Technology has changed customers’ expectations of service. Today’s consumer demands 24-hour access to brands, immediate responses to queries, and transparency in business dealings. In addition, customers are more informed than they have ever have been, and no longer rely on the help of a salesperson to learn about a product or service—they research it on their own.
It’s a brand’s responsibility to sell itself without a point of (human) contact. Because of that, providing stellar customer service, informative websites, interactive social media, and other dedicated forms of customer service are a must.
A recent report by Impact Learning Systems—An MHI Global Company, analyzed the customer service trends of 2014 and made predictions for 2015. To improve your business’ customer service strategy, consider the following:
1. Respond quickly. At one time, waiting 24 or even 48 hours was acceptable in responding to a customer. Today, you risk losing that customer. In 2013, Steve Van Belleghem and other data partners conducted a survey, which revealed a customer’s response expectations. The study showed that the sweet spot is a four-hour response window. Businesses that aren’t able to spare the staff to handle such responses should consider working with an outside company, such as Hootsuite and Mention, to manage their online presence. And remember, the old rules still apply, even in social media: treat your clients with kindness and respect, and they’ll value you for it.
2. Present a united front. Many businesses have scrambled to ensure they’re represented on all relevant social media—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and the list goes on. What’s missing, often, is coordination among those accounts. It’s important to provide a seamless, omni-channel experience across your accounts, and not have them operate in silos.
One business that’s doing a great job with this is Macy’s, which actually created a position called “head of omni-channel.” In this arena, Macy’s has streamlined its order fulfilment by relying on retail stores as well as warehouses to help fill orders quickly. The department store has also adopted digital marketing technologies that provide a circular view of shopping behavior, while also making the experience fast, easy, and seamless for customers.
3. Self-service is key. Nearly 72 percent of customers want a self-service option, rather than contact with employees. That means it’s time to freshen up your website. For real. Even though most customers want to find their own answers online, only 51 percent say that they are actually able to do so. That leaves 49 percent frustrated. Here are a few rules of the game when creating a website aimed at anticipating questions and providing answers:
- Make it easy to find.
- Ensure it’s easy to use.
- Understand your customers’ issues and address them.
- Provide content that’s clear and readable.
- Offer multi-channel options.
- Respond to customer feedback.
- Personalize the customer experience.
4. Be authentic. If you’ve been relying on canned or heavily scripted sales pitches, it’s time to up your game. Customers crave meaningful and authentic exchanges. Get to know a little something about your customer that’s not related to selling or upgrading. By humanizing your connection, you’ll both be happier with the outcome.
5. Go mobile or be left behind. Apps present a relatively new and unique way to serve customers. Research shows that consumers are open to sharing information if they’re using an app that is enjoyable and benefits them. A great example of this is Ikea. In 2010, the furniture company created an app that relied on augmented reality: customers can take a photo of a room in their house and then place a piece of Ikea furniture in that photo. That allows customers to see whether the color and size of a piece of furniture will work in their own space, and it keeps Ikea on their minds. Plus, it’s fun.
6. Be transparent. Data breaches are a terrifying prospect to businesses and consumers, alike. As a way of protecting themselves, customers are, more and more, expecting and demanding transparency when it comes to their data. Consider adopting a software tool, such as Duckduckgo.com, which won’t track a user’s history. It’s a way of building trust with your clientele and showing that you care about their interests.
To learn more about customer service trends and future predictions check out “Looking Back on 2014 Customer Service Trends & Looking Forward to 2015 Customer Service Predictions,” an e-book by Impact Learning Systems—An MHI Global Company.