What do advances in technology mean for the business-consumer relationship?
Last year saw the rapid evolution of the ‘we want it now’ consumer. Today we expect a personalised experience, demand it in a shorter timeframe and are knowledgeable enough to recognise poor customer service when we’re faced with it. Not only has this forced companies to reassess the way they interact with customers, it means customer service itself has become a vital function for all businesses regardless of their size and scale. So what specifically should companies be exploring and implementing when it comes to their customer service offering?
One major influence that has heavily contributed to the new era of savvy customers, and that is only going to become more important, is social media. A doubled-edged sword to the industry, Twitter has given consumers 140 characters and an audience of over a billion people to publically express their experiences with a company, both good and bad. Giving individuals a platform to directly interact with brands where customers can monitor response time and whether the information provided is adequate, poses an additional threat for companies that could result in potential brand damage.
This is where customer service teams step in. In order to combat this, businesses need to make sure they have a clear and effective social media strategy in place. However, thanks to ongoing technological advances, businesses have the ability to make their customer service offering the most agile and responsive it has ever been. This includes being able to answer any questions or queries in real time while still providing customers with an informative and helpful response. According to the BT Avaya Autonomous Customer Report 2015, 70 percent of consumers expect a response to social media interaction within 15 minutes.
Another key consideration is that of big data; an influencing factor that has caused the customer service industry to shift since the rise in its popularity and usage. While consumers have been busy adapting to technological change at an exponential rate, they have also been busy sharing more and more information. This means (and rightly so), they expect businesses to use this data to create more tailored and personalised experiences for them. If willing consumers are going to trade personal information with companies, they deserve to get something in return.
“The next few years will be no different to last,” says Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk. “The subscription, promoter and detractor economies will continue to drive the new era of customer relationships. Data driven customer service will grow as businesses deal with an increase in customer information and combine it with other data points from around the business to add context and really understand their customer base. I believe we’ll see more informed strategic decisions made using customer centric data leading to a stronger relationship between customers and businesses.”
Heather Gibson, brand experience director at AllSaints, says: “We believe that, over the next couple of years, personalised customer care will be key to improving brand experience. One-to-one correspondence, proactive contacts, multilingual agents and bespoke solutions will differentiate brands in the fashion industry. Global partnerships, such as the one AllSaints has with Google, Amazon and Zendesk, will allow retailers to open new communication and payment channels for a seamless customer journey in-store and online. As we look to the future, customer services will move from being an operational function to providing a virtual styling service and generating sales, with a luxury touch, from click to delivery and beyond.”
Businesses need to find new ways to cater to a constantly changing audience. Having an effective yet easily adaptable customer service function has never been more important and it isn’t going to change any time soon. As customer data and what companies can do with it continues to progress, so will customer demand. Those in the industry should be tuned in to create an encompassing strategy that combines data points from different aspects of the business in order to give one single customer view. Once this is complete, businesses will find catering to customers an easier and more streamlined activity; ultimately benefitting both business and consumer.
John Crossan is VP of sales EMEA at Zendesk