The new era of connected customer service

In today’s ultra-connected world, customer choices are unlimited. In our net-driven, instant, mobile world, hyper-personalization rules. Companies like Birchbox and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club were some of the first to use personalization as a business differentiator. And Amazon was an early pioneer of mining data to create a personalized ecommerce experience for their customers.

Now it seems every day another startup hits the retail scene offering a perfectly curated set of clothes, cosmetics, or bespoke shoes delivered to your doorstep. We’ve all come to expect ecommerce websites to offer recommendations based on who we are and what they know about us. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We’re willing to offer data about ourselves in return for our own tailor-made experience —  and we love it.

Why it’s time to say goodbye to “hold, please”

There was a time when personalized customer service actually meant person-to-person experiences. Before the internet, big-box stores, and call centers, you’d go down to your local hardware store and get help from the friendly guy behind the counter. Everything you needed — a return, advice, an exchange — was handled through an in-person engagement. Even getting gas in your car was a personal experience. Remember sitting in your car while the attendant filled up your tank, washed your windshield, and checked your oil? (Unfortunately very few of us still do.)

Globalization, the internet, and mobile devices changed all that for good. As companies scaled and became more distributed, the call center was born. Suddenly, individual service was replaced by service for the masses. From its beginning, the call center was considered an afterthought by company management. It was a necessity — a means to support a large volume of customers quickly. But it soon became a corporate pariah. It was looked at as a cost center, so it was constantly underfunded. In fact, the main objective of a call center was to minimize service costs.

The result? A new era of terrible customer service, with call centers becoming synonymous with bad service experiences. Customers even immortalized their dislike online in viral stories like United Breaks Guitars. Now that customers have unlimited connectivity and choice, they’re rejecting the idea of being put on hold. And 73% of consumers actually say that valuing their time is the most important part of providing good service (Forrester’s Top Trends for Customer Service).

Moving service from a cost center to growth engine

Today’s customers are beginning to see the service experience as the main differentiator between brands — more important than product or price. As the epicenter of the customer-service experience, call-center leadership started shifting focus to customer-satisfaction performance metrics like CSAT and NPS. Throughout this evolution, the term “personalization” has flitted around the call-center discourse, yet actually applying it has been as elusive as catching a Golden Snitch.

Why haven’t call centers been able to deliver a personalized customer-service experience? The roots of the problem go back to the original issue of call-center underfunding. Personalization requires customer data and the intelligence to do something with that data. The problem is that even today, customer data resides in multiple legacy, outdated systems that don’t talk to one another. It’s not uncommon for data to reside in a dozen or more disparate systems. With a call-center agent “swivel chairing” around 12 screens, it is impossible to deliver any kind of quality, much less personalized, experience.

Say hello to intelligent connected service.

Today, the dream of the personalized call-center experience is real — and Salesforce is delivering it. How? Service Cloud’s connected CRM platform can access and consolidate every piece of customer data regardless of where it resides. That means sales, service, and marketing data. That means data from ERP, order management, and any other legacy system. It even means IoT machine data.

But being able to access and consolidate all that data only gets you so far. To deliver a personalized experience you need to convert that data into intelligence about the customer — intelligence that service agents can access and use instantly, the moment they engage a customer. That’s where Einstein comes in. Einstein is AI (artificial intelligence) for everyone. It learns from all your data and delivers predictions and personalized recommendations.

Einstein makes your agents smarter about your customers and their problems, offering recommended responses based on intelligence. It makes your supervisors smarter by predicting issues and responding proactively. It enables customers who are community members to discover the people, content, and conversations they need to be the most productive. Einstein also drives efficiency and cost savings through automation and prediction. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — the potential use cases for Einstein delivering personalized service are limited only by the imagination.

Person-to-person service everywhere — there’s an app for that.  

The last piece of the personalized puzzle is delivering a 1-to-1 personal experience where your customers are and where they spend most of their time — on their mobile devices, and in their apps. Yet most companies don’t know how to service their customers’ problems within their app — it’s a complete blind spot. Enter Salesforce Snap-ins, delivering the next level of mobile personalized service. With Snap-ins you can integrate customer support directly in your apps and webpages and reach customers in real time to deliver personal service whenever and wherever they need it.

Intuit already does. With Salesforce Snap-ins their service agents are connecting with customers using SOS video chat within their own app. In fact, during a busy tax season they increased their net promoter score (NPS) by 20 points. And Snap-ins play a feature role in Intuit’s new Turbotax TV commercials featuring David Ortiz, DJ Khaled, and even Humpty Dumpty, who all get tax advice from a Turbotax agent shown on an SOS video chat inside the app. That’s personalized service!

What does all this mean for your business?

It means you can deliver personalized service at scale and create deeper connections with your customers. It means you have an opportunity to set your brand apart through a transformative service experience that keeps your customers coming back — and leaves your competitors far behind. And it results in faster service, more productive agents, lower operational costs, and a higher ROI.

The time for personalized service is today. What are you waiting for? Let Salesforce show you the way.