Using digital hubs

Multichannel customer service is the order of the day

01/01/2016

When consumers have issues with a product today, they want to contact customer service via a channel that is easiest for them to access in case they have a problem or question. What’s crucial for companies: the quality of service needs to be at a consistently high level on all customer service channels.
Photo: Callcenter employees; © panthermedia.net/Wavebreakmedia ltd

Customer service today means more than just a call center...

Today, high product and service quality is a given and an important factor for success. Customers have learned to have high expectations when it comes to delivery times, product variety and service processes, not least because of the triumphant success of social networks. They have grown accustomed to being able to quickly and directly contact customer service and demand this as part of a truly multichannel shopping experience. That’s why a social media presence is essential for retailers at this point since many online shoppers follow the brands they like and get informed about new products.

An Allianz study that surveyed approximately 1,000 internet users in 2014 shows the relevance of social networks for retail customer service: 77 percent of respondents also use social networks, of which in turn 32 percent visit the webpages of companies. Every fifth respondent has also posted something at some time – primarily on webpages of companies in the retail, eCommerce and telecommunications industries.
Photo: Employee of a supermarket advises customer; panthermedia.net/Arne Trautmann

...and it also means more than just a friendly consultation in the store.

Being tied to one channel is a thing of the past – and this also applies to the service sector

Social networks are not the only channel that’s important for customer service today. Another important trait of multichannel customers is that they no longer rely on one channel but intuitively switch between the channels based on what is most convenient at the time. Even if shoppers are perhaps loyal to a specific retailer, they still alternate between the online shop, catalog and brick-and-mortar store of that retailer. This applies to customer service as well as the actual purchase. That is to say, the customer expects the same level of service quality everywhere – regardless of whether he or she is approaching the company via telephone, email, chat, or a social network.

Challenges for the service department – adapting processes

Today customer service is available in real-time thanks to mobile technology. Customers only see the brand and not whether the service processes are internally properly integrated. In places where service is not yet part of a multichannel strategy, people in charge keep noticing that their service departments are unable to cope with cross-channel customer inquiries. And even when this realization has been made, it still doesn’t mean that multichannel customer service is subsequently being practiced. Oftentimes, digital channel integration is done rather halfheartedly and without adapting internal processes. When customer service questions cannot be handled in a cross-departmental manner, employees usually lack the necessary overview to truly respond efficiently.

Photo: In-app customer service; © panthermedia.net/Andriy Popov

Customers also want to be able to contact a company directly via social media.

Automation in response to the flood of data

The categorization and processing of all incoming inquiries doesn’t need to be completely handled by the employees themselves. Given the multitude of channels and every customer’s expectation to receive an immediate answer, this feat could only be accomplished with an enormous amount of personnel costs.

Only a complete view of the customer can elevate the service to the expected level. Without the appropriate software tools, companies are no longer able to achieve this today. At this point, there are solutions available that automatically analyze all incoming data from all channels, classify and link them with existing customer data.

The customer service associate thus obtains a clear summary of the previous communication on record as well as all important information. The appropriate software thus creates the basis for a prompt and company-wide consistent response to customer inquiries.

In-app customer service: direct and personal

Despite the fact that the percentage of mCommerce is still rather small compared to the total retail volume, most customers can no longer envision daily life without the smartphone as their central communication tool. That’s why it only makes sense that many retailers have already developed their own apps for these devices.

According to Gartner Research, only five percent of customer service is handled this way despite the fact that between 20 to 40 percent of customer interactions is done via mobile devices. So why not meet the needs of customers and integrate customer service directly into the app and thus enable direct, personal customer service?

However, it is also crucial in this case, to offer customers their desired form of communication. A real-time video chat feature and a direct telephone connection to a customer service associate can be created with just a few clicks for example. Background information or FAQs can also be directly accessed without an app as well as quick and simple inquiries with which the customers is able to directly address the company in written form.

This is precisely the way to ensure prompt customer service. Just like in sales and marketing, retailers need to be ready for inquiries from their customers and ensure that an internally consistent and efficient processing takes place.

Author: Daniel Stöter; EuroShop
First publication at iXtenso.com