The modern era is something special and special, if only because today the main driving levers in development and competition, unlike even 20 years ago, are not so much fuel, money or another tangible material resource, but rather time and technology. More specifically, digital technologies. Digital services. Products. Applications. In other words, the global digital transformation of both businesses and entire countries, people’s thinking, operational capabilities, consumer strategies, etc. That is everything that leads to the digital advantage of any kind of activity.
What is especially important: the way markets, services, companies were arranged before is hopelessly outdated today.
The digital age is disrupting traditional customer service models – new touchpoints with consumers are emerging around the world at breakneck speed and in the face of ever-increasing expectations.
The very fact that today the products and services themselves are going through a revolution speaks volumes. The roots of these changes lie, in part, in the sentiments of the consumers themselves who are driving this process.
The digital age has changed the way customers shop and share their experiences. Today consumers control the purchase process through games, video blogs, social networks and even mobile banking applications.
The shopping experience is now more personalized than ever. Feedback from the buyer and consumer reviews is of great importance. By the time shoppers enter an online store or become visible in the sales funnel, they know what and how they want to buy and how much they are willing to spend. In other words, if you cannot meet their expectations, then at least you will disappoint or even more – get negative reviews about your company.
Yes, business is a cause for concern. But there is also a bright side to these changes. New channels and technologies open up new opportunities for quality service that will help differentiate the company from the rest. It will also allow you to establish an ongoing dialogue with customers, be the first to know about changing customer demand – and this is a great opportunity to learn from customers and increase the relevance of your products and services. Therefore, now is the time for every business to start developing strong relationships with their customers and building communications that go far beyond the usual sale.
Although for many, these calls to action are unlikely to be a revelation, however, determining the depth and scope of digital transformation of services, as well as for deciding how the business will deal with it after the transformation is the challenge. How should customer service change to stay effective? Just here the recommendations of the professionals of the digital industry will be useful.
New customer service options
Customer service employees will be at the forefront of future business communications because new capabilities, such as serving through social media channels, can help service teams create differentiation and competitive advantage.
Many businesses recognize that the client’s need change, etc. that’s why the company has long been using social media channels as a way to develop and improve customer service. However, simply integrating another channel of communication through the social network into the existing operating model of customer service is unlikely to help a business keep up with the times.
New design principles
The real value of digital transformation of the service model for business is not innovation per se – it is a shift in consumer behavior and the ability of businesses to use it that is important. Future market leaders will not be determined by the amount of technology they implement, but by how they develop all of their customer service activities to respond to changes in their behavior.
At the same time, sooner or later companies will have to admit: most likely, they will be forced to radically change their views on approaches to customer service. All elements of the existing operating service model (namely: channels, people, processes, technology and information) need to be reviewed. The choice of specific technologies should be the result of a revision of the old service model, not the other way around. This approach will allow you to anticipate areas of improvement and new opportunities, or in other words – the best enemy of the good.
From operational efficiency to customer protection drivers
Effective work is a must, but it is no longer enough to successfully serve customers. The key goal of the new model is to stimulate customer acquisition, retention and loyalty through a new approach to service. In other words, service people need to generate repeat sales and drive word-of-mouth marketing as another source of revenue for the organization. Engineering teams should shift their focus to performance metrics such as customer profitability, customer loyalty index (NPS), and customer lifetime value (LTV).
From service transaction to managed customer journey
Rather than optimizing service operations one at a time, you need to light your sales, marketing and service interactions together. Your customers want to serve their requests to take a central role in their interactions with them while expecting you to establish processes across all of your teams to ensure that their issue is dealt with consistently and effectively.
From reactive to pro-active
Companies should proactively and unobtrusively inform their customers with advice and, if necessary, warnings. By acting as a partner for your customers and giving them advice, for example, how to get the most out of your company’s services without spending extra money on it, you will gain additional loyalty from existing customers and you will be able to stand out from the competition.
From problem-solving to community building
A customer support team should not be limited to answering questions and solving trivial problems – the goal of a new service model should be to build and support a thriving consumer community in both the virtual and real world. Audience targeting is still the responsibility of marketers, but the service team is now the main point of interaction in supporting and developing this audience.
New service models
The new customer service options mentioned above bring several new service models into practice. Which ones, for example? They are highlighted in the examples of customer service models below.
1. Omnichannel customer interaction
Customers are increasingly using multiple touchpoints to address service issues while expecting an integrated and seamless service.
Digital innovation is profoundly influencing the way customers interact with companies by consuming the services available to them. More than 60% of consumers interact through multiple channels, and regardless of time, place, type of client device, they expect a consistent response from the seller. As a result, sellers need to continually evolve their support models to adapt to this ever-changing landscape.
Do not compete, but complement
The practice of using a support model for specific channels or products often, in reality, leads to the emergence of competition between them, but in the eyes of the consumer there is no difference between these several channels, and as a result, this competition negatively affects the quality of service. Experts advise focusing on an omnichannel approach to customer service, which combines both digital (mobile, social, kiosks) and traditional channels (call centers, points of sale/shops) of interaction with end-users. In this approach, different touchpoints are connected to complement each other, allowing users to switch between channels without having to repeat information. It is important to understand that the approach involves the use of several channels at the same time (for example, video consultation on a mobile phone with a restaurant chef to form an order with home delivery).
Understanding customer preferences
Different clients will have different preferences for choosing a communication channel. Omnichannel should allow different touchpoints to work together to support consumer preferences. As the number of channels increases, you will notice that your audience will split into different age groups. In addition, channel preferences will change depending on the context of the service, the source and the time of the service request. It is good practice to use the marketing team to segment the customer flow to channel interaction and support through the channels that are preferred to a specific target audience.
Get an advantage
Service services are traditionally developed according to the principle “as it is now”, and not “what to do next.” Digital transformation is reversing this trend – for example, it’s no surprise that sales teams give advance notice of product launches or other marketing campaigns via mobile and social media emails. Why then doesn’t the service department need to change? One answer to this question is that identifying current issues and informing customers through preferred touchpoints will help manage customer expectations and increase trust if something goes wrong – for example, in the event of a planned outage for a particular service. Investing in pre-service alerts will reduce inbound calls and make your company stand out from the competition.
In today’s digital world, businesses need to be clear about the customer journey to purchase and creatively apply the right technology at the right time to reach more consumers. An omnichannel approach to customer service ensures that the audience is comfortable and accessible to interact with the customers’ preferences. At the same time, the development of the service channel should not come into confrontation with the existing channels. New sources should be introduced at the right level of maturity, yet early enough relative to competitors to stand out and gain an edge over them. Obsolete channels should not be used, so the development is everlasting and successive pro – active inter-channel communication will help to succeed in maintaining relationships with customers.
2. Building loyalty through customer service
Today’s mobile and device online world require service departments to play a larger role in customer acquisition and loyalty. This shift requires organizational and cultural changes.
The competition for attracting new customers is very high. Consumers today have more choice and access to information than ever before. They use social media, instant messengers and blogs to communicate and share their experiences in product consumption and business development, helping each other make purchasing decisions. Considering the cost of attracting new customers, developing long-term audience loyalty is now also becoming a de facto new product. Service teams will also have to leverage their regular customer contacts to do their bit to build loyalty, so they must review their people and processes to make sure they are ready for this new role. The service staff should be a relationship builder, listener and communicator. A well-known staff quality issue remains a major service issue anyway, according to a recent report from the UK Customer Service Institute, which found that 62% of complaints were about staff attitudes and competencies, with only 34% of respondents citing quality or reliability goods and services.
Working with non-standard queries
Companies that use digital support channels such as Facebook, live chat or instant messenger find that requests through these channels differ from those received through traditional services. Customers not only seek help with product-related issues but also advise on the purchase and comparison of the product with competing brands. The client does not worry about whether he has addressed his request correctly – in the sales department, customer support or marketing, he just wants answers. As a result, the service team must be prepared to answer questions that also guide the customer towards a purchase.
Redefining the role of traditional channels
It is believed that the transition from “real to virtual” contacts will put an end to mainstream retail. However, the success of Apple’s showrooms has demonstrated that the role of the physical channel is not overwhelming, it has simply changed. While self-service channels offer convenience and efficiency to customers, personal channels offer emotion and experience. Companies need to test the quality of the customer experience to see if they are getting the most out of physical stores and face-to-face contact with sellers. The combination of service, sales and marketing through a specific channel can provide a great brand experience. For businesses focused on retail, there is no escaping the coming technological changes. Mobile applications and mobile payment technologies are already mature enough for widespread use. Now customers are identified right at the entrance to the store, while the development of personalized proposals for attracting and loyalty of target audiences and automatic registration of transactions for generating BigData analytics data becomes relevant.
A good example of using BigData here is a Korean apparel retailer who analyzed POS consumer behavior against network data. Wi-Fi to the stores, promotions on game mobile applications and RFID tags helped to link items brought into fitting rooms but not purchased with the owners’ mobile phone numbers. As a result, the retailer divided the staff of stores into subgroups, brought the degree of compatibility in the style of communication with customers in the hall and in the dressing room area to the smartphones of sales assistants – to improve the quality of service and sales.
New approaches to assessing the effectiveness
If we expect service departments to foster loyalty and manage continuous engagement with audiences, then the way they measure their performance must change as well. Typically, service performance evaluations focus on productivity metrics (average service time and the number of calls per agent) along with performance metrics (Initial solution rate or First contact resolution). To help build relationships in the service industry, KPIs need to be qualitative rather than quantitative. Customer Loyalty Index (NPS) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) are two key metrics that are fundamental to measuring service performance. A prime example is the American online store Zappos.com, whose contact center is based on building customer connections. They measure an employee’s performance by how they build relationships with their audience. For example, whether the agent established a personal emotional connection with the client and was able to focus on his needs. This ingenious approach has produced impressive repeat orders. As a result, the humble company turned into a $ 1 billion business just 10 years after its founding. Of course, establishing good contacts will not replace time-honored approaches to service management. Therefore, balanced scorecards will be required to create the right emphasis on both efficiency and quality of customer service.
Digital transformation of business increases the role of service in attracting and retaining a customer audience. However, it is important to understand that the opening of new digital channels of interaction affects only a minor aspect of the necessary changes. Consideration should be given to the significant shift in consumer attitudes and expectations regarding the quality of the services provided. Solving this challenge will require rethinking the traditional approach to improving efficiency and reducing costs to reorient the service team’s focus on building customer loyalty. This will require a high-quality trained staff, focused on establishing client relationships.
3. User acquisition
Variety of choices, high competition and always-high emotional expectations of the customer lead to the fact that the visual appearance of your online sales channels plays a decisive role in the perception of your brand. High-quality interfaces demonstrate credibility, reliability and credibility, which is a good breeding ground for successful sales.
User experience (UX) defines the interaction of a person with a computer through a particular channel or equipment. It encompasses the customer experience of a device based primarily on usability and efficiency. Probably, each of us had the experience of interacting with the original interface, which impressed with its beauty, but even this was completely inconvenient. This is usually a consequence of trying to follow trends, but at the same time forget about the user experience, which should be dictated by the design. Investing in a successful user experience pays off quickly, with Apple device users who are accustomed to usability and already expect digital services to be transparent, simple and convenient, regardless of device type, platform or service provider, as a prime example.
They are greeted by clothes, escorted by the mind
In the modern world, customers constantly come across a huge number of online services and products. As a result, online channels play a critical role in shaping the overall brand perception. In response to this, many companies are investing heavily in UX. They know that working to improve should be an ongoing task among other company projects. At the same time, which is especially important, user experience approaches should ensure rapid and creative changes throughout the entire product life cycle, especially when you need to quickly respond to customer reviews and behavior after the launch of a new product.
Ensure consistency across all touchpoints
Predictability is the key to successful UX. Many companies are standardizing their UX development processes and investing in tools such as content libraries and resource repositories. This allows different UX teams to take a common approach based on experience with different products and digital touchpoints. However, being predictable does not mean being identical. It is imperative to consider not only the different interfaces (eg adaptive versus static) but also the motivations and goals of the user, as they may differ from device to device, often due to different ages. These nuances are very significant when we are talking about the development of consistency at the level of different service channels.
One of the important results of digital transformation is the ability to prototype services for different audiences – bring the user experience to life early in your project. In other words, give all stakeholders, including your customers, the opportunity to see, touch, and use the new touchpoint so they can leave feedback. This must be done several times before the channel or device is ready for commercial use. This will not only ensure a good quality of service from day one but also instil confidence in the business to dare to take a new initiative. In the world of technology, this is called “agile development” and it is already the basis for the digital transformation of companies.
It is important to understand that new digital technologies will require from you a new approach to design since the old ones will become technologically incompatible. Much depends on the context in which your customer will use a particular service. Experienced market participants strictly adhere to the rules of friendly or greenfield product launches and testing, and there is logic in this because a successful format is developed, and not acquired at random. Many people invest in design A / B testing and try out several variations of concepts to find out which one works best, and then move on to the proven one.
UX is a testing ground for organizations and businesses focused on digital customer services. Investing in direct user experience is critical while focusing not only on driving innovation that fosters the best experience but also on testing those innovations frequently and early. Continuous UX improvement ensures that customer services reflect the brand’s essence and deliver quality customer feedback across all touchpoints.
In addition to the above opinion on digital services, there is also practice. Namely – if the company has previously tried to introduce and change its service standards – is it worth giving them up, if a digital transformation of the business is necessary? The experience of corporate implementations shows that if the system works efficiently, has passed the test of time and the audience, then, often, it is enough to smoothly integrate the service system into the platform for providing new services and products ( business support system (BSS) ). To solve this problem will require an experienced team of engineers, which would help to implement the integration of the old services ( Legacy ), parallel to working on the launch of new service products. An example of a Ukrainian BSS system focused on such an integration task is the digital transformation platform MEF.DEV. In addition to the task of integration itself, you will get the opportunity to transparently migrate old services to new ones and benefit from joint product development by internal and external teams.
There is no need to break things, especially in the era of fleeting changes, and perhaps the time of failure of the be prior ‘s benefits had not yet come. But being ready to do so when needed is a good business strategy.
The article was prepared based on the materials of Theo Slaats, Partner at Deloitte Digital