Consumers have changed in meaningful ways in the past year, and now it’s the responsibility of businesses to keep pace with shifting customer preferences and behaviours.
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Paolo Fabrizio is a digital customer service consultant, trainer, speaker and author. In the 1990s, Paolo took part in the startup of the first online insurance company in Italy, following the customer’s entire lifecycle. Since 2013, he has been a consultant and trainer. He helps companies harness digital customer service as a key business driver.
Paolo is the founder of CustomerServiceCulture.com and a lecturer at Bicocca University of Milan (Master MADIM).
Through ‘Customer Service Culture’, what is the thing you enjoy most about helping businesses?
I find it exciting getting to know clients’ processes, procedures and feelings when dealing with their customers. By assessing their conversations, regardless of the industry or support channels they use, I can deep dive into their inner needs and pain points and set up customised roadmaps. I know that’s crucial, having worked for 20 years within organisations before becoming a digital customer service consultant. This approach works really well and it enables me to become their trusted partner.
In what ways have you seen digital customer service improve during your career?
In 2014, when I started my career as a digital customer service consultant, the only ‘mature’ markets were the USA and UK. Pioneer industries were telcos and a few others, and channels were essentially social media and live chat. From 2018 onwards, online customer support has become widespread all over Europe, Asia and now Africa covering many more industries and businesses (both B2C and B2B). New digital channels such as messaging apps and video chat are growing very fast, and the lockdown period we’ve all been facing has accelerated overall demand.
There have been a lot of changes across customer service in recent months, what are the biggest challenges to overcome next?
Yes, there have been many changes in just 12-15 months, so much so that consumers increased either their digital support demand or, most of all, they have dramatically raised their expectations. That leads to three frequent challenges that emerge when I have conversations with customer service directors and managers. The first need is to review the way customers perceive them, their corporate values and re-assessing their strategic positioning where necessary. Then updating their infrastructures, meaning getting equipped with omnichannel digital platforms to make front line agents’ lives easier and empowering managers’ 360° view with customised reports and analytics as per team, and support channel. The need is up-skilling their customer service managers and agents and that’s currently one of the most frequent activities that I carry out for my clients. As a result of this experience in 2020, I’ve shared my Digital Customer Service Personas skill-set model – to turn agents into digital conversations specialists (over social media, live chat, messaging).
The saying “we’re too big to fail” does not apply anymore. The new nightmare is fast obsolescence. Therefore my message is; don’t rest on your laurels even though you’re in a great position today.
How can businesses adapt their long-term strategy to make the most of digital customer service?
This question touches on an issue for those brands who are reluctant to accept that digital customer service is much more than a trend, it’s a one way road. Whether you like it or not, the era of long term strategies has come to its end. That being said, planning long term goals is still very important, but being ready and willing to make route adjustments in a timely fashion has become paramount.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to an organisation wishing to improve its customer service operations?
The saying “we’re too big to fail” does not apply anymore. The new nightmare is fast obsolescence, therefore my message is; don’t rest on your laurels even though you’re in a great position today. Otherwise, you might suddenly wake up after a couple of years in totally different conditions, having been overcome by competitors that you had (wrongly) underrated.
What are the important customer trends you’ve seen over the last six months?
I’ve essentially noticed two main trends. Firstly, a strong demand for messaging channels such as WhatsApp and Telegram, with brands needing to train their front line staff to master conversations with their customers accordingly. As a new digital customer service channel, video chat usage is on the rise and health and financial services companies are going to introduce it soon, with further industries to follow in the forthcoming months. This is also the result of the digital-pandemic-acceleration above mentioned. I’m convinced that these trends will be consolidated in the next 2 years ahead and further, maybe more will follow.
Originally published Jun 11, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023