The future of customer service is self-service

Not too long ago, good customer service simply involved having a friendly smile and replying to the odd complaint letter. Today, that world has vastly changed. It’s no longer good enough just to be friendly; service must also be personalised. And it’s not good enough to simply respond to a query; businesses must also be efficient and attentive when doing so.

This has all been fuelled by technology. While tech innovation has opened up the door for consumer choice and convenience, it has also caused customer expectations to rise. With constant access and connectivity to a range of devices and platforms, consumers want services delivered faster and more conveniently than ever before. As such, there is pressure on businesses to innovate in order to stay on top.

Digital transformation is one way many are coping with such needs. With the use of mobile, cloud and responsive technology, organisations are able to revolutionise work practices to create efficiencies both in the front and back end of their businesses. With integrated technology systems, customers can enjoy a seamless experience. While behind the scenes, all employees can have visibility into the customer service process. As a result, it no longer has to be the sole responsibility of customer-facing service representatives to create a positive customer experience. Instead, every department should be carefully considering every touchpoint along the user journey.

 

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Empowering customers

We live in a ‘Google it’ era. Thanks to the internet, there is a wealth of information about everything, available anytime and at everyone’s fingertips. This means that, while it is important to have trained and knowledgeable staff on hand to answer any calls or queries, it’s just as vital for businesses to focus on their self-service portal.

In fact, according to research by Forrester, there are almost equal numbers of customers who use self-service compared to those who speak with service representatives on the telephone (84% and 83% respectively).

So whether it’s a detailed FAQ page on a website, or a fully-fledged online customer portal, it’s essential that every business ensures the information they have available online reflects the same level of service that would be provided by human interaction. This could be achieved using live chat functions, webinar recordings, videos or having staff on hand to conduct video calls.

Keep it flexible

As the boundary between work and home continues to blur, people will be increasingly engaging with businesses at all hours of the day and night. A purchase initiated at lunch on a work desktop computer may be picked up on a mobile during the commute home, then finalised on a tablet before bed. Likewise, a complaint initiated on a public social media post can be responded to initially through a social media post, addressed in detail via private chat, and then officially responded to through email. An efficient, integrated CRM system that ties in all communication channels, including telephony, chat and email is essential here. After all, customers have little patience for long service interactions, and repeating the nature of their complaint or query in various channels will cause delay and frustration.

For many people, customer service is the one true test of how much a business values their custom. Get it wrong and you can expect customer backlash. Get it right and you’ll be rewarded with returning, loyal customers that will sing your brand’s praises. So, in order to survive the customer service demands of the future, businesses must focus both on personalised self-service, as well as communication, channel choice, and integration. They must invest in modern technology systems that will cater to this. Systems must empower the customer with the information they need, and give them, or their staff, the flexibility to access it at any time.

We are strong believers in the power of customer service. At Gamma, 50% of our customer service calls are outbound. This means that, half the time, we’re checking in with you to make sure your day-to-day telecoms are running smoothly.

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23 August 2016 | Justin Coombes

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.