Re-Imagining Customer Service in this Connected World

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The service landscape is going through a tremendous shift. We are more connected, informed, and empowered than ever before.

The immediate effect of this change?

Service expectations are rising; We expect companies to be just as connected as we are. We expect and demand agility to solve problems quickly, across any combination of communication channels they prefer.

Traditional cultures are being questioned and traditional business models are being disrupted by our expectations and demands which have been driven by this increasing connectivity.

This change in expectations from a new challenge and opportunity to companies to truly differentiate themselves by creating unique customer experiences spanning all touch points.

Evolving Customer Needs

Calling the customer care still conjures up unpleasant feelings in us. Internet has democratized the information we seek for majority of our questions. All our questions require is a simple google search. Under this environment, we are expected to wait for around 5 minutes just for customer service agents to pick up our call. And then we have to go through the painful process of confirming our identity, logging our complaint, which eventually gets transferred to another department and the process begins again.

Nobody wants to hear irritating voice responses (IVR) when we can just log in to our Social Media profiles / Review Sites and express our dissatisfaction.

Customer Service is being disrupted in the same way Marketing has been disrupted and it is being led by Social Media, Mobility and Millennials. The customer touch points have increased; Physical Stores, Telephones, Social Media, Review Sites, E-Commerce etc;. An interesting point to notice is that majority of them are public and preferable channels.

We expect businesses to provide seamless experiences across any touch point we experience and it is strategically important for businesses to realize it or they might risk losing our age-old loyalty towards them.

Impact on Businesses

What a coincidence! Just got off a call with as FMCG company’s Customer Service executive. Had some issues with a product. After a long chat, the executive had only one request: “Sir, please don’t post this on Social Media”

This image just re-instates the above request (Forgive me for the bumpy rectangle). It completely defines the impact on businesses in less than 140 characters:

  1. We expect their complaints to be resolved at any time of the day.
  2. Our complaints on Social Media can go viral real quickly.

Traditionally, it was a conscious call taken by businesses not to employ customer service agents at a scale. It just did not have any financial impact. But, now that we are connected to each other (as we saw above), both the positive as well as the negative impact are great.

It just depends on where companies want to incline themselves. In fact, there are companies like Jet Blue who are differentiating themselves on the basis of their customer service.

It just depends on where companies see themselves in the whole journey. Do they want to put a full stop at the purchase stage and risk losing loyalty or do they want to take that extra step and create a holistic experience for us even post purchase.

Only if companies can answer customer complaints, it can increase customer advocacy by 25%.

Such is the nature and scope of change and the opportunities associated with it.

What can businesses do to stay ahead

In prior decades, service was something that was very hard to stand up, hard to maintain and very hard to change. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, companies are required to become agile and find new kinds of services, new kinds of channels, and new ways of supporting customers.

But, first it requires a much deeper change that lays the foundation for all other changes i.e. culture.

Companies, last year, spent $500 billion on marketing whereas they spent just $9 billion on services.

Ultimately it all comes down to whether companies believe in it or not. Companies like Slack have truly disrupted the industry and are challenging the so-called corporate behemoths in their own game.

Once a company gets ready, the resources are already there. Training programs can be made, human capital can be hired, social media profiles can be set up, procedures can be defined and intelligent business applications of Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be used for managing customer experiences.

The infrastructure is present. The only thing that is missing is intent.

Conclusion

Changing Customer Behavior is forcing companies to redefine experiences that they want to deliver to their customers.

This change requires companies to not only transform their legacy applications but also their legacy cultures.

Companies should realize that customer service can no longer be considered as a cost center. Rather, it has the potential to be a powerful brand differentiator in this increasingly competitive and connected market.

I hope you like my views on “Re-imagining Customer Service in this Connected World”. What are your thoughts on it?

Please comment or tweet me.

Co-founder at HSV Digital