Konstantin Selgitski, Chief Marketing Officer at Apifonica explores how to make it easier for customers to get what they want, when they want and to ensure a positive customer experience.
By 2028, recent research forecasts that 70-80% of online purchases will be made using mobile devices. Within a decade, consumers will also be shopping using VR headsets, combining the experience of real-life store shopping with the comfort of home.
While online shopping offers many benefits – it is highly convenient; there is no need to worry about traffic or finding somewhere to park, there are no long checkout queues to contend with – shoppers are too often left unsatisfied with the quality and responsiveness of customer support.
Forrester Research has highlighted that customers in every sector are demanding faster service, anywhere, at any time. From a telephone call to using SMS and social media, customers can increasingly choose when and how they get in touch with customer services. In theory, this choice and access to more information should offer an easier, more intuitive experience.
In practice, the picture is arguably more confusing. With customers using multiple ways of communicating, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index indicates that customers are now investing more effort in dealing with organizations than ever before. Potentially it is also harder for customer service advisers to be fully informed and to accurately handle customer inquiries. Keeping ahead of rising customer service expectations and engaging with customers effectively presents a huge challenge to customer service managers.
Great customer service and long-term business success
Providing responsive customer support and offering a seamless customer service experience is fundamental to brand perception and long-term business success. Research by Gartner has found that 64% of people rate customer service as more important than price when making a purchase. According to the Institute of Customer Service, some of the top players in customer service include Amazon, Waitrose, John Lewis, and M&S Food, all of which are well respected retail brands.
Consumer champion Which released a report in November 2018 listing Britain’s best and worst online retailers. The survey finds that the most successful retailers are those offering a personalised, convenient service that gives customers exactly what they want. In turn, this positively contributes to long term customer engagement and retention.
Get to know your audience
Companies with a great reputation for customer service have invested in getting to know their audience. Understanding customers’ preferred methods of contact is key to providing a consistently excellent experience across multiple channels. In an increasingly digital era, as well as using the telephone, people are choosing to engage with companies in multiple ways including live chat services, social media platforms, email, and SMS. Artificial intelligence like chatbots and virtual assistants are also becoming more commonplace in the customer service mix. Each method comes with its own benefits and preferences differ from person to person.
It is highly important to understand these preferences and to tailor ways to get in touch towards different customers; there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to customer service. This will include incoming requests as well as customer outreach. While one person may use one single way of communicating like a live chat service, another person may use telephone, email, and SMS to progress an inquiry. It is important that a company responds in an appropriate way – usually via the same service used by the customer. This builds a better relationship between brand and customer and demonstrates a company’s ability to be empathic with the customer.
The challenge for companies is recording all customer interactions, whatever the communication channel, in one place. Choosing a technology that seamlessly swaps between different communication methods and records all interactions with each customer in one place is crucial. The right technology can also integrate information across channels to provide a consistent customer experience.
Take a customer service adviser who is dealing with an inquiry about product availability. The customer calls to make an initial inquiry on the telephone, forgets to ask something and calls again, then follows up by email. The adviser would have sight of every communication and be able to respond accordingly, perhaps by sending the customer a quick update via SMS.
Enabling a positive customer experience
Many would argue that a positive customer experience is just as important as the product or service a company is selling. It is key to building a company’s reputation and can be damaged very quickly so it is incredibly important to keep it front of mind and maintain it.
Increasingly, customer service managers should consider making it easier for customers to get what they want, when they want and to ensure a positive customer experience. Integrating multiple channels of communication is a simple and very powerful way to build trusted, long-term relationships with customers and to differentiate a business. Apifonica’s technology is easy, versatile and cost-effective to deploy, so it enables a customer services department to go the extra mile to encourage brand loyalty and repeat business.