Back to Basics: Customer Service

It’s a new year and many of us yearn for a “new normal” as we strive to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. While many things remain uncertain, there’s one thing we know for sure: Providing excellent customer service remains critical for companies of any size and across all industries.

Consumers worldwide expect easy access to products and services; accurate answers to their questions; and rapid assistance when they encounter issues. They want to be in control — now. That’s why in recent years we’ve seen the rise of companies that disrupt inconvenience like Netflix (no late fees), Spotify (no paying for single songs) and Uber (no waiting for cabs).

You can’t deliver an amazing customer experience like these disruptors without a deep understanding of your customers. That requires data. And as more consumer privacy and cybersecurity regulations take effect this year and beyond, establishing digital trust will be critical to long-term business growth.

In this post, we’ll look at customer service from all angles: what it is, why it’s important, and how to deliver it across your online and offline channels. And we’ll consider some of the underlying technologies that enable great service — all contributing to a positive customer experience that enhances your reputation, encourages loyalty and increases profits.

What Is Customer Service?

Customer service is the guidance, engagement and support a company provides over time and across communication channels. It’s a continuous process that involves actions like answering a person’s questions, helping them select a service and troubleshooting a product installation.

Leading companies put their customers first by providing an authentic and engaging experience across the customer lifecycle. They help customers feel remembered, heard and understood with technology that helps them understand people at a human level. At these companies, customer service agents are empowered with the right technology to provide personalized, proactive support on the customer’s channel of choice.

Why Is Customer Service Important?

This goes back to the rising customer expectations and the importance of service as part of the overall experience. Many customers will leave your brand for a competitor after several bad experiences — and some will leave after just one. Here are just some of the benefits of providing good customer experiences:

Enhance your business reputation: 90% of Americans use customer service to decide whether they’ll do business with a company.

Encourage brand loyalty: Customers crave empathy. When you deliver personalized interactions that make them feel valued, you make their experience more enjoyable — earning their long-term loyalty and reducing customer churn.

Increase your sales: 92% of customers are likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. When you delight people with your service, it makes it easier for your staff to up-sell and cross-sell additional products and services.

Gain referrals: When people encounter a problem, they’ll often turn to their family and friends for a solution. And when you provide great service, your customers are more likely to refer you to the people in their social circle.

Retain your employees: Modern workforce engagement management technologies focus on generating a positive employee experience — one that translates into a positive customer experience. And when your employees are equipped with the right tools and training, they’ll provide better service — and stay with your organization longer.

What are the Different Customer Service Channels?

No two consumers are exactly alike. Some want to contact your business via phone; others prefer to interact on digital channels. And many would prefer self-service. That’s why there are many different service channels.

Voice used to be the first — and often only — way for customers to engage when they needed service or support they couldn’t get in person. They would call and wait to speak with a customer service agent. A modern voice solution provides businesses with an array of options to customize their voice services and scale to handle changes in call volumes.

But today service takes place across a growing number of other channels.

  • Self-service: Today’s consumers expect 24/7 support. Modern tools enable companies to design their self-service strategies around customer needs — and make every interaction feel personal. Chatbots and voicebots can serve customers by answering questions and performing transactions such as balance inquiries; when an agent is needed, they get the full context of any previous interactions. And when a customer has a question, knowledge management tools can provide the customer — or an agent — with the right answer, every time.
  • Text messaging: SMS customer messaging software enables you to communicate with customers in a memorable way using text and friendly emojis.
  • Email: Email, the first digital channel, remains essential for customer support. Leading email management software improves your service by categorizing and routing the right emails to the right agents — for the right results.
  • Live chat: Web chat software can help you answer questions and provide product information at the right moment. It maximizes convenience — giving customers the ability to pause and resume conversations whenever they want.
  • Social media: Millions of consumers are spending time on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can strengthen relationships by engaging your customers on these and other social networks. This makes your brand feel approachable and accessible.

How to Improve Customer Service

Consumer preferences are changing, and we expect many companies to augment their labor force with artificial intelligence technologies and digital automation. Routine tasks will be offloaded to digital and self-service channels. Agents will handle more complex transactions — often after the customer has already tried self-service. That’s why they need to learn soft skills like how to listen and empathize, in addition to honing traditional skills for the role.

While there’s no shortage of training in modern contact centers, meaningful learning and development has remained relatively elusive, according to new global research from the MIT Technology Review.

Employee performance technology can be highly effective in helping you create a culture of continuous improvement.

Personalize development: Empower employees to manage their performance and access assigned learning content and coaching sessions while staying on top of their work.

Provide precise coaching: Train your agents with the right knowledge at the right time. Empower supervisors to perform agent training and reviews during non-peak hours.

Gamify your KPIs: Cultivate your employees’ inner competitiveness — improving performance, enhancing engagement and building camaraderie.

How Is Customer Experience (CX) Different from Customer Service?

Service is just one aspect of the overall experience you deliver to your customers.

Customer experience (CX) involves the products, services, information and communications you provide, and how a customer thinks and feels about your organization over the course of their relationship with you. CX includes numerous individual touchpoints such as an installation, phone call or service delivery that take place over time and across different channels.

Because CX is a holistic concept, it includes the digital customer experience you provide online when a customer visits your website, chats with a bot or interacts with you on social media.

When you’re able to seamlessly connect a variety of channels — allowing customers to pick up where they left off on one channel and continue the experience on another — it’s referred to as an “omnichannel customer experience.”

How Do You Deliver an Amazing Customer Experience?

Modern consumers want convenient, personalized service. Providing that involves meeting customers on the channels they prefer and enabling them to seamlessly move between connected channels and interactions — while maintaining context for your agents.

Leading companies are going beyond personalization with customer journey orchestration, which determines the most relevant interactions based on each customer’s current goals and prior experiences. This customer-centric mentality involves:

  • Prioritizing CX metrics like satisfaction and effort over operational metrics like FCR and average handle time
  • Connecting siloed data sources to enable a holistic, real-time customer view and support effortless experiences
  • Using AI to automate tasks and predict customer needs

How Do You Measure Customer Experience?

Companies have traditionally used metrics like Net Promoter Score to measure the experience they provide. However, these metrics are more business-centric than people-centric and don’t often identify the root causes of customer frustration.

Leading companies are measuring CX using a journey-based approach that involves evaluating the sum of all experiences a customer has with that company over the lifecycle of their relationship.

Customer journey analytics software empowers organizations to increase their ability to measure CX beyond isolated interactions in siloed channels.

Give Your Employees the Gift of Growth

Whether your organization is a retailer, healthcare provider or government agency, you’re in the people business. And no matter who you interact with, you need to provide the experience they want — every time.

Delightful customer service that builds trust and earns loyalty requires you to show empathy for your customers and employees. It means meeting people on their channel of choice and empowering them to find quick answers on their own or with a bot. And it means supporting them with knowledgeable and skilled agents for more complex requests.

Providing amazing CX requires a combination of technology and people. Empowering your staff with training and development that not only helps them improve their skills, but also allows them to discover ways to grow and advance in your organization.

Discover our vision for empowering your employees and making every customer feel remembered, heard and understood.