Customer service is the most important thing for brands to survive in today’s times. What makes delivering consistently uniform service is the volatile nature of human resources who deliver that service. One rude executive, one bad conversation on phone or even things out of our control and the customer is lost forever. Unless an organisation has a very strong customer centric approach with each employee dedicated towards the goal, the job remains undone.
We discussed the basics of customer service in the last post. Customer service on phone and on email, apps, social media is equally important today when we use so much of technology to get so much of our work done.
Why so many channels of customer service?
Companies and brands cannot wait to serve only when they come face to face with the customers. As our lives got busy and the time available for service reduced, we needed easier ways of getting in touch with companies and having our problems sorted. Alternative channels help widen the circle of keeping in touch with customers by providing more options to speak to the company and give their feedback. And it’s just easier for the customer to call or mail than to physically walk into a service center every time something needs to be sorted. A lot of apps have feedback inbuilt into them, so it’s just the touch of a button. So whichever medium you prefer, the companies will still be able to hear you out.
What are the challenges in providing customer service on alternate channels?
1. Impersonal: I feel nothing can match the old fashioned face to face customer service. The empathy and connect that is possible in personal conversations is hard through other means. This is what makes service on phone or on emails more challenging. It calls for command over communication skills and a strong service orientation to keep the customer happy when he is sitting in a remote location and is unseen.
2. Unpredictable: In my experience, even the most service oriented companies cannot guarantee consistent service all the time. This is primarily because it depends on the skill level of the person serving the customer at a given time. I called up the customer care number of a reputed credit card company on a sunday evening and found the rule book being thrown at me. I thought the otherwise consistently solution oriented company was stuck with this executive who was at work on a weekend and did not have any answers to my queries.
3. 24/7 availability of quality service: As mentioned in the example above, being consistent at all times, in every interaction is probably the biggest challenge.
Did you know? 41 percent of consumers expect an email response within six hours, yet only 36% of U.S. companies respond that quickly…14% never respond at all. – Internet Retailer
4. Customer delight is hard to achieve: In times when every customer is made to feel special, it is hard to come up with exceptions that can lead to customer delight. The expectations are so high most things a brand does to make good seem to be within the rights of a customer.
5. Investment in research and technology: Being present everywhere at the beck and call of a customer definitely calls for logistics and systems to be in place. This involves a lot of expense in the hope that customers will be happy and in return, loyal and come back with repeat business.
How to overcome challenges in providing customer service on alternate channels?
1. Choose appropriate channels. Don’t activate more than you can manage. More avenues of service means managing all of them well. As a customer, there is nothing more annoying than finding a Twitter handle that hasn’t been used for months. Or a customer care number that doesn’t work. Or an email id that reaches no one.
2. Train people on what good customer service is. I mentioned this even in the last post on customer service. A workforce dedicated to making customer service unique is pivotal to the success of any brand.
3. Brands should aim at first time right: It will be easier to achieve customer delight if the service rendered is great right the first time. Rather than the customer having to complain and find quick resolution. This can also build the long term trust in the brand.
4. A strong customer feedback system: This will ensure that customer comments, observations, experiences are captured as they experience them and before they escalate into complaints. This is an opportunity for the brand or company to set right little deviations in their systems which can make it easier for the customer.
There is no end to the number of things brands can do to overcome the challenges. I have tried to mention a few. You can read further about solutions to major obstacles to customer service in this brilliant article here.
Have you come across any consistent service that delighted you? Feel free to share in your comments so that others can appreciate them too.