Neil Hammerton, the CEO of Natterbox, discusses the impact that changing customer channel preferences may have on customer service.
What is your favourite way to communicate? Email, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter? Whichever it is, it’s increasingly unlikely to involve having a conversation over the phone.
As technologies such as AI and robotics seep into every element of our lives, it’s important that we hold on to the traits which make us human – one of which is the art of conversation. But are many businesses in danger of losing this skill in their communication with customers?
Companies are increasingly turning to chatbots, virtual assistants and social media to interact with customers. As well as being important ways to create efficiencies, they can often serve as a digital wall that protects us from conversations that we don’t want to or aren’t confident enough to have in person.
But this avoidance could have devastating effects on a company if it means that it can’t provide the level of customer service that customers want.
For example, British energy company Iresa Energy has recently been banned from taking on new customers by Ofgem because of repeated customer service failings. One customer said that they were unable to get hold of anyone at the company for three months to resolve an issue.
So, while chatbots and virtual assistants are capable of helping customers find pre-approved and pre-programmed solutions to their problems, what if that customer’s problem falls outside of their scope? Or, what if they simply want to speak to a person for peace of mind? That’s where humans and the way that we build relationships really come into their own.
As the march of automated solutions and artificial intelligence continues apace, the telephone will continue to play a vital role.
A recent report by Salesforce revealed that by 2020, 79% of business buyers will expect companies from whom they purchase to already know who their company is when they contact customer service and preferably know who they’re speaking with.
In order to meet that requirement, businesses will need to invest in the relationships that their customer service agents build with customers. And we know that to build a relationship relies on developing a personal connection, one that is far more difficult to achieve via email or social posts.
The good news is that whilst technology has replaced personal interactions on the one hand, it is also helping to enhance it on the other – giving us a platform on which to refocus the softer side of customer service.
For example, when calling into a customer service centre, if a customer has to provide multiple pieces of information every time they call in or they’re kept in a queue for a long time without the option of a call-back, then the likelihood is that by the time they’ve got through to an agent they’re not in a good mood.
Attempting to build a relationship at this point is almost impossible. But what if you remove these frustrations and make the process far more efficient, streamlined and personalised?
The playing field for building rapport is now much more open, with customers knowing that they’re being properly taken care of the moment they get through to the other person on the line.
Artificial Intelligence is also helping create a more personal experience. The much-hyped technology will soon help businesses record and analyse thousands of calls made each day – identifying what makes a good call vs. a bad call. From this analysis, businesses can offer their call centre employees training to make the service they provide as aligned to customer wants and needs as possible.
With customer loyalty more changeable than ever, companies need to ensure that they’re putting as much effort into engaging with customers on a softer, more personal level as they do into their digital profile.
The key is getting the balance right – creating great customer experiences and building productive customer relationships is about a merging of modern tech and an appreciation of what makes us human.