Many would answer that inbound customer service is about solving customer problems quickly and efficiently. Of course, this would not be incorrect. Our traditional model for customer service is generally oriented towards problem solving. It is a reactive model focused on protecting against loss. But the truth is that inbound customer service has evolved to a much more business-critical role in today’s marketplace.
As we’ve discussed frequently in this blog, customer service, or, more broadly, customer experience, is now considered an essential element of any long-term strategic business plan.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BRAND
Regardless of your industry or whether you are in a business-to-business or business-to-consumer model, the image you project outward to your consuming public is, in essence, your brand.
Companies with strong brand equity deliver significantly greater shareholder value over time. A brand’s equity is that unique quality that differentiates it in the eyes of customers. What’s important is that a brand’s equity tends to be defined within an emotional framework, rather than by reason.
Despite what we may believe, consumers are emotional beings when it comes to shopping and buying. Decisions are often made based on how a consumer feels about a product or service.
“Marketing has evolved out of the selling era and is now heavily rooted in providing exceptional experiences coupled with added value content in every step of the buying consideration process.”
In the traditional marketing model, brands, primarily through outbound marketing tactics (TV, radio, magazines, etc) “imposed” their equity through highly stylized messages. Branding was primarily one-way, a monologue in which the company brand attempted to “sell” consumers about its unique qualities.
While brands are still spending billions in advertising in an attempt to influence consumer attitudes, the tables have turned. Consumers are much more, well informed and much less influenced by outbound marketing.
The brand equity model is now about a dialogue whereby companies and customers can engage one another in real time. Customers speak and brands are compelled to listen and respond. In this new model, inbound customer service is less about service and more about creating an experience for the customer. The importance of this model is reinforced by research telling us that nearly seven in ten consumers say that their attitudes towards a company or brand is influenced by the first contact with a company’s service agent.
To put it another way, no matter how effective a company’s outbound brand marketing, its equity can be tarnished by one, poor customer service interaction.
5 STEPS TO CREATING STRONGER INBOUND CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES
As the statistic above suggests, brands don’t often get a second change to make a good first impression. That’s why it’s critical for the contact center to be prepared to excel in all aspects of the customer experience model. Andrew Watson of Argo Marketing suggests five “must haves” for today’s customer-centric contact center:
Technology. A customer engagement center must have state-of-the-art technology in place to handle the myriad complexities of modern day contact centers. State-of-the-art means current, smart, reliable and fast. It should be proactive and forward-thinking—like Interactive Voice Response technology that handles unlimited calls while triaging calls to live agents based on customer needs.
Multiple contact channels. One in three consumers prefer to reach a brand through an alternative method of contact other than phone support; a trend that will continue to grow. The engagement center must offer customer multiple ways to engage with customers quickly and effectively.
Training and quality assurance. Training in today’s brand centric engagement centers must be all-encompassing, ongoing and successful. The engagement center must be committed to quality agents and also heavily invested in training them to success.
Client services. Top customer engagement centers have dedicated client services teams in place to actively manage the brand’s telemarketing efforts. Account executives are critical to ensure the brand vision is being maintained and that all metrics are exceeded on a continual basis.
Social engagement. Social media accounts for a good portion of the future of customer service and will be soon be as important for addressing customer inquiries as the phone and email. Best in class customer engagement centers will be ahead of the curve when it comes to its social engagement offering.
So, what is inbound customer service? Simply this: the lifeblood of your long-term strategy to build and maintain a strong brand. Make your first impression count!
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.