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Back in 2010, Harvard Business Review published research into customer satisfaction and loyalty. The key takeaway was unexpected:
Delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty, but reducing work they must do to get their problem solved does.
In other words, “when it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.”
This conclusion is grounded in human psychology, but customer experience professionals still find themselves swimming against the current as they try to streamline key journeys.
Overreliance on phone-based service costs you money and loyalty
In 2016, companies cited phone as their most popular channel for resolving customer service queries (58%), followed by email (18%), social media (17%) and webchat (4%).
However, phone is the most expensive way to manage complaints, plus it requires the most effort on the customer’s part. So while the phone definitely has its place in the contact centre, using it for more straightforward queries introduces unnecessary friction for customers and unnecessary cost for you.
Using messenger apps can reduce cost per interaction by up to 75%, with staff able to handle up to 10 conversations at once (as opposed to a single phone call). Plus, agents don’t have to deal with customers frustrated from being on hold, which improves morale and empowers them to resolve issues more quickly.
Cross-channel service doesn’t just mean working within the public domain
When I speak to customer experience professionals, they often cite internal barriers to social media customer service – people within the organisation are worried about the world watching as staff resolve complaints on Twitter or Facebook.
There are 2 problems with this position.
First of all, people are using social media to complain anyway. 1 in 3 consumers prefer social media customer care services to telephone or email. Nearly 70% of consumers have reported using social media for issues to do with customer service on at least one occasion.
The question for the business is therefore: “Are you going to respond and show you’re committed to fast and easy resolutions, or are you going to let the unanswered complaint sit on the internet?” Consumers are generally more forgiving of issues if they can see the company has been responsive. It’s the open issues that can cause more reputational damage.
Secondly, you don’t have to deal with the entire issue in the public domain. From Facebook Messenger and Twitter direct message to SMS, it’s easy to guide customers to private online channels and to improve first contact resolution rates (people check messages more often than email, for example). Plus, people who see options to text or message you directly are less likely to post public complaints.
More digital gives you more data – and more power
For those responsible for shaping customer experience strategy, the holy grail is getting that real-time view of customer journeys and using that unique, data-driven insight to personalise the experience. This is impossible if you don’t have the right systems in place to capture the right data.
That means integrating your inbound, outbound, CRM, click tracking and other analytics into a single platform. Combine that insight with the data held in disparate legacy systems to collect product scans, shipment notifications and inventory levels, and you’ll have an accurate, digestible picture across all touchpoints.
Take, Experian, the information services company, as an example. Its CRM system for candidate and tenancy applications was the foundation of its customer contact operations, but it needed to be able to reach its increasingly mobile audience at a time convenient for them. This meant enhancing the system’s functionality with a robust SMS solution that integrated easily and reduced reliance on manual processes.
We provided a multi-layered mobile validation and messaging gateway, which has been seamlessly integrated with the Experian system through the use of steadfast APIs. As a result, the Experian team can conduct multiple activities from one platform. They now have automated, in-built text messaging triggers to chase application information from relevant parties to ensure all SLAs are hit.
The SMS solution has improved call centre efficiency, saving time and money on outbound phone calls that didn’t get answered. An impressive 40% of candidates respond within an hour of receiving the automated SMS, and overall application turnaround time is on average 2.5 days quicker for those that reply to the SMS. This level of improved efficiency has had a dramatic impact on the team’s productivity, which is achieving more and to a much higher standard.
The right tools give you a quick return on investment
I know this sounds like you’ll need an intimidating IT deployment with complicated integrations across existing systems.
As Tim Rooney, Commercial Director at Experian Consumer Information Services, said:
“The multi-channel technology solutions mean we can easily add further functionality to our existing systems with the use of APIs as we grow our business. One of the best things about the Engage Hub integration is that we have significantly increased the efficiency of our outbound call process by automating multi-channel data collection. We can now meet our internal and customer SLAs and continue to deliver world-class customer service.”
The technology has evolved to the point where it’s truly flexible, easily topping up your existing customer service capabilities and plugging into your current systems to pull relevant data.
Once you’ve made this cross-channel business case and secured buy-in to reduce friction in the customer experience, the next step is training and process changes – helping your front-line staff leverage the new technology to deliver a faster, easier service.