With the advent of the Internet, social media, and instant communication via texting, customer expectations for service, as part of their entire customer experience, have changed. They expect you to be there, to know their history as a customer, and to treat them with priority and respect. They tell their friends and the world everything, and a bad experience can kill your business.
Everyone today is looking for a knock-your-socks-off customer experience, and they know the best companies out there are already doing it. I saw some great insights on how to do it in a classic book, “More is More,” by Blake Morgan, a top thought leader and expert in this area. I particularly liked her points on the evolution of customer service as a key part of the overall experience:
- Now available 24×7 via multiple channels. With every business being global in scope and always-on, a phone-in service available in a local time zone during work hours only, is not competitive. As well as phone support, customers expect you to accept mobile messaging, and provide quick responses via social media and multiple Internet websites.
- Company finds customers based on interests. No customer enjoys being blasted by irrelevant banner ads, and they don’t have time to sort through all the noise of products out there searching for an audience. The best companies do their homework and find the right customers, based on demographics, prior purchases, and expressed interests.
- Technology must improve the customer experience. When you call customer service and it seems to take forever for the agent to help you, it’s likely that she is switching to different applications to get to the right information, or waiting for slow responses. Customers won’t tolerate being asked repeatedly for information you should know.
- Customer is in control of the support experience. Today’s customers expect you to find them when they need support, rather than the other way around. Witness the series of airlines’ public relations disasters, when customers don’t get the proactive attention they need. The days of brand control are over, so you need a strong outreach program.
- Customer service is a key part of the marketing budget. In the past, most companies treated customers like yesterday’s news – once they have the sale, the effort decreased. It was normal to find service as understaffed with no budget. Call center queues could put you on hold for thirty minutes or more. Great customer service is the new key to loyalty.
- Products must be designed for easy support. With the Internet of Things (IoT), your product can call home directly when it needs support, so you can surprise your customer with a solution before he knows he has a problem, or the product can fix itself. Designing for support is now as important as designing for low cost, ease of use, and quality.
- Reward responsibility and creativity in support. Support has traditionally been the spot for employees with less skill and experience, and less motivation. Today you need your best team members, with the best incentives, focused on impressing customers with creative solutions. You too can be listed as a source of amazing customer experiences.
- Optimize experiences for the new generations. Generation Z (born after 1995) is a new major spending demographic, who expects to do everything via their smartphone, and lives on YouTube videos, instead of reading instruction manuals. Millennials really care about social and environmental impacts, so don’t ignore these support implications.
In fact, it’s no longer possible to separate customer support from the overall customer experience. Both are part of the relationship that you build with your customers through a compendium of all the interactions you have with them. Any one of these can be the key to amazing advocacy, or the beginning of an aggressive visible campaign against you.
The world today is small, and there is no room to hide. Be responsive, do more, and you will get more.