Published: June 29, 2016 | Comments
The gap in information between what customers want and what businesses deliver is growing. This gap is largely due to three major shortcomings:
1. Lack of an effective strategy for basic phone, email and social channels.
2. Disconnected channels that impair visibility for every customer interaction.
3. Rapid adoption of new technology without addressing foundation issues and proper change management.
The Service Issue - Serial Switchers
Overall customer service is in dire straits. According to our Serial Switchers research, U.S. companies are losing $62 billion a year due to poor customer service, a 51 percent and $20 billion increase since 2013.
The biggest complaints?
Customers feel unappreciated and aren’t receiving the help/support they deserve. They are passed around to multiple people, are not able to speak to a live agent right away, are not able to get answers and are put on hold for too long.
There is a disconnect between the customer and company. And although the phone is one of our oldest channels for communication, it is still fundamentally flawed for many organizations.
More than half of people still prefer to first call companies to resolve customer service issues. But businesses continually fail to address simple issues of call routing, customer case visibility and quality management.
Chatbots, AI and Future Tech
We can’t move forward until we fix what we already have.
The word “chatbot” has blanketed tech media publications over the past few weeks with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple making significant strides in the development of chat window AIs. Many think this AI chat will be the new face of customer service. But while the advancements in chatbot technology are truly impressive, companies should exercise caution.
Automation is great. But it won’t fix the customer service issue. There needs to be a balance. Bots can certainly ease some service strains, but the human touch needs an equal amount of work. Chatbots are a great solution for companies who have already nailed the fundamentals and want to move to the next step.
In a recent survey we conducted, 68 percent of respondents claim they would prefer to interact with a live agent rather than automated self-help (FAQs/guided support, dial directories, chatbots, etc.) when dealing with customer service.
This doesn’t mean self-help should not exist, but it is a clear indicator of how customers should be directed. They need to be guided quickly to an answer, or quickly to an agent, without lag in between. The issue with complete automation, or a heavy lean on automation, is that the components of agent intuition and dynamic response may be neglected.
If customers can’t get the answer they need right away, they may get caught in a system loop – an extremely frustrating process of queries with not-quite-right answers.
Customer Engagement – The Sales Crossover
At Connect, we will talk a lot about customer service, primarily because it is the easiest company/customer disconnect to see. But sales and sales development are a key part of the equation as well. The issue is deeper than just customer service; it is an issue of company/customer communication.
Customer engagement is the intersection of the sales and service world. How are we interacting with the customer, and are we doing so in a way that yields better business?
It’s not a one channel job, nor is it a one channel issue. But because businesses adopt communication technologies independently, they tend to also monitor and strategize for each channel independently.
This is especially true of legacy companies. In the 80s, it was an all phone sales/service construct. Then, the 90s introduced email. Now, social media is marching in. The problem is that phone strategies are stuck in the 80s, email in the 90s and social is still getting an eyebrow raise from foot-dragging skeptics.
Customers see all communications channels for what they are – a single line of communication to a company. Whether customers reach out via phone, email or Twitter, they expect businesses to answer with competence. Similarly, they expect companies to remember conversations.
How annoyed would you be if you called your co-worker to explain a problem or make a request, then you had to repeat that conversation in an email and again in person because he/she kept forgetting?
Companies need to connect the dots between these lines of communications and allow their agents full visibility of customer/company interactions. Independently, the channels are creating conversational doors to companies that have customers wandering aimlessly. But together the can expedite sales and solutions with greater efficiency.
Consequently, AI and other advancements that should move us forward in sales and service are currently road blocked by silo’d systems. To better connect with customers we must repair our existing channels, link them together and then proceed to chart their evolution.
Bringing it All Together
Sales and customer service are shifting focus to more specialized approaches. We provide solutions to make each customer engagement as meaningful as possible. It’s not just about analyzing markets anymore; it’s about looking at each interaction individually.
Interested in learning more about how companies are working to improve the customer experience? Check out Connect, on June 30, at AT&T Park in San Francisco.