When you visit Amazon.com (News - Alert), you will find recommendations based on your prior purchases. Similarly, when you visit Netflix.com you will see personalized movie recommendations based on your past choices and how you’ve rated movies. As consumers begin to have more personalized experiences, they are demanding personalized customer service in every company they communicate with.
“Consumers are noticing companies are paying attention to what they want and this is driving them to expect more. More companies are harnessing customer data and are paying attention to customer buying patterns,” explained Kelly Weinhold, product strategist at Angel, a provider of cloud-based Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions for Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Contact Centers, in an interview with TMCnet.
Recently, Angel released findings from a survey of more than 650 attendees at the 2012 Dreamforce event. The results show an evolution of customer service preferences, with more customers expecting businesses to better anticipate their needs and provide personalized service across any channel and device. The results demonstrate a shift to Web and mobile technologies as the preferred ways to connect with customer service.
“This mobile evolution continues with smartphones becoming more and more ubiquitous. As people are getting comfortable, they are using even more apps. So, it is critical for companies to pay attention to what their mobile customers are looking for as different companies have different mobile customer demographics,” said Weinhold.
Now, there is opportunity for companies to anticipate the change of customer preferences and provide multichannel support to quickly resolve problems, improve the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction.
While 51 percent of the respondents said landline telephone customer support is the preferred customer service channel five years ago, 34 percent said email is now their top resource, followed by landline telephone (19 percent) and mobile devices (16 percent). Mobile customer support is catching up as in the next five years 24 percent expect mobile devices to be the most popular customer service channel, while 41 percent have downloaded a mobile customer service application. Customers find that the online self service tools are critical as 63 percent turn to the company website as their channel of choice to resolve an issue.
The survey shows that customer service is an ongoing experience. Twenty-six percent said they are likely to tell their friends about their experience, 21 percent said they would ask for the same agent next time and 14 percent said they would share their experience online.
Additional survey findings revealed what companies customers spend the most time with as well as how customers want to interact with customer service:
Oftentimes companies are not great at measuring customer service, according to Weinhold. To ensure measurement, Angel uses a metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS) in reaching its customers.
“The primary driver of sustainable businesses is to put their customers first, but companies haven’t had a way to measure that, and this is a new way to measure how many customers would promote you to their friends and family,” she explained.
With 18 percent of respondents naming “mind-reading” as the second most preferred way to connect with customer service, there is an opportunity for businesses to leverage analytics to identify past customer trends and better allocate resources to ensure each customer has a positive experience.
But, there is a growing gap between customer expectations and customer care reality. “Poor or unavailable customer service leads to a terrible customer experience and a loss of brand equity. Businesses need to better understand and anticipate how the customer base interacts with the brand on multiple channels, leverage cloud-based platforms to enable business flexibility and provide customers with the tools to help improve loyalty,” said Dave Rennyson, president, Angel, in a statement.
In order to maintain the brand of a company, customer service is essential. For Angel, its main focus is “putting the customer first.” The customer must constantly be at the forefront your thought process and decision-making because by putting the customer first and ensuring their needs are getting served and their questions are getting answered, you will be able to maintain your customer base.
“We have to practice what we preach,” said Weinhold. “This is important especially to Angel because we are in the business of customer service -- we work to make our customers happy and we also preach to our customers to make their customers happy.”
For instance, Angel’s support team measures with a monthly survey out to every single one of its clients that are using support in one way or another. Its survey asks if their problem was solved, and more than 90 percent of customers have said they are happy with Angel’s customer service.
Companies should identify how and where the customer base usually interacts with the business throughout the entire lifecycle and provide the support and tools that enable customers to immediately resolve their unique problems as well as quickly connect with the organization.
“It has been proven time and time again that it is much more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to keep your existing customers. So, it is important that the customer first experience is at the forefront of your mind,” she said.
With the explosion of social media, customers are publicly talking about their customer experiences, and companies are realizing that they have to step up their game when it comes to customer experience.
Weinhold concluded, “If it’s a bad experience, it is absolutely going to be talked about.”
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