“Everyone wants this exciting omnichannel experience, but customers don’t think about channels in the same way as companies do.” - Matt Dixon
Last year, our world shifted to digital overnight. Along with it, the role of customer service transformed from problem solver to brand ambassador and customer experience influencer. And as more companies embrace omnichannel, service is set to have an even bigger stake in driving revenue and ultimately, the success of your company. Why?
Because 91% of customers say a positive service experience makes them more likely to buy again — which means unifying people and processes across the business to deliver seamless customer engagement.
But the companies that are set to thrive take this one step further. They anticipate customer needs before they’ve even picked up the phone — and with Service Cloud Customer 360 providing a single source of truth, this is more achievable than ever.
But what does a great customer engagement really look like in 2021?
Well, we asked the expert: Matt Dixon, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Tethr and co-author of The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty. He sat down with Clara Shih, CEO of Service Cloud, to really unpack what service excellence means today. You can watch their full conversation here and read on for the highlights.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed dangerous divisions between customer expectations and the reality of customer support. As companies raced to mobilise their workforces during global lockdowns, calls to contact centres soared — at the exact moment, most of them were closed.
For many, this lit a fire that accelerated digital transformation. But it also became an opportunity to really consider what customers want from support and service teams.
One of the top trends right now is omnichannel. We all agree that omnichannel means providing customer service across multiple integrated channels — but that’s not the full story.
“Everyone wants this exciting omnichannel vision, but we did some research and found that companies tend to think of every channel as the same, like a Swiss Army knife of customer service.”
“But customers don’t think about channels in that way,” explains Dixon. “They want to hire a channel to do a specific job for them.”
Meeting customer expectations means making sure you’ve allocated the right level of resources to each channel. Historically, customers viewed live chat and SMS as a quick way to resolve simple queries. But not anymore. COVID-19 has shortened the amount of time customers are willing to wait on the phone to speak to a rep — and shortened their fuse.
This means bots and virtual agents have had to mature at a rapid pace to help triage cases and get them sorted faster. Companies that can’t quickly give customers the level of service they expect risk being named and shamed on social media. And where social media was once viewed as a place to meet customers on their home turf, it’s now thought of by many as a platform where customers can ‘shame’ companies into providing better service.
Bots and knowledge articles help customers to self-serve, leaving your agents free to handle more complex cases. Why then, are so many companies still giving their agents rigid scripts to follow, instead of letting AI handle simple interactions?
“When people started working from home, the market split: some companies doubled down on scripts and tightened the bolts on processes and others trusted their people to use their judgement.”
“The latter group made sure their people are trained, coached, empowered, and supported with the right tools, technology, and managers to do right by their customers,” reveals Dixon. “And what we found was that this second set is really winning in the world of customer service.”
Before the pandemic, reps could turn to a colleague and ask for help on a case. But being forced to work remotely has caused a shift in culture, and in many cases, given agents the confidence to trust their own judgement. With the right technology and a single view of customer data, this actually leads to better outcomes for customers — and demonstrates the value of your support team in enhancing your reputation and brand.
So you’ve embraced omnichannel and empowered your team. Well, the final piece of giving customers an amazing experience is getting a single view of data and connecting processes — particularly if your service includes field agents.
Let’s say your customer gets an SMS telling them to expect a technician — but they need to change the arrival time. The last thing your customer will want to do is call the support line, only to speak to a rep who has no idea what they’re talking about — because the SMS came from a different department.
“From a process standpoint, we’ve got omnichannel working at the front for our customers, but processes need to be integrated in the background so the left hand knows what the right is doing.”
Service Cloud provides a central platform to connect data and processes to give customers a seamless experience. Even better: you can use that data to unlock actionable insights that help shape your service without having to send out surveys — which Dixon reveals time-pushed people have a low tolerance for in the current environment.
“Data really is a gold mine. This is a golden age for the service leader to have those conversations and use those insights to fix issues upstream and really improve the way we do business and the value we provide to our customers,” he said. “I’m excited to see what comes next.”
As the dust settles from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the perfect time to review your digital, workforce management, and data strategies to identify the best practices that will help you succeed in the future. And whether you decide to adopt omnichannel or AI, one thing is certain: the power of people is here to stay, and the more you can amplify that personalised, human experience in your services, the happier your customers will be.
You can watch the full conversation between Matt Dixon and Clara Shih to find out more insights from the world of service. And to understand what’s top of mind for service leaders across the world, check out our State of Service Report.