Empowering consumers to take control of customer service over the peak period
Customer service is always under the spotlight when it comes to the peak Christmas period. That’s no secret. Call centres suffer extreme pressure from anxious consumers calling in to ask where, when and how their order will be delivered, and in many cases to complain about the service they have received.
However, the pressure felt by call centres immediately after Christmas can be even more intense. As soon as the clock strikes midnight on the 25th December, retailers will be hitting the January sales button and the appetite amongst shoppers for the next big bargain will commence. In the run up to Christmas last year, research from consumer watchdog, Which? found that 40 per cent of consumers were planning to shop in the post-Christmas sales. This figure will inevitably climb for January 2016.
The problem here for call centres is that the influx of repetitive customer enquiries asking about: refunds, returns and even how to work the purchased product; can put considerable pressure on the customer service machine, to the point where the threat of collapse is very real. This is where control is needed to manage ongoing customer interactions and the brand relationship. Maintaining that control at customer contact instils a confidence amongst customers even during peak periods when traffic is high.
Get a handle on social media
In recent years, the explosion of social media has driven and coincided with a dramatic change in the relationship between brand and consumer. No longer are brands sat firmly in the driver’s seat; customers now demand a high level of speed, convenience and transparency when it comes to service, with 70 per cent expecting a response to social media comment in 15 minutes. Time is precious to everyone and retailers need to ensure a quick response to queries or risk narrowing the window of opportunity with the customer.
With 72 per cent of customers expecting email enquiries to be replied to within three hours, social media is becoming a more popular platform to communicate with brands in real-time. According to a research report by the Institute of Customer Service, since January 2014, there has been an eight-fold increase in customer complaints made on social media.
The problem with using the likes of Facebook and Twitter as a customer service tool is that brands can now be publically named and shamed – clearly visible to existing and potential new customers. Rather than sitting back and waiting for customer complaints to hit on social media, potentially risking brand reputation, it is imperative that the right customer service strategy and execution is in place to maintain strong customer relations and brand loyalty, particularly during peak season.
Listening to customers
With the 28th December recorded as the busiest shopping day last year, retailers should ensure their ecommerce offering is on point to meet the needs of all customers, from the bargain hunters to those returning Christmas gifts. Having the right information in the right place at the right time will be crucial in assisting the customer journey, minimising customer queries, as well as capitalising on the busiest shopping days. It is all about understanding what the customer wants.
Whilst 48 per cent of consumers site call centres as their most frustrating customer service channel, some retailers are still addressing this issue by increasing the number of agents in their contact centre, thinking this is their only tool to respond to customers effectively. However, there is a limit to what organisations can deliver to customers through a contact centre channel, whilst remaining cost-effective and responsive.
Putting customers in the driving seat
Recognising the potential restrictions of call centres, entertainment technology brand, Goodmans, struggled to provide a consistent level of customer service when the majority of purchases occurred out of hours, either in the evenings or during the weekend; not ideal for peak volume. However, since implementing an intuitive digital self-service solution, Goodman’s customer base have access to 24/7 support, with 83 per cent of queries being resolved first time round, whilst also reducing the strain on its traditional contact centre by 50 per cent. Through the self-service engine’s intelligent knowledge base, Goodman’s has also benefited from a 55 per cent expansion of ‘relevant answers’ and a 98 per cent reduction of repetitive questions.
Digital self-service solutions are increasingly being used to empower customers to source information at a time and place that is convenient to them. Rather than waiting in long contact centre queues, or tediously searching through extensive FAQs or set-up guides, customers can receive relevant information they need on products in real-time without disrupting the user journey. For Goodmans, delivering rich content such as video and instructional PDFs, has considerably enhanced the level of online support and importantly the overall digital customer experience.
Don’t leave it till the last minute
If brands want to avoid unnecessary stress during peak-time, a good place to start is planning ahead. Rather than leaving everything to the last minute, retailers should be taking control of their relationship management strategy early to ensure the customer journey is well-supported even when traffic is high. Empowering the shopper to self-serve, not only improves the customer experience but reduces the strain and costs of traditional manned contact centre channels, ultimately keeping both brand and consumer merry over the post-Christmas sales.
CartAssist is the leading digital self-service engine, delivering accurate answer to your customers in real time. User journeys are interrupted (and therefore sales abandoned) because shoppers cannot find the information that they need when they need it, so keeping them on site and is essential to any conversion rate optimisation strategy.
CartAssist builds, and continually adds to, a knowledge base from responses instantly, enabling businesses to make important optimisation and user experience decisions to improve the overall customer journey while keeping an eye on the cost of contact.
Re-defining the economics of CX in the new customer journey
There’s no shortage of customer service channels for the enterprise to select from today. Regardless of the many new metrics that have emerged – such as customer success, or empathy – cost reduction is still a primary driver in selection criteria.
There are many articles dedicated to how companies can turn customer service and customer experience (CX) from a cost to a revenue centre. The problem is, if you stop there and don’t look beyond cost reduction, you’re limiting the scope for CX to become an even bigger economic contributor in the enterprise.
There is every opportunity for customer service and CX to significantly influence the front end of business, particularly amongst direct-to-consumer subscription-based products and services, such as popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, as well as sports subscription services like DAZN.
In these products and services and others, there are new customer journeys that may drive business growth and revenue. They start earlier and may last a lifetime, so getting things right at the start of the journey is key so that customers have the best experience from day one.
Not only will this help in making customers less likely to reach out for issues-based support further down the line, but these customers will be much less likely to churn, and much more likely to take up new services as they are offered throughout the lifetime journey.
So, what does the new customer journey look like for these services?
Opportunity waiting for the likes of Netflix & Disney
While consumers may have previously regarded customer service as a way to mitigate the inconveniences in their lives, the customer journey is expanding in scope every day. Today there are many more touchpoints available that put CX in a position to drive revenue.
For one-off purchases, traditional CX deployments have not changed significantly in the past few years. However, if you look at the change in the CX relationships we’re seeing with subscription-based products and services, particularly media-based streaming services, it’s clear that these companies lead what quickly become very multifaceted relationships with their customers. These have serious potential to evolve over time for increased economic benefit.
For any sort of subscription-based business, customer lifetime value is paramount, and the requirement to actively manage a continued positive customer experience is critical.
Every interaction is an opportunity, and every data point is a chance to offer more value. Introductory offers can convert to longtime customers. Longtime customers may take up opportunities to upgrade to more premium products or services. They may also appreciate incentives to invite family and friends to become customers. Consumers who like a particular service, for example, may appreciate a recommendation for another similar or complimentary service.
It all starts with customer interaction, and the customer experience journey becomes an opportunity to strategically affect the user base and resulting revenue - which is a far cry from the limitations of call center cost reduction or churn metrics.
How do companies support the new customer journey?
More and more, customers look at the new customer journey as engaging with brands as part of their lifestyles. Many companies are making brand ambassadors available before the traditional customer journey even starts, which is a marked change from a purely transactional relationship associated with a one-off purchase.
These ambassadors, who are often independent users of products or services, are providing trusted pre-sales advice, and that same trusted advice can also function to nurture the customer journey in a subscription-based relationship. Call it ‘GigCX’ or ‘crowdsourced customer service’ or even ‘peer-to-peer customer service’ - it doesn’t matter.
The key is in providing impartial, trusted advice from real users. Think about it: who would you rather get advice from? Someone who has used a product or service extensively, or someone who has been trained to provide customer service surrounding that product or service?
For services such as streaming media, advice from trusted experts with real product know-how could be invaluable. This may not be limited to technical issues, such as what to do when you can’t access your favourite show, or how to access services across various devices. It could be parents helping other parents who are concerned about how to restrict adult content from child viewers, or simply customers who have similar taste in programming who can comment on the benefits of upgraded or premium products. The point is, these experts are easily available at any touchpoint in the customer lifetime journey, creating more chances to add value.
It’s also about tipping customers from ‘passive’ to ‘promoter’ in the NPS scale. It’s an opportunity to turn neutral customers who may be vulnerable to competitive offerings into loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fuelling growth. It may ultimately help drive even further revenue by creating customers that are helping to sell the brand itself.
And, while chatbots and automation may play a key role, they are often not able to handle the more complex support needed in the new customer journey. Conversational AI is rarely as conversational as it claims to be, and in the new customer journey, most companies are finding that a mix of automation and people-centric service is an ideal way to nurture the many new touchpoints created.
It’s no longer about trying to replace human capital with automation: it’s about orchestrating a uniquely personalised CX, and proactively engaging during the customer lifecycle to enhance the experience, and to create more long-term value.
At the moment, we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the power to affect the economics introduced by the new customer journey. We’ll no doubt see this evolve rapidly particularly amongst streaming companies as they use human-centric connections in CX to support the full potential of customer lifetime value.
About Roger Beadle
Roger Beadle is an entrepreneur and business leader who is reinventing how customer service is delivered via the gig economy. After establishing several businesses in the contact centre industry, Roger co-founded Limitless with Megan Neale in 2016. Limitless is a gig-economy platform that addresses some of the biggest challenges faced by the contact center industry: low pay, high attrition and access to new talent. Previously, Roger and Megan helped to build one of the largest privately-owned outsourced contact center business in Europe, before selling the business to the global conglomerate Hinduja Group. Roger is an outspoken proponent of digital ethics, worker’s rights and the ‘good-gig:’ which encapsulates gig work for incremental pay versus full time work, skilled gig work, no unpaid time/downtime and zero expenses.
Named a Rising Star at Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 program, Limitless is a gig customer service platform, combining crowdsourcing and AI to help global businesses address their biggest customer service challenges – rising costs, increasing attrition, variability in demand and the need for diversity. Brands like Microsoft, Unilever, Daily Mail Group and Postmates are using Limitless’ SmartCrowdTM technology to connect with their most engaged customers, and reward them for providing on-demand customer service that can flex in line with demand. Limitless is one of the world’s first global tech platforms to introduce localised platform terms to protect the rights of its gigging workers. Backed by AlbionVC, Downing Ventures and Unilever Ventures, Limitless is empowering people worldwide to earn money for providing brilliant customer service for the brands they love.