Modern business is faced with a greater challenge than its predecessors: Growing demand for revenue and profit at a time when the Internet has increased both competition and consumer power. Ironically, the Internet, which promised greater opportunity for business to reach a larger audience, has increased the obstacles those businesses face in engaging and selling to new and existing customers.
Businesses must now contend with a new type of competitor beyond competing business entities.
a. The volume and immediacy of peer-to-peer recommendations on social and digital channels means businesses must re-train existing staff, hire new skill sets, and/or invest in new software to take on the new disciplines of monitoring and analyzing the positive and negative effects of user generated content in the decision-making process. And that doesn’t include the time and expertise required to leverage customer advocates and influencers in digital channels.
b. Consumer expectation around self-service options, including the immediacy of resolutions, has risen dramatically. We’ve all been trained by digital communications (texting, email, social media, etc.) to expect and demand faster and easier communication. Executives who have been demanding their staff be available 24/7 through their digital devices must now face the consequences: Employees are also consumers and they’ve been trained to expect immediate and satisfactory responses to their digital demands.
c. The availability and variety of the internet-enabled devices we carry increases consumer expectations further. While most consumers don’t understand the term omni-channel, they know to expect and demand cohesive and consistent service from your business regardless of the channel from which they choose to engage you.
d. Personal data security threats and the rise in software piracy mean that businesses must add ever greater levels of authentication in digital communications, which multiplies the barriers to a consumer’s ability to access more information quickly and efficiently. That, in turn, increases their frustration with digital support and, by extension, with your brand. A simple example is the need to have passwords, such as those enabling access to online support services, comprised of 12+ digit alpha-numeric codes (that also includes special characters, the blessing of the Pontiff, and rubbed with the blood of a lamb). Oh, and they must be changed every 30 days, cannot contain sequential numbers or known words. WTF?! Instead of dealing with this, I think I’ll just make myself a bowl of popcorn, wrap myself up in a blanket, and watch Netflix while I wait on hold for an actual customer service rep to answer my call to their service desk.
Replace Customer Service Departments with Customer Experience Teams
The reality is that customer service teams are no longer capable of handling the monster created when digital and social media channels were imposed on businesses (yes, the Internet is imposed on all businesses regardless of whether the business chooses to engage in it or not). Customer service will always be reactive, chasing customers in an arena they will never be equipped to cover properly.
I challenge businesses to replace their customer service departments with customer experience teams responsible for proactively improving the relationship their brands have with customers, and to facilitate a unified and positive experience across every touch-point between the business and the consumer.
In this case, being proactive means allowing cross-channel and cross-departmental communication sharing that includes comprehensive and unified customer data, as well as allowing front-line employees to make more decisions. Yes, for 90 percent of you this means a change in your corporate cultures but that’s a topic for another discussion.
Here are four strategies that will help guide the creation of customer experience team:
1. Develop omni-channel communication and service options – anchored on a single engagement platform – that are easy to access by consumers, contain simple-to-use interfaces, and deliver a consistent message/experience across all channels.
2. Track customer experiences across each channel and make that data available to staff or other channels when customers choose to engage you there. Consolidate practices, experiences, and lessons learned from each department into a single knowledge bank, which is then used by staff to proactively manage customers and mitigate customer or staff frustrations.
3. Design each engagement to offer personalized experiences based on the customer’s profile, history, past communications, customer value, and chosen method of communications. Don’t just offer reactive customer support; deliver proactive experiences that surprise the customer or make their lives or businesses better.
4. Capture customer conversations in both owned and third-party channels, and use them to drive more personalized experiences and generate improved customer insights for future business initiatives.
Executives expect the Internet to decrease the cost of personnel and customer support; it’s important to remember that the Internet is not about less, it’s about ease. Use it to make the customer’s experience with your brand more meaningful and simpler, not cheaper. Don’t focus on providing self-help options to decrease employee costs; proactively engage consumers with tailored experiences that make each feel unique, wanted, and special.
Can customer service departments be replaced with customer experience teams? Should they?
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego