Four Strategies for Successful Customer Service in the Digital Age

When it comes to communicating with companies about their customer experiences, customers now have a variety of ways to connect, including digital communications. In the past two years, customer service interactions on Twitter have increased 250 percent, indicating that savvy customers will reach out to companies to get in touch with them via any possible method of communication.

As a customer service executive, I know my customers will use any available communications to make sure their voices are heard. I want to make sure that what they're saying is praise, not complaints. After all, it's about creating incredible customer experiences and turning customers into raving fans who are true champions for your brand.

However, today's digital era certainly creates hurdles for companies looking to deliver incredible customer experiences. Customers can feel scripted customer service from a mile away, immediately criticizing businesses for providing inauthentic or mechanical-sounding service. Customers want to work directly with humans and receive prompt and authentic responses from them.

To succeed in the digital age, companies must evolve with their clients and embrace change. Customers want fast service through omnichannel experiences and customization that caters to all of their needs immediately.

Here are four strategies that customers demand from businesses for outstanding customer service in the digital realm:

1. Offer various communication channels for all customer needs.

People want to find answers to their problems through different channels (online, email, voice, chat, or social, just to name a few). And some problems, depending on the escalation and complexity, warrant live phone conversations with support representatives. Depending on your customers' needs, you should provide a multitude of channels for customers to easily connect with you. If you want to deliver a seamless interaction between all channels, be sure to incorporate multichannel self-service, where customers can respond to support tickets through their communication preference and then continue the conversation through the channels that are most convenient for them.

2. Always listen to customers.

It's crucial to listen to your customers because you need to measure their happiness. You won't know how to innovate your customer service strategies if you don't know your customers' sentiment. One way to do this is by creating a short customer satisfaction survey following any interaction, asking consumers to rate their experience and provide any suggestions for improvement. The surveys allow you to measure and then, most important, execute on the gleaned feedback. You must also measure your company's execution effectiveness because if you're not quickly responding to customer inquiries, you're not listening to them.

3. Promote internal collaboration.

Your level of responsiveness is completely tied to the internal health of your organization. Customers can easily tell if your team isn't collaborating. For example, if you're not responding to your clients quickly, you're most likely not responding to your colleagues quickly. Make sure your teams align with each other and encourage cross-collaboration. The more everyone in your company works together, the more your employees will produce stronger results, and the more your customers will trust your brand.

4. Be human.

You can't treat your customers as anything but humans. As such, you must ensure that your responses and interactions convey a human tone. We're living in a digital world, so you can't speak to your customers like a robot. When you're addressing customers after they provided negative feedback, for example, you can't respond with brutal corporate speak. You need to have an honest and direct answer, using terms that they understand. You can't just simply say "I'm sorry." You must authentically apologize and then immediately fix their complaints with compassion.

Winning in today's digital age of customer service means acknowledging and correcting customers' problems in real time by providing them with various channels for support. The companies that can provide incredible customer support that minimizes their customers' interaction times will be the ones that will have the biggest advantage.

Steven Warfield is vice president of support and general manager at Bullhorn, a provider of CRM and operations software for the staffing industry.