Six Customer Service Investments to Consider


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Fall is often the time when customer service organizations work on developing an investment strategy for the coming year. Many customer support managers struggle with finding the best place to invest in innovative applications, due to the many options available and the need to work within a very limited budget. The major technology upheavals in recent years, such as the rapid growth in global data, smartphone devices, social networks, and video content for consumer interactions, drive the need for change. Future planning needs to take into account the change in customer expectations for interactive cross-channel service delivery.

Although customer support managers understand the benefits of providing advanced solutions, they have been cautious in adopting new technology. Adoption of social media customer care requires that customers receive a response consistent with the information provided on the phone and Web. To support their expanding customer expectations on nontraditional channels, such as social media and smartphones, customer support managers should consider increasing their support in the following areas: community forums, mobile application customer care, automated chat, real-time analytics, big data analytics, and video support. These customer service investments offer quantifiable business benefits and provide valuable customer insight.

While these emerging applications offer tremendous potential, the reality is that business decision leaders first must appreciate and quantify how these applications will transform their business and provide better customer engagement. Customer support leaders need to develop a sound business case that clearly identifies the key pain points of the current operations and quantifies the potential savings from making upgrades. When developing a business case, consider the following benefits from the six emerging technology trends.

Community Forums

Community forums provide an online meeting place for customers to dialogue, offer options, and get peer support. Its content includes blogs, interactive chat, timely tips, self-help videos, and major event notification. Importantly, it engages customers and improves their perception of doing business with a brand. Community forums are valuable for self-help and can prevent calls from being made in the first place.  Companies have reported a decline in incoming phone calls due to community forums of up to 8 percent.

Mobile Applications for Customer Support

Mobile application customer support provides assisted service directly from the mobile app. With the huge increase in smartphone apps, more customers will use their smartphone for conducting transactions or requesting information for a product or service. Mobile customer support provides faster responses to customers and interacts with them at the time of greatest interest.  It also delivers a seamless customer experience from the smartphone, as contextual transfer of all information submitted on the mobile app is sent to the CSR when live assistance is needed. Contextual transfer of information shortens the call duration as customers do not need to re-enter information previously given.

Real Time Analytics and Decisioning Software

Real-time analytics and real-time decisioning software mines structured and unstructured data from customer cases and social interactions. Analytics provide insight into customers’ issues to improve service, personalize interactions, and identify product problems. It also supports faster problem resolution for customers. With almost immediate insight into customer problems, customer service managers can escalate the problem to the appropriate department and resolve the issue quickly, thus preventing additional calls on the same topic.

Automated Chart and Virtual Assistants

Automated chat or virtual assistants offer help to online customers with advanced natural language speech solutions. They lower the cost for online support services and eliminate unnecessary calls for basic information. Automated chat requires a customer-oriented knowledge base that provides the correct response to customers with a high degree of accuracy.  When an accurate (80 percent accuracy or higher) response is not available, the customer should be immediately transferred to an assisted chat session with a CSR. However, as the use of automated chat increases, the knowledge base will have a larger repository of correct responses to offer to the customer.

Big Data

Big data collects, manages, and analyzes customer data from multiple sources with informed decisions and customer insight. It improves customer satisfaction by better understanding a customer’s needs, helps brands make educated decisions, and sends alerts on trends and issues.  The vast amounts of data generated for customer support require a tool to manage the data and make it easy to understand, filter, and prioritize the data and take action based on its content. Content management will reduce the time spent by CSRs looking for information, resulting in shorter call duration and more accurate responses.

Video for Customer Service

Video customer service offers visual communications to smartphones and tablets. It promotes customer intimacy and encourages real-time collaboration. In customer support organizations, technical help calls can be shortened by sending a video clip on the subject matter and allowing customers to see a demonstration on how to fix their problem. Video can also be used to call in remote experts to facilitate problem-solving and shorten problem resolution time.