Some 55% of consumers say that their customer service expectations have increased over the past three years. Additionally, 55% of consumers say that they have moved from at least one company in the past year due to poor customer service.
Have consumers changed their attitudes about customer service that drastically? No, consumers have not changed. We've always wanted to be independent. Technology, however, has finally caught up with us and enabled us to do more than we could before.
Between crowdsourcing, video tutorials, and online communities, consumers arguably know more about products and services than a company's customer service representatives know about them. Moreover, consumers would rather conduct and complete an interaction on their own.
We are in the middle of a transition from preference to reliance for autonomous service. This transition is radically shifting the power of the customer-company relationship from brands to consumers.
To be successful, brands need to make sure every technology investment or process change supports the following new consumer expectations:
1. Know me
Context and data from every interaction should be carried over seamlessly to the next interaction, even if the customer switches channels or switches from self-service to live assistance.
2. Make the customer experience mobile
A complete mobile customer experience must harness all channels available on a mobile device. Moreover, the vast majority (70%) of consumers would rather text than talk.
3. Let me do it
Some 72% of customers prefer self-service over picking up the phone, and 91% would use self-service if it was available, according to IBM Retail Research.
The reality is that customer satisfaction is higher in a DIY model. We are much more forgiving of ourselves. For example, we almost always pump our own gas today and never complain to the gas station if we've had a bad experience doing it.
4. Make it social
Consumers use social media to complain, ask for help, get opinions from peers, and escalate issues. The attractiveness for brands and consumers is in its inherent simplicity as a communication channel.
Brands may also use the help of advocates that will chime in to troubleshoot and help on the brand's behalf.
5. Fit it into my life
Consumers don't want to be constrained by business hours of operation anymore. They are on the go and conducting their business at every hour of the day.
As a result, brands should enable their customers to contact them at any hour of the day and on any medium they prefer.
6. Save me time
Consumers have a sense of immediacy and are self-driven. They want it to happen now. No one is willing to tolerate a three-day wait for an email reply. They also have little patience for having to go through a contact center for simple queries that they could have solved themselves.
7. Make me smarter
Consumers would prefer to be informed ahead of time if there is going to be a known change in service. Brands can proactively communicate with customers to inform them of order status messages, appointment and prescription reminders, service outage notifications, and other important messages depending on business needs.
* * *
The relationship between customers and businesses has forever changed. Self-service customer engagement does not have to be lackluster and unfulfilling. In fact, 65% of consumers said they feel really good about both the company and themselves when they are able to answer a question or solve a problem related to that company without having to talk with a customer service agent.
With the proper technology, we can help consumers as they aspire to do more, have more, be more, and, at the same time, create greater loyalty and longer-term customer value by engaging with them differently and on their terms.
Joe Gagnon is senior vice-president and global general manager for all cloud solutions at Aspect Software, a provider of customer engagement solutions
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