The customer service industry, like nearly every other industry over the last several decades, has been radically transformed by technology.
While true that collecting, retaining and updating customer information is easier than ever, and staying in touch with clientele and customers is made incredibly easy through social media, targeted direct marketing efforts and other forms of communication, recent changes (such as adoption of the aforementioned social media channels) have also made it possible for customer concerns, criticisms and dissatisfaction to go public.
The angrily written letter chastising a company for failing to meet a particular person’s needs (justified or not) no longer gets mailed into corporate headquarters for a select set of eyes – now it goes on the company’s Facebook wall for all to see.
And yet, on the whole, the industry is reaping numerous benefits from the adoption and implementation of these digital tools. Everything from business-to-customer interaction to product accessibility to brand accessibility can be made better through technology. Customers can now window shop online; they can voice their concerns – or their approval – in a public outlet, and in the process, feel that their voice is getting heard; and they can enjoy exponentially more control over the entire shopping experience, through apps, online stores, social media, and more.
Innovation in technology is raising the customer service standard and we’re just beginning to see the impact that the right application of technology can have in the customer experience.
-Flavio Martins, DigiCert, Inc.
The old way of doing things is gone. The new customer centric experience consists of:
Brand Accessibility – Everywhere
People are on their Smartphones, tablets and phablets every day – on the bus, at work, at home, and yes, unfortunately, even in the car. Through mobile apps, online stores, social media platforms and responsive websites, businesses can maintain a presence in their customers’ lives even when those individuals aren’t visiting brick-and-mortar stores in person – and they can also collect information. In addition, wireless service providers such as T-Mobile are now offering customers free 4G LTE service for certain devices and unlimited data at a low cost. This allows customers’ devices to be connected anywhere, anytime.
In effect, traditional television commercials and billboard advertisements – once the only means to reach a customer when he or she was outside of the consumer space – have become universal, personal (be working actively rather than passively) and interactive. Rather than going to their customers, businesses can create experiences for customers that come to them. In the process, they can gain invaluable insight on these customers, such as their browsing habits and demographic information.
Business-Client Interaction – Anytime
When it comes to customer service, it could be argued that the appearance of being accessible may be more important than actually being accessible. If a customer feels like his or her voice is being heard – and concerns are being addressed – that in and of itself can be a victory for a business. By being accessible at all times, through social media, online contact forms, email, and phone calls, businesses can make the impression in customers’ eyes that they’re putting forth the effort necessary to meet their needs.
Ultimately, people want to talk to other people so the importance of taking these steps cannot be overstated. Once this is out of the way, businesses can focus on actually going about doing so – which brings us to…
Person-to-Person Contact – On-demand
Technology makes it easier than ever for a business to engage in person-to-person contact. And that is because in the 21st century, person-to-person contact involves more than in-person communication and phone calls. With Smartphones, tablets and phablets making text messaging and Skype the new de rigueur in personal communication, businesses can get away with using email, real-time messaging, social media, and text messages to respond to customers – and expect the customer to come away satisfied with that experience.
These tools also allow for an anticipatory approach to customer service; if a flight is going to be delayed, the airline now has multiple touch points through which it can reach its customer. This level of “person-to-person” communication, even when no people are actually involved, can greatly improve the experience customers have.
A Bright New Future?
With more ways to reach the customer than ever, and more ways for the customer to interact with a business, customer relations is currently experiencing a sort of paradigm shift in the way that things are done.
Whether this is good or bad is left up to the individual – to what degree should businesses play a role in society? – but there can be no denying that the industry has been irrevocably changed by technology. There is hope for customer service and we’re beginning to see organizations that have turned it into their competitive advantage as they engage with their customers in more meaningful ways.