6 Ways to Transform Your Customer Service in 2021
Until recently, customer service was typically seen as a “to-do” to check off the list or as an additional cost to bear, something that just had to be done. Fortunately, today, this rather negative perception of customer service has changed dramatically, with more companies realizing that providing stellar customer service is not only an essential part of creating a better end-to-end customer experience but also, and perhaps more importantly, a valuable investment in a business’s long-term success.
They also understand the importance of implementing “customer-centric” strategies for creating deeper, more meaningful customer relationships.
Suffice it to say, customer service has gone through a pretty massive transformation. Putting customers first is no longer simply a priority, it’s now table stakes — and the key for building customer loyalty, driving brand advocacy, and maintaining a competitive edge.
1. Transform customer service to respond to customer expectations
59% of customer support agents agree that customer expectations are higher. (Zendesk Study)
It’s no secret that customer expectations have been growing steadily over the past few years. Consumers today are better informed than ever before, thanks in large part to the unending flow of information now available to them.
And as they become better informed, they begin to have less patience and demand, for better or worse, instant gratification at all costs. While this may seem more like a headache than anything else, it’s actually not a bad thing for companies at all. Here’s why.
The more informed and, therefore, demanding customers are, the more likely they are to be engaged in your brand and receptive to how you address their needs through service and special offers. In fact, 68% of customer service agents enjoy — and feel more satisfied —helping customers solve complex problems.
Knowing this, it’s a good idea to free up more agent time to handle higher value customer requests, as these interactions can go a long way towards boosting engagement and driving sales.
2. Customer service must be a part of the entire purchase journey
52% of consumers say they do online research before buying to ensure they’re making the right choice. (Google - Ipsos Retail Study)
While it’s easy to focus squarely on what happens at point-of-sale, it’s important to remember that many decisions take place before customers ever make a purchase. This is even more critical during highly competitive sales cycles (think: the holidays) when consumers will search high and low for the best deal.
For them, making the best purchase decision is more important than anything else. That’s why you must equip them with the right information at every stage of the purchase journey and across all channels at all times — especially when roughly 35% of consumers transact almost uniquely on their mobile phones.
To succeed in this game, brands must focus their attention on three critical areas: multi-channel presence, customer service, and overall customer experience.
3. Customer service must be at the same level as its customers
76% of customer service professionals agree that customers are more experienced and better informed than before. (State of Customer Service - Hubspot)
Consumers today are more inclined to share their experiences, both good and bad, desire greater control over the entire purchase journey, and demand near-instant gratification whenever they need support. This is further underscored by the fact that consumer behavior is becoming multi-channel at its very core.
Many consumers today move seamlessly across multiple channels throughout the entire purchase journey. They must be able to find, consume, and take action on information relevant to their purchase decisions quickly, easily, on any channel, and at any time of day.
This has raised the bar for brands and businesses alike. They must elevate their customer experience at every customer touchpoint and across all available channels, which also includes providing a more memorable level of customer service.
After all, the more satisfied customers are throughout the purchase journey, the more likely they’ll stay loyal to your business over time.
4. Customer service must happen in real-time
66% of customers want companies to communicate with them in real-time.
(State of the Connected Customer - Salesforce)
One byproduct of increased customer expectations is the incessant need for instant gratification. Consumers want to interact with brands online and actually get a response 24/7.
Providing customer self-service content on your website is a great way to help customers get answers to their most simple and straightforward questions easily (i.e. hours of operation, return policies, etc.).
However, for more complex or complicated inquiries, businesses must offer real-time solutions — like live chats or 24/7 call centers — so that customers can connect with a service agent who can address their needs, quickly and efficiently.
As more digital tools become available to both automate and personalize customer service interactions in real-time, it’s becoming easier to close the gap between businesses and their customers, which, in turn, leads to stronger and more meaningful customer relationships overall.
5. Customer service transformation must support and embrace autonomy
56% of companies do not make knowledge bases available to their customers. (State of Customer Service - Hubspot)
As mentioned above, when customers have simple questions, they typically first flock to a brand’s or business’s website or social media channels to get the answers they need.
These kinds of customer self-service solutions are not only essential for creating a better overall customer experience but also for easing the burden on customer service agents who, ideally, should dedicate more of their time on more complex or complicated customer inquiries.
Ultimately, providing this kind of valuable self-service content empowers customers to be more autonomous. Whether in the form of dynamic FAQ’s, intelligent chatbots, personalized help widgets, and on-site communities, “knowledge base” tools like this make it easy for customers to get the information they need whenever and wherever they need it.
The biggest benefit of self-service content is that it gives customers an immediate first line of defense to get the information they need before ever having to contact a customer service agent — especially for getting answers to simple questions that do not require human intervention whatsoever.
So, it’s worth taking the time to build out this content because doing so can drive tremendous benefits for both your business and your customer’s happiness.
6. Customer service must focus on fostering customer relationships
1 in 3 consumers believe that companies are not trained in customer relations. (Barometer Cultures Services)
Customer service isn’t the sole responsibility of customer service agents or the broader customer support team. Quite to the contrary, customer service or, rather, a focus on building, nurturing, and maintaining strong customer relationships, must be shared across everyone within an organization.
This is the only way brands and businesses can drive loyalty and create more personalized and relevant customer experiences overall. However, many people believe that companies don’t train their employees enough on how to build positive and lasting customer relationships.
Again, providing self-service content is a great way to show your customers you truly care while also accompanying them on a journey alongside your brand. For example, Banque Populaire du Nord, a Smart Tribune customer, quickly noticed that, after introducing a variety of “knowledge base” tools and offerings, their customers have become more adept at banking and its unique vocabulary.
This, in turn, has not only allowed customer service agents to conduct more relevant and interesting conversations with customers but also to shift those conversations from being purely support-based to being more focused on building customer knowledge. This is a win-win for both the bank and its customers alike!
These can all transform your customer experience in a big way, especially at a time when delivering stellar customer service and building strong customer relationships is more critical than ever before.
So, here’s your challenge for 2021: align your customer service efforts to increased customer expectations, follow customers along the entire customer journey, elevate to the same level as your customers, communicate in real-time across all platforms, empower customers to embrace self-service content, and transition from a “service” to “relationship” mindset.
If you can achieve this, you will have successfully transformed (and modernized) your customer service efforts for the better!