Last year, a YouTube video went viral. Two seventeen-year-olds participated in a challenge: take a rotary phone and figure out how to dial a phone number in four minutes or less.
To most readers, that probably sounds ridiculous. Four whole minutes to dial 7-10 numbers? That’s a bit excessive. But the reality is that the basics of making a phone call – lifting the handset from the cradle, checking for a dial tone, and rotating the dial all the way to complete the phone number – are lost skills of the past.
Younger generations are quickly entering the workplace, earning salaries, and becoming consumers. And they refuse to change the way they interact to fit the mold of the past.
Consider the evolution of customer service from the sixties to today. First, the only way a customer could contact a company was in person or by phone according to the business hours.
Then, the birth of the Internet gave rise to new communication channels in the 90’s – email and live chat. Still, businesses had to rely heavily on IT teams to configure proper routing by channel and set SLAs to appease customers, so that requests didn’t get lost in the flurry of inbound communications. Very frustrating for the consumer.
Now that social media has become more pervasive for personal communications, businesses realize they can influence buyer behavior, and marketing departments have slowly begun to add those platforms to their technology stacks.
With so many choices, the power has shifted into the hands of the customer, allowing them to control how, when, and where they want to interact with you.
To pile on, as innovations in communication technology continues to advance, our patience seems to proportionately decrease. And when a click of a button brings you access to anything you can imagine within 2 hours, the concept of waiting – in line at the grocery store, for a video to load, or even a traffic light to change – is incomprehensible and simply unproductive.
It’s evident we live in a culture of instant gratification, where customers demand highly responsive service requiring minimal effort on their part. While a bad experience will cost you almost one in three consumers (32%), customer service basics are non-negotiable. Today’s customer doesn’t have time to sit on a queue or explain to multiple agents who they are. They want to complete their transaction on the go, promptly, and simply.
So how do you retain customer loyalty and capture their attention?
1. Provide personalized, seamless customer service.
One of the benefits of technology is the amount of data we can collect and analyze. Large amounts of transactional, conversational, and personal data are likely generated from within your business’s application ecosystem. By categorizing data, such as buying patterns, support issues, languages, channels etc., you can build a 360-degree view of your customers and their behavior. Through this information, you can deliver an experience that will resonate with the customer, and they can build a stronger connection to your brand.
2. Respond to customers on social, messaging, and review sites.
Whether interacting with customers or tuning into conversations about your brand, your business needs to be present everywhere your customers spend time, which could mean a much wider portfolio of digital channels than you might expect. Digital channels uniquely make it easy for customers to connect with your business. Using asynchronous communication apps, customers gain the freedom to start—and even temporarily walk away from—a conversation, while soliciting an immediate response. By delivering an experience that caters to customer preferences, not only do you build loyalty, you may even gain an advocate.
3. Deploy the right technology with self-service solutions.
The last thing any consumer wants to do is spend their time waiting to resolve a complaint; they may as well find a new brand that sells a similar product. And your business doesn’t need to get bogged down with low-level support tasks.
Consumers generally expect fast response times from companies, with expectations varying by channel. Provide customers with a knowledge base of common questions and problems, and use chatbots to free up your agents from mundane tasks so they can focus on higher-level customer support.
Whatever solution you decide to implement for servicing customers, be sure that you can:
- Route messages to the right team to avoid redirects (this is where customer service teamwork comes in handy)
- Provide agents with templates so they spend less time writing emails
- Use a single platform to manage all digital channels
With so many choices, the power has shifted into the hands of the customer, allowing them to control how, when, and where they want to interact with you. Why not make it easier and interact with them on the channel of their choice?
Originally published Jun 19, 2019, updated Oct 20, 2020