In customer service, “call centers” are old and busted. “Digital” is the new hotness.
The digital revolution, however, is more of an evolution. Just as cameras have yielded to smart phones, VCRs to Blu-Ray players, and voicemails to tweets and Snapchat, consumer preferences are inexorably forcing call centers to transition to a fast-moving digital world. Even B2B businesses recognize that Digital Customer Service means more than training staff to take inbound calls.
Over and over again, customer service managers hear about the importance of Digital Customer Service. But what makes a customer service operation “digital”? You can recognize strong Digital Customer Service by three characteristics: it’s omni-channel, it’s data-driven, and it’s engaged with customers.
Customer service is no longer handled by a mere “call center” any more. Digital channels such as Web self-service, mobile apps, emails, instant messages, co-browsing, social media, and even video chat have emerged, for both B2B and B2C customer service needs. In fact, many contact centers have successfully made the transition to provide support for one or more of these digital channels.
And that’s the problem.
An Ovum study shows that 74% of customers use three channels or more for customer service. Unfortunately, as contact centers added support for these channels over time, they unwittingly created channel-centric operational silos. Keeping these silos coordinated—sharing case information, and updating products, policies, and procedures—is an expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately un-scalable task. Worse, taking this approach is a mismatch compared to a typical customer’s cross-channel journey.
A true omni-channel customer experience means a customer can start an inquiry how they want and seamlessly transition when they move to a more appropriate channel. A customer-centric approach, rather than previous channel-centric designs, not only reduces customer effort but also decreases IT costs thanks to its “design once, deploy anywhere” methodology.
Digital Customer Service relies on data to provide guidance. Customers expect you to know who they are and what they need because you should already have all their information.
Mind you, data alone is not the solution. As Pega CEO Alan Trefler says in his new book, Build for Change, “Data is memory and only memory […] More data does not automatically translate into a better view of the customer.” It’s not enough to have a 360-degree view of the customer; you must know what to do with that data.
Digital Customer Service goes beyond having a customer’s profile and history. It’s about marrying that information with what the customer needs right now, and with how you want to support that objective. It’s using that data to automate service interactions as much as possible. For complex decisions or judgment calls that require human intervention, it’s gathering and presenting the most relevant information to Customer Service Representatives. And with predictive analytics, it’s using that data to anticipate customer needs proactively.
Digital Customer Service elevates its level of engagement. Just as digital marketing has moved from traditional outbound-only campaigns to two-way conversations, so must Digital Customer Service stay engaged throughout the customer lifecycle. It is not enough to communicate with customers only when there’s a problem or you have something to sell. Digital Customer Service understands that its customers and clients have an online presence, a strong network of contacts, and a connected, always-on mentality. You’ll need frequent touch points, based on their social media activities, life events, and through the course of doing business with you.
The immediacy of today’s digital channels demands personalized, ongoing interactions. If your public sector or B2C business can’t keep up, your customers will make sure you (and all their friends and followers) hear about it. If your B2B business can’t deliver on your promises, your clients will find a provider who can.
Evaluating Your Digital Customer Service
Take a look at how far along your contact center is on the journey of digital transformation.
- Which digital channels do you support? Is your approach channel-centric or customer-centric?
- When do you bring data to your CSRs, and how do you help them interpret it? How do you automate and anticipate service, based on that data?
- How do you stay in touch with customers? Do you stay engaged throughout their customer journey, or only when you need to fix or sell something?
If your answers to these questions put you on par with Polaroids, cassette tapes, and a blinking “12:00,” then you know you’re ill-prepared to deliver the digital customer service that your customers expect.
Connecting with the empowered mobile and social customer requires companies to achieve three core competencies: the power to engage, the power to simplify, and the power to change. Download the Delivering Service at the Speed of Customers white paper to learn more.