into a multi-layered approach that can feel dizzying for an organization seeking to keep pace.

To deliver the most empathetic customer service experience, an organization must understand customer sentiment across all channels. Let’s take a closer look at sentiment scoring, what’s considered a positive sentiment and three solid reasons customer sentiment analysis is a must for your organization.

What is a Sentiment Score?

According to CallMiner, a sentiment score is the number used to gauge customers’ opinions of a company’s service and products. A positive sentiment score indicates exactly what it describes — customers are satisfied with their experience with the company’s offerings and will likely continue to go about business as usual — and as such, a negative score explains the opposite. Both types of sentiment scoring are important, as they can help a company understand where they need to improve and where they can continue following business protocol.

3 Reasons You Need Customer Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis gives you an increasingly accurate temperature check on how your customers feel about your brand, your products and the service you provide. For agents to turn this data into insights, however, they must be able to easily access this type of customer information.

Here are three reasons why customer sentiment analysis is ideal for driving customer loyalty:

1. Customer Service Agents Become Advocates

Every time a customer reaches an agent, that agent should, at a minimum, be empowered with all the information needed to provide a seamless experience. From purchase information, shipping information, and return requests, to an accumulation of all internal communications that have occurred, agents should have all the customer details available to them in order to provide the best possible service. But this isn’t always possible without the right technology.

When armed with sentiment analysis, the agent is properly prepared to connect and empathize with the customer on the aspects of either the service or the product that felt frustrating. This type of communication serves to both personalize the experience while also helping to neutralize potentially difficult conversations.

To provide the modern experience customers expect, organizations can’t afford for their agents to have any information gaps. According to Calabrio, 60% of customer service agents feel that they don’t have the tools or technology needed to handle customer issues, and 34% cite a lack of pertinent customer data as their biggest problem. With the right resources in place, companies can properly identify negative and positive sentiment scores and translate the insights into providing an improved customer experience across the board.

2. It Has a Major Influence on the Future of Your Business

When it comes to both acquiring and retaining customers, brands must pursue the new rules of engagement. According to Social Media Today, 70% of consumers have admitted that they turned to the social media accounts of brands for customer service reasons on one occasion or more. Utilizing social media channels is one of the most advantageous moves a brand can make today.

Customer interactions, whether indicating negative or positive sentiment, can be used to benefit the company. This data can be used to get ahead of issues, inform internal product teams of concerns or problems and influence both new customers and loyal ones. Data can reveal how an individual consumer is feeling, and it can also reveal areas in your product or policies that need improvement.

3. Customer Experience Gaps Vanish (With Holistic Measurement)

Unfortunately, many organizations look at sentiment based on the channel: e-mail, phone, chatbot/live chat, social and others, and that means all the data collected is siloed. The result of siloed data needing to be measured and analyzed together is an analyst somewhere banging their heads against a wall trying to fit a square peg through a round hole.

In other words, siloed data can be analyzed together, but it will usually be inconsistent and incomplete, with gaps that don’t cover the holistic customer experience. When attempting to make sense of the entire customer journey from initial awareness through to repeat purchases, organizations must consider a holistic way of collecting the data to be analyzed more accurately. A customer service CRM platform, that unifies all data into a single view, can help businesses garner insights from cross-channel data.

How Kustomer can help

Understanding how your customers feel can be a useful tool for your business. The organization that achieves a comprehensive, holistic and actionable view of their customer, and leverages sentiment analysis to understand how customers are feeling, can create empathetic experiences that boost loyalty, retention and repeat sales.

Kustomer’s Sentiment Engine specifically achieves this. It’s driven by AWS Amazon Comprehend, and through natural language processing APIs, the Kustomer platform can analyze all incoming text from the customer, no matter the channel. You’ll always know how they feel, and be prepared to deliver exceptional service in customers’ greatest times of need.

If you’re ready to transform your organization’s customer service into one that drives loyalty in the modern age, click here for three ways to get started.

 

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19

3 Ways Customer Service Teams Must Adjust During COVID-19 TW

Life has become a series of trade-offs and workarounds in light of the pandemic. Curbside pick-ups are my new norm. My inbox is a litany of order confirmations and estimated delivery times. Last weekend, I drove to a local hardware store and found the following handwritten message on a sign at their front door: “Know what you want. Get in and get out.” At times, my interactions with people feel purely transactional.

The world has changed, and customer service is changing right along with it. Businesses are being challenged with a paradoxical conundrum: how do we retain our humanness? How do we maintain trust in a time of uncertainty? Below are three ways customer service teams must adjust in light of the global pandemic.

Empathy Is #1.

Companies who approach customer service with a deeper level of empathy are more likely to maintain loyalty and win new business. This concept is not a newfound revelation. In fact, The Empathy Business has studied the efficacy of empathy in business for years. And what have they found? Organizations that focus on the “emotional impact” they have on employees, customers, and society are valued higher and earn more than their counterparts.

In the world of COVID-19, empathy is even more desperately needed. Quarantine measures and social isolation mean a rise in loneliness and other mental health issues. Think about it this way: what if your organization delivers the only social interaction an individual will experience for a full day? Armed with that information, how should you change your customer journey?

Start small. Use your data. Study the way your customers use your tools and services. Where are they running into roadblocks? Where are you making your customers’ lives easier? Take note and adjust. Document your FAQs in an accessible location, like a Knowledge Base. Have the patience to clearly explain the nuances of your business and policies. Above all else, practice kindness in all of your communication.

“One-Size-Fits-All” Won’t Succeed.

As the pandemic spreads, we’ve seen a spike in conversations for many of our clients. And according to a recent survey by Kustomer, there has been a 17% increase in inquiries across industries. With this influx in communication, it no longer makes sense to force every customer to call the same number to contact your company. Instead, it’s time to get smart about the channels you employ to manage customer interactions, and it’s time to invest in a fully-fledged omnichannel experience.

But beware: you should avoid blindly adding new service channels without a strategy in place. Dig deep into your customer personas and understand their respective beliefs and behaviors. McKinsey notes that “not all customers are the same, and it’s how they differ in their behavior and preferences—particularly on digital—that should have an outsize influence on how service journeys are designed.” Keep this in mind, too: a small percentage of customers — classified as the “offline society” -— may suddenly be forced into adopting digital communication in light of shelter-in-place orders. Take these different customers into account when adapting your customer service strategies.

Automation Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury.

As we’ve seen an increase in the number of inquiries, we’ve also seen an increase in the need for artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Agents can become easily overwhelmed by an onslaught of new messages. AI can automate some of the more tedious tasks that those agents might encounter, thereby freeing their time for more important work.

Consider how you can deflect commonly asked questions and save your agents valuable time. Let’s say you’re an airline in today’s world. With the rise of the pandemic, you’re being flooded with requests for information about your refund policy. Instead of directing your team to answer each inquiry individually, you could use automation to serve up pre-written articles that align with the inquiry’s keywords. Not only do you protect your team’s time, but you also deliver a better customer experience as customers receive near-instant answers to their questions. Beyond that, unsuccessful deflections can provide a treasure trove of data to guide your future content.

Those who adapt and adjust their strategies now can influence their fate in the post-pandemic world. The opportunity is there. We have to be good stewards of our time and resources to capitalize on it.

What Kustomer IQ Can Do For You

Announcing AI for Customer Service in your CRM Platform

While these are extraordinary times, your organization’s top priority is unwavering—to provide customers with exceptional, convenient customer service. For many, customer conversations are only increasing, and Kustomer has stuck its course to build a CRM platform packed with the tools and capabilities that help you connect with customers, keep them engaged, and manage processes to perform at max capacity and grow.

We also think our platform should eliminate any barriers between your agents and your customers because time is of the essence—now more than ever. That’s where we think AI comes in, not to take on the role of the agent, but to act as a partner in getting to the root of customer needs in order to handle simple responses or immediately place them in touch with their best, most expedient resource.

We’re excited to announce our suite of AI-enabled capabilities is now available to customers. Called Kustomer IQ, it enables smarter processes that eliminate busywork and help teams better understand what customers need.

“Customer service is one of the first touch points that a consumer has with a brand, and modern companies need the tools to scale automation without compromising the exceptional brand experience customers have come to expect,” said Brad Birnbaum, CEO and Co-Founder of Kustomer. “Kustomer IQ will help companies further serve the needs of their customers by providing self-service tools to bring even more efficiencies to customer service. We are especially proud to broadly roll this out right now.”

AI Makes Every Conversation More Convenient

Kustomer IQ Lite is available to all customers on our Enterprise and Ultimate plans, and features self-service tools and predictive capabilities that help gauge emotions and equip agents with knowledge, content, and empathy to get the job done quickly.

We See Automated Self-Service Differently

Kustomer IQ works alongside your team to tackle easy questions, and elicit details from your customers so agents can get a head start, or possibly deflect simple inquiries.

Kustomer IQ is omnichannel, using content from an organization’s knowledge base to suggest relevant articles when customers reach out via email, live chat, or form submission. Watch our tutorial below on how to get started with deflection in chat today.


We’ve added deflection to our reporting stack, providing real-time analysis so you can verify success, quantify time saved for customers and agents, and understand how content is performing, with insights into what customers are seeking to help plan future articles and deflect more conversations.

Our smart Conversational Assistant prompts customers to provide additional information around their needs, and in the coming weeks, we plan on adding branchable logic to the Kustomer IQ suite, which will extend your ability to gather finer details and help decide the most appropriate service path.

Deliver Empathetic Global Support

Kustomer is proud to partner with organizations representing six continents around the world—we’re a global solution available in more than 60 languages.

For those managing global customer service, Kustomer IQ leverages Amazon Comprehend machine learning capabilities to detect language upon contact, then route conversations to native-speaking agents or enable multilingual translated content if needed. It also analyzes messages to understand how customers are feeling, and assigns a sentiment score to help agents get on even footing as soon as they respond.

 

Get to the Root of Every Conversation

Our basic Kustomer IQ package features more sophisticated predictive and automation capabilities powered by machine learning, which work by analyzing data and content to accurately assess customer needs and activate smarter processes in the Kustomer platform. Check out our pricing page for more information.

Impeccable Customer Service, Fast

Intent Identification, the newest, most powerful feature of Kustomer IQ, analyzes and classifies inbound conversations, and uses those new attributes or conversation tags to trigger process automation that takes work off your team’s plate. This includes intelligent conversation routing, all based on how you classify customer outreach, such as by contact reason or product line. In addition, automated workflows can be triggered to manage communications, initiate greetings, or provide temporary air cover.

Emily Marcogliese, Head of Customer Service from our partner at thredUp recently shared, “Kustomer IQ has had a tremendous impact on my team’s efficiency. Machine learning instantly identifies the purpose of every inbound conversation, then intelligently routes each customer to a specific team based on their contact reason, such as orders, returns, or clean out. Rather than spend time manually routing conversations, my team can focus on delivering personalized service and resolving issues quickly to decrease customer effort.”

 

 

Agent Recommendations (coming soon to Kustomer IQ) use internal and external content to generate content suggestions in real time, which will come in handy for agents-in-training who may be new to policies and brand knowledge. Machine learning analyzes customer messages to accurately offer information for faster conversations and precise resolution.

 

Get Started Now

We’re excited to announce that Enterprise and Ultimate plans come equipped with a Lite version of Kustomer IQ, so all our customers can take advantage of these awesome capabilities. Kustomer IQ Lite includes Automated Self-Service with our Conversational Assistant, Global Language Detection, and Sentiment Analysis.

Our base package for Kustomer IQ will be available on April 30, featuring enhanced AI capabilities to automate more conversations, including conversation classification, agent recommendations, and a more advanced Conversational Assistant.

And coming later this year, Kustomer IQ+ will open up new ways for customers to interact with brands. Featuring enhanced AI functionality, Kustomer IQ+ will automate simple, contextualized two-way dialogue on live chat with custom object recognition, so you can leverage and update information regarding orders, purchases, shipping, tracking, and much more.

Learn more about Kustomer IQ at our live webinar on April 22nd at 1pm ET, and contact us if you have any questions.

 

Why Your Support Agents Hate Their Tech (And How Kustomer + Dialpad Can Change That)

Why Your Support Agents Hate Their Tech Twitter

Here’s the most obvious statement of 2020: working in support isn’t for the faint of heart. Fielding the same issues over and over again (“did you try restarting your computer?”), playing therapist to an especially irate customer, juggling phone calls, chat, emails…can you really blame agents for feeling a bit worn out?

Of course not. And that’s why agent retention is such a tough thing to manage with up to 40% of agents end up leaving every year.

Your agents don’t expect you to solve all their problems—well, okay, the reasonable ones don’t—but what they do expect is that you’ll start to track the challenges they’re facing and that where you can, like in the case of the tech they use, re-evaluate the value it brings vs what it might be costing you.

Why Your Agents Hate Their Tech

  1. It’s not helping them get better at handling those tough moments
  2. 30% of agents spend an hour or more with unhappy customers each day. But how would a manager know that? How could they identify the calls where agents need some support? Or if they can’t be everywhere at once (who can?), how do they empower their agents to have the right answers at the right time?

  3. It’s making them jump through hoops to find answers
  4. Sure, not even the most seasoned agent is going to have the right answer every time. The point is that the answer is where they need it, one click away, so they can deliver it to your customer without having to put them on hold, transfer them to someone else, or even worse…send them in the wrong direction.

  5. It’s adding more steps rather than taking them away
  6. Today your tech should be working together to streamline data entry, number of clicks, number of windows, etc. Because every click, every toggle of a new screen, every scroll…that adds up. That means more time searching and less time listening to what your customers have to say, understanding the real reason they’re calling, and being able to give a thoughtful response at the right time.

How Kustomer + Dialpad built a better agent experience

Your agents are on the frontlines of your business. And while they’re responsible for knowing your product or service inside and out (already a hard enough feat) they’re also the ones that your customers judge the most; the way they answer questions or how quickly they’re able to get on the same page—all of this adds up towards whether or not that customer is going to keep doing business with you.

And that’s where our latest partnership aims to help: with Kustomer + Dialpad, your omnichannel platform now includes an entire phone system, too.

With the Kustomer + Dialpad integration, agents can answer calls straight from inside Kustomer, with automatic caller ID detection that pulls up customer conversations and past histories.

 

 

Other supported features include:
  • Click to call from Kustomer to launch Dialpad Everywhere widget
  • Includes call controls (mute, hang up, transfer, record)
  • Includes live transcriptions
  • Includes agent recommendation cards for FAQs
  • Automatic logging of placed calls, voicemails, and recordings

 

The Dialpad app is available to connect from the Kustomer Marketplace.

Learn more about the Kustomer+Dialpad integration, supported functionality, and get your FAQs answered.

 

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day

How to Keep Customers Smiling This Valentine’s Day Twitter

It’s a day of love, romance and positive feelings…. that is until white lilies are delivered instead of red roses, or a winter snow storm causes a shipping delay for that diamond necklace she’s been waiting for.

During peak shopping days, like Valentine’s Day, customer loyalty is on the line. A mistake not only means an angry customer, but could mean embarrassment and conflict due to a missing or incorrect present. The way that companies handle service inquiries during these seasonal rushes is of the utmost importance. They must treat customers with empathy, and understand that problems and questions can hold a lot more weight during stressful holidays.

The National Retail Federation reports that $27.4 billion is going to be spent this Valentine’s Day, a whopping 32% increase from last year. So follow these tips to avoid getting caught in cupid’s crossfire.

Prepare for Scale

If you’re a retailer that caters to romance, like florists and jewelers, prepare for an uptick in orders and inquiries. Your apps and websites should be able to handle an increased load, and you should have staff in place to handle the spike in customers reaching out. By leveraging technology that incorporates AI and automation, low level support tasks like business hours and shipping information, can be deflected away from your agents, freeing up their time to tackle more difficult inquiries and making sure Valentine’s Day goes off without a hitch.

Deliver On Instantaneous Conversations

As much as we all wish our significant other was planning a lavish evening months in advance, the truth of the matter is that last minute gift buying is… the norm. Customers will likely be ordering flowers or chocolates mere hours before they want them to be delivered. Make sure you’re able to manage real-time fulfillment, as well as real-time conversations.

In order to deliver truly instantaneous support, agents must be able to have the full context of every customer interaction at their fingertips, no matter the channel or issue. Did the customer just receive their order? What is the sentiment of their interaction? Did they just have a conversation about the same issue on a different platform? Being able to see this all in one view, versus opening new tickets for every new interaction, means you’re able to serve customers quicker and build relationships faster.

Be Channel Agnostic

Your customers are on the go. No matter whether they are at work, on the train, at dinner or on their couch, you need to be available to them. Make sure that your customers are able to contact you on whatever channel they’re active on, and switch between those channels seamlessly and without losing context. When time is of the essence, your customers don’t want to have to start the conversation over again.

Communicate Seamlessly with Customers and Vendors

Marketplaces may have a particularly difficult time handling seasonal rushes. Let’s say a customer is ordering a bottle of champagne to be delivered to their partner when they get home from work. To ensure a seamless process, marketplaces will have to use a system that can enable communication with customers and vendors simultaneously to solve any issues. Traditional customer service solutions force agents to switch between multiple platforms and screens, instead of connecting conversations between customers and vendors in a single view.

Your brand doesn’t want to be the reason for a break-up. Prepare properly and deliver exceptional support, and you and your customers will live happily ever after.

Learn more in the latest customer service retail report.

Download Report

 

4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

man on ipad

Creating and maintaining a strong customer service team is one of the most important considerations you can make for your business. In fact, a Customer Service Barometer study by American Express found that 68% of survey respondents agreed that the right representative is necessary for creating a positive experience. Of those people, 62% said that the customer service agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness are what make them a sought-out representative.

So how do these customer service representatives work to achieve the perfect customer service resume? Beyond basic skills and experience, it’s all about creating a customer-first experience.

What Is Customer-First Support?

The customer-first approach is a simple concept. It’s all about creating a personalized interaction from the moment the conversation begins until it ends. It’s about recognizing that while you may be behind a phone or computer, you’re still speaking to an actual person who is not only confiding in you with their issues, but is trusting you to provide them with the support and solutions they need. Customers want agents to interact with them just as they would engage with someone in person who can provide assistance.

While customer-first support is highly reliant on a strong customer service agent, technology plays a major supplemental role in achieving it. Taking an omnichannel approach at customer service and meeting your customer needs wherever they are is critical. The right CRM platform can ensure success in achieving customer-first support via intelligent automation so your customer service agents can provide assistance with high-level, complex issues while chatbots assist more basic and immediate needs. But remember, the customer always comes first.

4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

Customer expectations have evolved past closed tickets and short resolution times. To succeed in today’s ever-changing world, brands must take a customer-first approach to service and support. Here’s how to achieve it in four simple steps.

1. Understand the Emotions of Your Customers

Do you know what percentage of your customers are happy, satisfied or disappointed? Understanding the emotional state of your customers, and adding empathy to the conversation, makes the experience more meaningful, and agents can have conversations that truly help customers.

The top difference between a good agent and a great agent is their ability to express empathy. Empathy is enabled by sensing someone’s emotions. Sentiment scores within your customer service software should give your agents:

  • Updates and reporting in real-time.
  • The ability to segment customers by sentiment data.
  • Sentiment-based workflow automations.

By pairing sentiment data with the right agent skills, it’s easier to master the skill of mirroring to make customers more comfortable. Mirroring, even if doing something as simple as using casual terms as you would with a friend, can go a long way in building a customer relationship. A customer service agent must know the appropriate tone to use to calm frustration, convey understanding of the issue, and express empathy.

2. Encourage Actual Conversations

Enabling true, personal conversations requires a mindset shift from transactional support to conversational support. Conversational support, service and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. Agents are there to provide real value, not just to solve a problem or process a transaction. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

3. Embrace Omnichannel and Break Down Silos

Meeting customers when and where they want pays off. In fact, according to a Kustomer study, 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. The brands that deliver omnichannel support will win additional brand loyalty.

Don’t think it’s just “newer” channels like social media that need your attention, though.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” according to Olive Huang, the research director at Gartner. “You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organization, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact center, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

The days of isolated call centers are gone. CX leaders need to partner and collaborate with other departments to make improvements throughout the entire customer life cycle.

4. Reinvent Your CS Titles and Hiring Process

Names are powerful, and for customer service teams, names set the tone for customer interactions. An “agent” is a transactional term, ideal for reactive problem-solving. Many modern CX organizations are reinventing the names, skill sets and training of their customer service teams because of the importance of the experience to customer value.

Calling your support agents something like “Happiness Agents” would not be wise if they consistently deliver low CSAT numbers and aren’t empowered to actually generate happiness. While names set expectations, you have to make sure that you are able to execute on those expectations. That’s where the principles of a customer-first approach can deliver true value.

How Kustomer Can Help

Shifting to a customer-first support strategy allows you to achieve this, giving you a competitive advantage and a positive reputation in your industry. With Kustomer’s Guide to Achieving Customer-First Service, you can gain the knowledge and leverage needed to navigate away from outdated customer service mechanisms, learn how to hire the right people for your customer service team and understand how to create a customer feedback loop between your customer service and marketing teams for a seamless strategy.

To learn more about how to deliver customer-first support, download the full guide here.

Measuring the Intangible Benefits of a Customer Service Solution

When companies begin to look for customer service solutions, it’s often because there are major issues they need to solve. But oftentimes, these issues are intangible things such as a general lack of efficiency, a sense of ineffectiveness, a need for call deflection and other matters that seem hard to quantify. The benefits of customer service might seem hard to measure at first.

After identifying concrete and intangible challenges, the next step for companies is to find a way to resolve those issues and ultimately achieve customer service success. This certainly won’t happen overnight, but the process is worth it when you consider the benefits of quality customer service for your customers as well as your company as a whole.

Here, we describe the characteristics and benefits of excellent customer service and cover how to measure them.

Who Benefits From Good Customer Service?

The answer to this question really is that everyone involved benefits from excellent customer service. If you think about it, what is the purpose of good customer service if not to create more satisfied and loyal customers, happier and more successful agents and a healthier bottom line?

There really are benefits of providing quality customer service for the customer, the agent and the business as a whole. In many cases, when one aspect is improved, all stakeholders will experience the positive impact. The results of good customer service and the advantages of service quality improvements can often be felt instinctively, but they can also be quantified with some of the top customer satisfaction metrics.

Benefits of Customer Service Excellence

Let’s explore some of the top benefits of customer service excellence for the customer, agent and business — and how you can measure them:

Increased Customer Service Efficiency

An efficient process is one that requires little input but yields maximum output. Improved efficiency in a customer service environment means that you empower your customer support agents to do less and help more. The advantages of this are increased productivity, higher-quality customer service and a stronger sense of job satisfaction. After all, how many employees want to work harder and produce fewer results?

Using Kustomer, agents can use shortcut words to type a complete sentence with just a #hashtag, while quick keys allow them to use the keyboard instead of the mouse. With these tools, some agents can handle multiple chat screens while others are better able to process emails more quickly. Additionally, the Kustomer timeline surfaces all customer interactions on a single screen, preventing the need to bounce back and forth between different systems.

All of these elements lead to a more efficient and productive workforce. Organizations that demonstrate improved efficiency can track improvements through customer satisfaction metrics like faster resolution times and an increase in the number of conversations each agent handles.

Greater Customer Service Effectiveness

Increased effectiveness means making it easier for agents to excel at their jobs. This involves providing agents with the right customer service training, tools and resources to successfully resolve customer issues and offer personalized support.

For example, Kustomer’s actionable context cards allow agents to do things like issue refunds directly from their screens and easily route conversations to other agents who can provide the right type of assistance.

Companies that increase customer service effectiveness realize benefits through improved customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, faster case resolution times and higher customer retention rates.

Improved Customer Deflection

Companies that can deflect easily avoidable customer support conversations free up agents’ time for more complex issues.

This can be done by providing resources like an easily accessible knowledge base or FAQ section which deflect simple questions like the company’s hours of operation, store locations and refund policies. Even an AI chatbot can address immediate needs before transferring customers to a live chat with a skilled agent when needed. Additionally, proactive outreach capabilities allow agents to address customer concerns before they arise. An example might be sending a notification to all customers in a certain region that an impending storm system may delay shipments.

Not only are these self-service resources beneficial for customers, who can get immediate answers with very little effort, but they also take a burden off of customer care agents who then have the bandwidth to handle higher-level issues. Organizations that successfully deflect customer support conversations witness the benefits of good customer service by seeing a lower number of new cases and more favorable customer effort scores (CES).

Enhanced Satisfaction and Loyalty

The ability to give or receive exceptional customer support can boost customer satisfaction as well as agent satisfaction (ASAT). All of the above benefits of customer service help establish a more loyal and content workforce as well as a community of happy customers, both of which are critical to business success.

Brand advocates are more likely to spread positive messages about your company to friends and family members, post glowing product reviews or employer feedback, and offer sustained support for your company. New employees and customers are more expensive to acquire, so facilitating a great employee and customer experience should be a top priority. Metrics for measuring success in this area include CSAT score, ASAT score and net promoter score (NPS) as well as customer and employee retention rates and churn.

Better-Informed Business Decision-Makers

In addition to the more obvious advantages of customer care success, such as a bottom-line boost and increased word-of-mouth reach, there are also benefits of evaluating customer service experience and performance.

Any good customer care strategy involves tracking KPIs and monitoring important customer service metrics. Armed with insights like CES, CSAT, net promoter score, sentiment analysis, resolution time, call abandonment rate, resolution rate and customer retention, decisionmakers can implement data-driven, customer-centric changes and continue monitoring the results.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the key benefits of a good customer service solution, find out what specific tools and features you should be looking for in our buyer’s guide.

 

A Look Back at Customer Service During the 2019 Holiday Season

The holiday season has only just wrapped, and it was arguably the most important season for any retail customer service organization. When there are issues with holiday orders, you encounter the very real possibility of unhappy customers who are angry and embarrassed by missing or incorrect gifts. Customer expectations are at an all time high, and organization must over-deliver during their greatest times of need. Whether it’s handling simple product questions in real time, proactively alerting customers when there is an issue with their order, or rectifying any subsequent issues upon delivery, customer service during the holiday season could be the difference between a lifelong customer and one lost to the competition.

How Peak Season Customer Service Has Changed

The digital and direct-to-consumer shifts have had a huge impact on retail customer service. While customers now expect instantaneous service on a multitude of channels, they also expect personal and helpful interactions, similar to face-to-face interactions with in-store associates. In fact, according to a recent Kustomer survey, 75% of consumers aged 25-34 said they expected personalized communications from retailers. And that is 15% higher than those 65 and older, meaning personalization is becoming increasingly expected with younger generations.

2019 Holiday Season Developments

Last year there was a drastic increase in multichannel shopping (both online and in-store), and multichannel support inquiries are also on the rise. That means consumers may start an inquiry on one channel, and finish it on another. Whether the channel switch is because they are on the go, or they didn’t get a prompt response on their original channel, multichannel inquiries can cause duplicative work resulting in agent collision as well as the unfortunate need for customers to repeat information. It is important that retailers have a strong omnichannel support solution in place for any peak shopping period. A true omnichannel support solution can integrate your combination of communication channels in order to capture the free flow of conversations across channels and display the data in a single screen. This ensures seamless transitions and consistent experiences from one channel to the next.

Peak Season Challenges

The constant struggle for customer service organizations during peak shopping periods is sheer volume. With more shopping comes more support inquiries, and businesses that don’t have a scalable strategy in place, supported by the right technology, may not be able to deliver on customer expectations. Additionally, many businesses hire “seasonal employees” to help with the busy periods that they must heavily train to ensure they provide a consistent brand experience. With software that does the heavy lifting for them, providing unified customer history in a single screen and delivering standardized responses via dynamic content, the onboarding burden during an already busy time will be lessened.

Additionally, with a high volume of inquiries, customer service organizations often have trouble prioritizing the most urgent or pressing issues, and simply stick everyone in a queue, which is often unbearably long. Retailers can use AI and automation to intelligently route the most pressing issues to the most appropriate agents, or even prioritize loyal customers.

Overwhelmed customer service organizations often fall into the unfortunate habit of delivering bare minimum support in order to complete inquiries as quickly as possible. It’s important to realize that during peak shopping seasons, your customers are also stressed out, and expect retailers to deliver on their usually stellar service just as thoroughly as they would on the slowest day of the year. That means delivering real-time support, on any channel they choose, in a personalized manner.

Overcoming Peak Season Challenges

Whether it’s Cyber Monday, Valentine’s Day or Back to School season, brands should not only have a scalable strategy in place, but also technology that enables them to be more efficient and effective. AI and automation can improve the precision and speed of service by automating repetitive, manual tasks. 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, AI 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.

To learn more about the results from the 2019 holiday shopping season, and how to properly prepare for future peak shopping periods, download the full report.

Download the Report


4 Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Brand Through Customer Service in 2020

Have you ever ended a call with a customer service agent thinking that you’d never want to go through such a horrible experience again? You probably shared your experiences with friends and family, or went so far as posting your negative thoughts across social media.

One angry consumer not only means a lost customer, but could also mean a hit to your brand or a PR nightmare. Your customer service agents need tools that promote a positive experience for each and every customer. The following are four easy ways to strengthen your brand through customer service in 2020.

Speak with Customer in the Ways They Want to Communicate

Enabling your agents to service customers on their preferred channels, whether that be e-mail, chat, SMS, voice, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Twitter, strengthens the bond between companies and their customers. Consumers expect brands to be available on each and every channel they regularly use, but oftentimes tracking conversations and interactions across channels can be a challenge for agents. With Kustomer, conversations across channels converge into a single thread on a single screen, resulting in a seamless and effortless conversation. By breaking down the communication silos of traditional multichannel solutions that fragment service experiences, cause agent collision, and frustrate customers, Kustomer ensures a true omnichannel experience for customers and agents alike.

Reach out to Your Customers Proactively

Customers understand that problems happen all the time. Proactive communication allows companies to keep their customers updated on issues like delays in shipping, out of stock items or product updates. Customers empathize that problems arise and feel valued when kept in the loop, while inbound inquiries are reduced due to proactive outreach. Some organizations turn their CX organization into a revenue center by sending offers based on purchase history, deep insights or to encourage repeat purchases. With all of your data in the Kustomer platform, your customer service team can proactively communicate to deflect issues and delight customers.

Measure Your Customer Sentiment

Agents need to understand the mood of the customer before the conversation begins. Sentiment determines the direction of the conversation, which agent should handle the customer and how to handle the interaction. Customers are happy because agents can immediately empathize with their emotions. Agents are happy because they are aware of the customer’s current disposition and are trained to handle difficult interactions appropriately. Tracking customers’ sentiment helps agents decide how to best prioritize and engage in conversations, and provides management with a critical metric for overall customer service effectiveness.

Know Everything About Your Customers

Companies that develop deep insights about their customers, and leverage them appropriately to provide personalization, will improve their brand image. Tracking important customer information like birthdays, anniversaries or most recently purchased items on a customer timeline softens conversations and makes for a memorable experience. Agents can see deep insights quickly and easily and can, for instance, wish their customers a happy birthday. A personalized call can switch sentiment from potentially hostile to neutral or even positive. Kustomer connects your agents to all of your customers’ data from internal and third-party systems, providing a holistic timeline view for more productive and efficient conversations.

Strengthening your brand begins with asking tough questions. Is customer sentiment appropriate for your business? Is speaking with your customers through an omnichannel approach important? What types of customer information would you track that could impact your brand? Once these questions are answered, a platform like Kustomer could help you kickstart a successful 2020.

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Multichannel Support Is Not Omnichannel Support. Here’s Why.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Consumers expect to be able to contact your brand anywhere, anytime. Their needs must be immediately recognized, and they demand high-quality results on the channels that are most convenient in their greatest times of need. But true omnichannel support is more than simply communicating with customers on every channel. Read on to learn the difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel support, and how an omnichannel approach can transform your level of service.

What’s the Big Difference?

Let’s clear the air – multichannel support is not omnichannel support. Unfortunately, the terms have almost become interchangeable, with many companies and technology providers conflating the two. Multichannel support simply means offering consumers more than one method for contacting customer service.

Why Multichannel Support Isn’t Sufficient

In a multichannel support environment each channel lives in its own silo with its own dedicated team of agents. There is limited communication or sharing of information between channels. Most of the time, when a customer contacts a company, the team manning that channel will create a ticket. If the customer then contacts the company through a different channel about the same issue, a second ticket will be created with each team working their respective tickets. For example, if a customer had spoken to an agent first on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations with the customer.

As a result of this fragmented experience, customers will have to take the time to repeat to the second agent what they told the first agent. In addition, multichannel support leads companies to focus on resolving tickets, rather than building stronger customer relationships, because agents lack a holistic view of each customer.

How Omnichannel Support Elevates Your Service

Omnichannel support, by comparison, shifts the perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building. Customers have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. True omnichannel support requires:

âś“ Being available on any channel the customer wants to use to contact the company
âś“ A customer-centric not ticket-centric approach to support
âś“ Enabling customers and agents to freely move across channels throughout a single conversation
âś“ Placing each customer in touch with the most appropriate resource as quickly as possible to ensure consistency and quality
âś“ Agents to have a real-time view into the conversations that occur on all the available channels, so they have context of the issue, without needing the customer to repeat any information

Omnichannel support, if executed properly, provides a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint after acquisition. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to create this type of service environment because sharing data between channels takes a technological overhaul. But the benefits far outweigh the costs, and the right omnichannel strategy will succeed by maximizing the resources you have without overextending them.

To read our full omnichannel guide, and learn how Kustomer can enable you to execute true omnichannel support, click here.

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