Customer Service Is The New Marketing. It Goes Further, Is More Social & Data Centric

2 Jun
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The customer is the “product” every business wants to buy. Unfortunately, today’s customer is disenchanted, discouraged and doubtful about every form of advertising, so you’re left with customer service. Customer retention and advocacy is the new marketing game. Let’s find out from our virtual panel how the game is played and what technologies are out there today to support it: Ryan Hollenbeck, Senior Vice President, Marketing at Verint Systems, Ilya Bodner, Chief Revenue Officer at The Shipyard, Hamza Nasir, Director Strategic Relations at LiveAdmins, and Jeh Daruvala, CEO at Yactraq.

SocialAgenda Media: Today companies must think long-term reputation vs. short-term profit. The mantra is to be available, therefore the quality of customer service becomes more important than ever. What challenges will customer-centric companies be facing in the next few years and how should technology evolve to address them?

Ryan Hollenbeck:  Consumers are more informed and knowledgeable about products and services than ever before. In fact, they prefer polling their trusted peers for their views and using self-service for information where they can get it. With this knowledge come higher expectations when interacting with organizations. Social media has also given the consumers’ voice unexpected power, driving them to expect companies not only to listen but proactively seek out their feedback.

These consumers are expecting fast, efficient service.  They want easy engagement through flexible, integrated channels, consistent service across those channels and they expect their information to be protected every step of the way.  They want organizations to understand their complex needs and to engage with them personally.

Quality Monitoring helps organizations capture, evaluate, and learn from customer interactions, including voice conversations, email, Web chat sessions, and more. This software combines monitoring and recording functionality with performance management, analytics, eLearning, and coaching, helping use data captured from the telephone, email, and Web to increase revenue, enhance customer satisfaction, and manage performance, processes, and costs.

Ilya Bodner:  Offshoring has given a bad name to customer service.  Just the other day I was sitting over a cup of coffee with another entrepreneur who was telling me about their Live Chat experience with a major insurance company – he was frustrated with the fact that he wasn’t sure if “Mindy” on the other end was really a “Mindy” in the United States.  Winning over the trust of consumers is proving to be tough, and companies that are doing it right do innovative things like announcing the location of the center you are being transferred to, using the area code of the inbound caller to match with the closest agent to that area, leveraging skill-based routing to match the most “relevant” account executive with the customer and his/her request.

Hamza Nasir: The internet has created an open economy, which gives rise to competition and an equal opportunity to compete. This lets a regular mom and pop shop rise up against conglomerates, as the internet provides an open battlefield regardless of size.

Due to competition and USPs becoming closer and harder to differentiate, products and services are increasingly becoming similar. This inevitably gives rise to the service culture, as that becomes the only differentiating factor.

Considering this landscape, companies need to be closer to the customers than ever. This requires organizations to forecast and understand the customers, their growing needs and have a thorough listening approach to doing business.

The biggest challenge that businesses will face would be of omni-presence, and being available on each and every platform where their consumers are present. Businesses need to know where the target audience is, and create custom target audience profiles that target various segmentations according to their various tastes and preferences.

Apart from presence alone – availability and responsiveness are key to providing an outstanding customer experience. With examples of banks (Halo BCA) and even airlines (American Airlines) responding to their customer with above 90% accuracy and within 3 minutes (Twitter), leaves competitors with little or no room for slack.

These kind of expectations have been possible due to technology as well as awareness, and a growing culture that revolves around the consumer, is empowering the user.

The rules remain the same. The platforms differ.

On the user side, brands need to engage their audience intelligently. Competition allows users to switch easily, with better options and features being offered every single day. With examples like Google and Facebook constantly researching and adapting to engage, maintain, increase and even create new market share, these are only the stepping stones towards a more educated audience who is empowered to make their own decisions.

Technology is based on the principle of saving time. With the exponential growth of social and web, it is inevitable that the modern consumer will continue to be more informed and open to change. Businesses need to be more agile, open to differentiation and keep a close eye on how consumer demands are shifting.

Mobile and social are the future, and no longer just a choice. Businesses need to leverage tech to listen closer and better, and make decisions accordingly. Tech itself on the other hand needs to continue to support presence on various platforms and keeping in line the adaptation ratio. An example of this would be the switch to E-governments in the past 20 years, 50% of which failed completely or partially.

The flip side would be the rise of big data and the ability to process this information and provide meaningful results that would allow organizations to react better and faster, from as basic as identifying the priority of where the consumers are and anticipated demands, to as broad as measuring the potential reactions based on locations and how to cater to a potential shift in real time. Listening remains key, and a higher level of agility is paramount.

Jeh Daruvala: Quality customer service has always been about high touch and high tech.  The confluence of accelerating artificial intelligence capabilities with fast growing audio & video networks makes cognitive computing increasingly accessible, even to mid-sized businesses. This is an opportunity to reimagine customer service for competitive advantage.

SocialAgenda Media: Some businesses are even taking customer service a step further into socialby turning their most satisfied clients into advocates and online sales reps. What technologies power such a transition and how can they evolve to make helpdesk truly social?

Ryan Hollenbeck:  One of the biggest challenges facing organizations is to balance critical and—at times—conflicting business objectives: maximizing customer satisfaction and increasing revenue, while minimizing the cost of delivering an outstanding customer experience. Voice of the Customer Analytics solutions provide the tools needed to transform these seemingly divergent goals into complementary ones.

These solutions analyze information from customer interactions regardless of the channel—calls to the call center, emails, chat, Tweets, surveys, etc. Voice of the Customer Analytics solutions include:

  • Speech Analytics—for mining recorded calls.
  • Text Analytics—for analyzing text-based communications, including email, Web forms, and postings on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Enterprise Feedback Managementfor capturing customer feedback as part of—or independent from—contact center feedback. Mobile solutions can enable you to capture feedback anywhere, anytime.
  • Post-Call IVR Surveys for capturing transactional feedback over the IVR.

Hamza Nasir: Word of mouth has had a reputation for providing the highest returns as compared to any other traditional or unorthodox marketing activity. This is where the split occurs – if consumers are provided with experience that goes beyond meeting their expectations, they can potentially advocate the brand itself. Research suggest that a happy customer would tell an average of 6 people about their experience as compared to unhappy ones, who would voice their experience to up to 20 people or even more.

Banking on providing a social driven experience, there are numerous technologies that allow businesses to engage with visitors. The touch points would differ between online/offline, but the idea remains the same. Humans like to interact with humans, and according to the Mobius Poll (2002), 80% of customers prefer to speak to someone even on the weekends.

Social media has provided multiple channels through which current customers can be engaged, but this has a pre-requisite – which is that the brand has to be present on all the channels where their customers are present and ensure engagement as well as dissemination of information at the right place at the right time. Social Channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have provided enormous opportunities to businesses to be able to engage with their current and potential clients. Apart from these social tools which requires the consumer to login to separate platforms, Live Chat has been the connection between online visitors and websites/mobile applications – the primary and most comprehensive resource for businesses as the amount of customization that is allowed by social platforms is limited as compared to websites, portals and applications as that is the property of the business itself and allows room for practically limitless customization. Some examples of Live Chat for consumer engagement would be LivePerson, LiveAdmins, LIve Chat Inc. etc.

Ilya Bodner:  Social media tools like Instagram and Pinterest allow the “ambassadors” to demo off what they are doing – that catches big buzz.  The ability to do it all from your phone speeds up the exposure for brands.  We found that implementing responsive design and mobile versions of customer support material is becoming equally as important as some of the more traditional things.

Jeh Daruvala: Social media is already being gameified and furthermore being made natural for humans via audio-visual interfaces like Siri and Google Glass. This IOT trend will lead to opportunities where customer service can be delivered in a “Wow!” manner by adding a social flavor to virtual reality.

SocialAgenda Media: What are the most common mistakes companies make while introducing new helpdesk technologies and establishing related processes?

Hamza Nasir:

  1. Lack of research prior to introduction of a new technology/channel – Being active on Facebook while the target audience might be on LinkedIn.
  2. Availability – Not being available around the clock especially for companies that have a worldwide customer base.
  3. Responsiveness and accuracy of information being provided – lack of consistency in the information being provided especially for standard operating procedures provided over phone as compared to in-person.
  4. Absence of consistency amongst different platforms e.g. response times on Live Chat better than twitter or excellent phone service as compared to sloppy, template email responses.

Jeh Daruvala: Traditional IT buyers are too conservative and generally overpay for older technology while not being diligent enough to adopt new technologies early and gain a competitive advantage in the process. As they said in days gone by, “nobody gets fired buying from IBM”. Now I have nothing against the IBM corporation, but to continue the conservative metaphor that “IBM” represents in the above saying, my question is: Can you show me a great wealth creation story that was built through a “just buy it from IBM” approach?

Ryan Hollenbeck:  The proliferation of more and different communication channels has made it even more difficult for organizations to manage the people and processes required to respond to consumer expectations in a consistent, personalized manner. They struggle to become a more customer-centric enterprise because information does not always easily flow from one channel to another.  To drive top line revenue at a reasonable cost, they need to manage the customer engagement holistically across multiple touch points and create greater value from their resources.

Unfortunately, today’s enterprises find themselves organized in functional and departmental silos, leading to myopic management practices across customer touch points.  Organizational silos frequently operate at cross-purposes, increasing costs and squandering opportunities to improve customer satisfaction and drive revenue.

Ilya Bodner:  They overload it.  Sometimes companies forget that the consumer has a fraction of a day to dedicate to figuring out how to ask for help, and too much info is simply too much.

They get too creative with the way they present the information.  It distracts from the purpose of the answers.

There is no place to type in a question.  Most people are now used to typing a “google like” search query.

SocialAgenda Media: What are the most critical lessons have you learned in relation to change management associated with new market trends and technology evolution in client service centric organizations?

Hamza Nasir:

  1. Agility – With the empowered consumers, businesses need to be able to adapt to situations and be open to change, from as basic as embracing an upcoming social platform and up to localization to enter a new market
  2. Listen – Ensure that the customer understands that they are at the center of the world for us and provide an open platform where feedback is noted and appreciated in its true form, and most importantly is acted upon
  3. Involve – Develop relationships with the customer that keeps them informed and in the loop to create/innovate based on customers’ needs.

Ilya Bodner:  Pull vs Push.  The different mentality of helping the customer through the experience rather than being reactive.

Technology changes by the second, constantly hiring bright people is a must – consumers want to have every possible way to reach a resolution.

Stick to what works, don’t settle for a low stat.  Some companies see success as “60% of the time we are effective” – that isn’t enough these days, I’m not even sure when it ever was.

Ryan Hollenbeck:  It’s important to capture and manage cross-functional information about customer engagements and workforce performance across delivery channels, then use it to uncover trends and discover why certain employee and customer behavior is occurring.  Manage engagements across channels and use guided business processes and recommended dialogues to deliver fast, precise, personalized service.  Deploy the right solutions to empower employees and achieve continuous performance improvement at every interaction point.

Organizations can analyze customer and employee experience data in real-time to design and implement customer-centric business strategies that unite the organization across people and processes.  As a result, you have better alignment across your organization and can move much more quickly to take precise action to increase profitable outcomes.

This improved alignment leads to more engaged employees who are spurred on by solutions that capture and manage information about customers and performance, then use it to develop predictive insights for driving measurable, sustainable business results.   Solutions that work across the enterprise help organizations gain deeper visibility into organizational performance and customer needs. By leveraging this intelligence, businesses can better engage customers, deliver a more consistent customer experience, and gain valuable insight for continually refining products, services, processes, operations, and staffing.

Jeh Daruvala: Change management in general is all about people and so the 3 essential ingredients are communication, communication & communication.

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