Here’s the scenario: your customer is working after hours and has a question. It’s a simple question, but one they want answered now. Are you fortunate to have a call center staffed 24 x 7? Or, does your customer have to send an email, or leave a voicemail and wait for a response? In today’s always-connected business climate if your customers can’t find the answers they want, when they want it, you run the risk of losing them.
In fact, customer service is a key differentiator for companies with 62% of global consumers reporting they’ve switched service providers due to poor customer service and 82% of those customers saying their previous supplier could have done something to prevent them from switching.
One magic word to prevent the “switch” – Access.
Access doesn’t mean staffing a 24-hour call center. It does mean having the answers to commonly asked questions ready and available at the click of a mouse and allowing customers to take customer service into their own hands.
For years, low-cost airline carriers continue to outperform traditional carriers when it comes to customer satisfaction. Why? A J.D. Power & Associates study suggests it’s because airlines take advantage of technology to allow passengers to guide their own experience. Flyers are allowed to compare fares, purchase tickets, print boarding passes, check-in and even pay baggage fees all without talking to a single customer service representative.
Now, think about your own customer service process. Does your staff spend the majority of their time answering the same questions over and over again? Or are they acting as consultants, needing to dive in to bigger issues that require more skill and expertise, and thereby time, which prevents them from handling additional calls? Two of the biggest tools we’ve tapped into as we work toward our own goal of providing a world-class customer experience are self-service and crowdsourcing.
Self-service provides greater consistency.
Imagine a customer calls in and talks to a representative who has been with your organization for 10-years. They quickly get the answer to their question, and move on. The next time they call they speak with a new employee, who spends more time tracking down an answer, and the answer they provide doesn’t jive with what your customer has heard before. Now your customer is frustrated because it doesn’t seem as if the experts on your staff are so "expert" after all. How could that experience be different if you used technology in the same way as the airlines, automating the answers to frequently asked questions?
Although the majority of customers still pick up the phone or send an email to get their broader questions answered, more and more customers (72%) are turning to web self-service to get their day-to-day questions answered. This is a trend worth noting, because you can’t necessarily afford to double the size of your customer service team whenever you double your client base, but you still need to provide a high level of customer service. That’s why companies are turning to online self-service portals, otherwise known as a knowledge base, where customers can access company-approved documents, product or service announcements, help text, trouble-shooting guides, video tutorials, user manuals, and articles. It allows you to provide a treasure trove of valuable information that customers can review before they ever pick up a phone or send an email. Not only are all of your customers privy to the same information around the clock, they’re now armed information that they can share with their coworkers and peers.
Peer-to-peer knowledge sharing builds better relationships.
Another trend to watch when providing customer service is peer-to-peer sharing. Two popular channels for this type of communication are traditional social media channels or company sponsored message boards.
To achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, organizations must consider entering the conversation proactively. New product releases, enhancements, white papers, and even blog posts (like this one) are ways to help customers understand both your company and your product. Links to these resources should be posted on social networks to direct both current and potential customers to your product offerings. This helps to facilitate a two-way conversation that builds meaningful relationships.
Here again, your interactive knowledge base comes into play. Including features such as “Ask us a question,” or “Suggest a feature” allows customers to give their input on your products and services. Inviting customers to provide comments in a topic thread helps your organization determine if other articles or tutorials need to be published, as well as identify product enhancements that will help multiple clients achieve their goals.
Making it count when you’re on the clock.
Technology will never replace one-on-one conversations, however building a useful knowledge base will help you build a reputation as a proactive customer service organization. An added benefit may just be greater satisfaction for your customer service representatives as they take on the role of trusted consultant versus answering your top ten frequently asked questions day after day.