In order to understand what the online and mobile world looks like to the average consumer, I want you to think about the oldest form of mass communication: radio waves. Picture thousands of jumbled signals rolling across the American air: drive-time jokers and low-fi desert conspirators and smooth jazz all flowing, waiting to be received. Through that, a listener can tune their dial, and pick up the signal they want. Through the chaos, they find what they need.
That’s what customer care has to be today. There are dozens of channels through which a consumer can interact with your company, and literally limitless sources of information about you. So your digital customer care has to act as that tuner, guiding them through the process of learning about you, interacting with you as a follower, turning into leads, then into customers, then into people satisfied with the service and help they receive when something goes wrong.
Understanding how to make all these channels work for you is key to 21st-century customer service. Unfortunately, that’s also where a lot of companies go wrong. They can’t quite keep up with changing ideas of customer service, the heart of which is making all those channels, all those multiple platforms, feel like one solid surface.
The Changing Expectations of Customer Care
Odds are, you feel your company provides great customer service. I say “odds” are because 88% of companies believe that they do so. The problem is that only 8% of customers feel they regularly receive great customer care. That points to a pretty large disconnect (or, I suppose, that 92% of people are terrible at picking the right places, but that seems less likely). So why do we have such hugely competing perceptions?
Partly it’s because companies haven’t caught up with how we live today; essentially, the problem is one of humanity. Machines aren’t enough like people and people are too often too much like machines. The use of bots is a great and good thing, but only if they can emulate the sort of care that people expect. And customer service representatives and salespeople too often don’t have the information they need to provide the care that customers deserve, leading to interactions that are too scripted and lack warmth.
And, increasingly, we’re used to catered service. It’s become part of the fabric of our lives. My phone, for instance, quickly learned that I am a news junkie, and offers me stories that are of relevance to me. Amazon recommends books and products that, surprisingly, are usually something I want to buy.
Whether I do is a different story, but it is more tempting when they are presented to me, and it is also oddly flattering. We are used to having things personalized to us. So it’s bad when that doesn’t happen.
A Tale of Two Companies
Even as I started writing this article, I heard, through the quiet of the morning office, a co-worker on the phone with a service. He was repeating the crushing mantra of modern customer service: “Representative. Representative. Representative.”
I decided to pay attention. After he finally got a representative, he said his name and gave a bunch of information. Then there was a long pause. Then he started to explain his problem. Then there was another long pause. Then, after apparently being transferred, he had to explain his problem all over again (after having to re-verify his identity!).
Needless to say, this isn’t what customers like to have happen. After all, our phone and TV already knows what we like; why not this company with whom I am already a customer? Ideally, he could have chatted about his problem with a bot, then smoothly transferred to a human who already knew everything he needed, and was already working on a solution. That kind of service would make him happy, and more importantly, keep him coming back.
It would have been the seamless journey he desired, and expected. But it is at those seams that customer service often fails.
Finding the Seams in Your Customer Service
Seams exist where different parts come together, whether that’s in a pair of pants or a bridge. In your customer service, they come in the transition from one avenue of contact to another.
Think of how most people first hear of your business, whether you are B2B or B2C. They are searching for a product and are looking for reviews, most often on their smartphones. 65% of people use social media to check for company rankings, and 62% read reviews before making a decision. So they are already engaged on-line and on their mobile devices, and are already gathering information.
They also may have already engaged with a chat screen on your website, or downloaded a gated white paper, or submitted a question. They’ve done the work. If they are already a customer, they’ve not only done a lot of research, but they’ve already established a relationship.
That sort of relationship has always been important, but it is even more so now. The reversed flow of information, and the panoply of choices, has left the consumer in charge. The average customer has already done 70% of their research before the first time they interact with a CSR. So they don’t want to be lectured to. They want personalized, concierge services.
The modern customer wants to have their interactions carry over. If they’ve downloaded a white paper on SaaS, they don’t want a salesperson asking them what they’re interested in. If they’ve already expressed their concerns with a product on multiple forums and with your social media channels, they don’t want to have to repeat themselves to a CSR.
It’s All About The Buyers Journey
Here are the keys to proper digital customer care.
This last one means monitoring your Twitter, monitoring who is downloading gated content, finding out who is chatting with you and what they are chatting about. Mostly, it is about having a keen and flexible understanding about where they are in their buyer’s journey.
Your CSRs and salespeople need to have the adaptability to tailor their message based on where the buyer is. Maybe they are just beginning to read papers and interact with you during the Awareness stage, in which case, you can’t be pushing a sale. That alienates people, the same as asking basic questions during the Decision stage does.
Using technology correctly, and training people to be, well, people, makes for the sort of personalized customer care that is vital today. Customers need to know that they aren’t just a call, someone who has to explain over and over again what they want. They want to be people.
Digital customer care means being seamless. It means that not only should there be no rough transitions, it means the customer shouldn’t feel like there is any transition at all.
Turning Many Channels into One River
Let’s introduce a new metaphor (or really, appropriate one of the oldest metaphors in the world). Think of a river: it doesn’t just spring out of nowhere. It gathers steam from a thousand channels and streams and rivulets pouring into it, until it becomes a massive river. The water doesn’t know that it’s mixing with other sources; it all flows as a whole.
That, unsurprisingly, is what your digital customer care needs to be. It needs to make all the different paths in the buyer’s journey into one easy path, maybe one of those moving walkways. It needs to flow together. You need to take the chaos of the modern information age and make it comprehensible, easy-to-navigate, and personalized. It puts the “customer” and “care” back into digital customer care.
Every customer, ultimately, has their own journey. At RDI-Connect, we focus on making sure every prospect and customer is treated to the most meaningful experience across all channels so that your business attracts sales and retains positive promoters. For more information, please download our white paper Digital Customer Care in 2017: Many Channels, One Focus. Connect with us today to learn more about the services we can provide your business.
RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.