It wasn’t so long ago when getting a pizza meant physically going to a brick-and-mortar location, placing an order with some teenager behind the counter, and waiting while it cooked. After that, we spent the next several years ordering all of our pizzas by phone. It was quicker than ordering in person, but on a busy night, you still may have had to wait an hour or more.
But these days, it’s possible to get a pizza delivered in minutes via text, email, apps, or social media. A simple voice command on Google Home — or even a pizza emoji in Facebook messenger — and that large pie with extra cheese is on its way. If Domino’s is doing it, is it any wonder customers have come to expect the same kind of responsiveness from their internet providers, mobile phone companies, utilities, grocery stores, and clothing retailers?
Good businesses meet customers wherever they are, and these days that’s online. Today, more commerce takes place via an array of digital channels, giving customers frictionless ways to connect, pay, and, most of all, follow-up. While the means that customers choose may vary by audience and industry, the commonality is that those choices are more diverse than ever before and continue to evolve. Flexibility now translates into adaptability later, and all indications are that this a multi-faceted approach to customer engagement will only gain momentum in the years ahead. A study by Deloitte found that 79% of millennials already expect brands to service customers through multiple digital channels.
But this shift is not just limited to retail. And as customers express a preference for engaging digitally, it becomes more urgent for business to cater to this new normal. Whereas customers with an issue with a product or service once dialed up a massive brick-and-mortar call center, teams of remote agents now serve clients through various channels. Excellent service strengthens your brand, builds loyalty, and has a direct impact on revenue. The average value of an online transaction has increased 74% over the past year, and the COVID-19 crisis continues to push shopping, work, and socializing further into the digital domain.
Put simply: digital engagement is no longer an addendum to your core business — it is your business. In 2020, chat, messaging, and voice form the trifecta of optimal customer service. In an environment where contact center agents work remotely, striking the right balance comes down to improved training, adaptable supervisors, and a robust cloud-based management platform that aggregates calls, tweets, and, yes, emojis.
Find your customers and go to them
In a sign that early investment can pay dividends down the road, Domino’s saw its market share double since it transitioned to digital-first customer engagement a decade ago. From better website design to chatbots, apps, and AI robots that simulate human conversations, improved digital engagement reaches out to customers on their terms, boosts efficiency, and gathers data to improve other aspects of your company.
Meeting the customer
A cost-conscious 22-year college student with mobile service problems can be a customer for life. In contrast, a comparatively wealthier 65-year-old might be looking to add additional services to a business they own. Both customers offer an opportunity for growth, but they have different needs and are likely to engage their service provider in distinct ways. Whereas the student might only have time to drop a quick WhatsApp message on her way into a lecture hall, that mature entrepreneur would prefer to talk through a variety of options for integrating their old office landlines into their existing digital infrastructure. Any company hoping to serve both needs a customer service strategy that addresses each of their needs.
A good number of customers prefer to solve their own problems. One survey found that 67% of customers would prefer not to speak with a customer service representative at all. Well-designed websites can preemptively answer queries about return policies, shipping times, and service disruptions. Meanwhile, FAQ pages are a traditional way of helping people help themselves. But both channels tend to lack the specificity needed for addressing more complex issues. Automation features and chatbots can support customers looking for answers on their own. In addition to pleasing these customers, this has the added benefit of reducing call volume and freeing up agents to focus on the most complicated cases. Why patch a customer through a series of agents for a simple question about where they might drop off a return? Better to point them to an answer they find themselves.
The advent of interactive voice response (IVR) has helped direct phone calls more efficiently. But customers often complain that IVR-heavy interactions trap them in a maze of automated operators. A digital-first approach tends to get to the heart of the customer’s query quickly. A good goal is to funnel 80% of incoming traffic through a digital channel to start. Chatbots are useful for simple questions and triaging initial contact, which frees up agents to deal with cases requiring more attention. Such sorting saves time and reduces the likelihood the customer gets passed from one agent to the next. It also quickly contends with the most common customer issues. Once a customer does connect with an agent, chatting offers a host of other benefits. Agents can generally handle more than one customer at once — so-called concurrency. Each agent gets more done, which reduces initial wait times and frees up more time to deal with the most complicated customer issues.
Dealing with customers in any sort of volume requires a platform with real-time reporting and analytics. In fact, it’s pretty much the only way to make adjustments and improve performance. Digital channels collect a lot of information. An agent can likely access a history of past contacts with the customer. More data means you know your customers better. It’s also an opportunity to share that data with other departments across the company. Domino’s generates feedback loops that track order history, follow a pizza from the oven through delivery, then share bits of data with other departments. “Our marketing and IT groups actually work together,” Denis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer told Forbes. “Everyone on both of those teams is trying to achieve the same goals.”
How to take the digital-first leap
A recent undercover examination of Apple’s tech support showed that even innovative, resource-rich, tech giants could experience hiccups as they move toward digital-first customer service. Not only did Apple not offer a Facebook option for engaging customers, but agents also struggled to communicate with customers through Twitter and other digital channels. The benefits of pushing calls to digital are clear, but when it comes to getting it done, the devil remains in the details.
In fact, digital-first customer service begins even before the customer has a query. A well-designed strategy alerts the customer to their options before they place a phone call — how else would they know that they can make contact digitally? Once the customer does reach out, it’s all about leveraging technology to keep things simple. Even top performing agents need access to the right tools.
First, you need a single platform to aggregate all the channels where your company has a presence. Working from home, contact center agents rely on technology to help them interface with clients coming to them in a variety of ways. As questions come in via social media, messenger, or live chat, agents must receive them in a unified stream. This lowers the technical learning curve. Rather than worry about the quirks of one channel or another, this streamlined approach allows agents to focus on delivering actual service.
For their part, companies get the bonus of collecting, cross-referencing, and merging profiles of individuals who reach out in a variety of ways. Last month a customer wrote about a billing issue via email. Last week they used Facebook to alert you that their service had been disrupted. After an agent responded promptly, that customer wrote a complimentary review. Now it’s easy to keep all that information in one place, offering a 360-degree picture of an individual customer.
Simple, frictionless contact with customers is the primary advantage of digital interfaces, but contact center platforms also must keep agents connected. It is essential to maintain morale on a work-from-home team, but it facilitates problem-solving by keeping agents in touch with supervisors and experts from across the company. Managers use the same platform to coordinate from a distance and maintain a community bridging management, agents, and customers.
The right platform makes an agent’s job more manageable, and happier agents deliver better service. RingCentral’s cloud-based systems help managers organize, motivate, and coach remote agents. This makes it easier for them to meet customers wherever they are. New tools make it simpler to connect customers with the person best positioned to offer help and allows them to reach out via their channel of choice, while making sure agents stay connected with other departments and one another.
Good business was always about meeting customers wherever they are. Amid declining face-to-face interaction, customer engagement now takes place in digital space. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated this transition, forcing businesses to adapt. RingCentral’s easy-to-use systems help you make the leap and set you up for continued success in the years to come. This shift to digital channels is not just another challenge to overcome, it’s an opportunity to serve people better.