Customer Service in Retail – How technology can be leveraged

technology systems

Technology systems are already widely used in the different channels of a customer service process, yet still customers cite a lack of communication with customer services as a major frustration with companies. Technology systems should help to streamline services and management services and be used as a means of leaving customers satisfied.

How can businesses use technology systems to improve their communication services?

The first place to begin is with the existing systems. No matter how many channels customers have available to interact with a company, the ability to talk to a person within a bricks and mortar business is preferred. If customers are still using the telephone to speak directly to a customer services representative, then it is important that there is someone available to speak with. Research carried out by BT shows that 69% of people calling a business will hang up rather than leaving a message. This has the potential for a negative effect on the business due to a missed customer services opportunity.

A common solution to this possible negative consequence is a call queue. The customer is held in a queue until a customer services agent is available. This in turn raises many other potential issues, such as how long a person should be held in a queue for before this also creates a negative impression on the business.

Seeking to keep the wait to a minimum is an obvious conclusion to draw, as the risk of the customer abandoning the call becomes higher the longer they wait. There are metrics that can help with the management of customer call systems. The possible statistics visible in real-time to managers include: average call duration, call abandonment rates and average call waiting times.

Know where your customers are

Many companies provide online support, social media interaction, as well as telephone communication. However, realistically companies need to recognise that the dominant means of communication used by customers is mobile messaging. 2.5 billion people, globally, use messaging apps. This number is expected to rise to 3.6 billion by 2018. Despite the power of these statistics, companies are slow to react and adopt messaging as a channel for communicating with customers. 90% of consumers said they had a poor experience when seeking support on a mobile device. Mobile messaging offers a huge opportunity for businesses across all industries.

Streamline the service

A further frustration stated by customers is the need to repeat their issue to multiple customer service professionals. Technology is being used to solve this issue, with the development of omnichannel services. These services are not a new idea but are still relatively undeveloped in most companies. This is not just a matter of integrating the different channels of communication within a company but also drawing in past communications with a customer. The customer should experience seamless interaction across all customer service channels.

This means that companies should acknowledge that it is no longer enough in customer services to just respond. The company must respond quickly and must have the relevant information needed to ensure the customer leaves the interaction happy and satisfied with the service they have received. Companies must also acknowledge that customers require a human contact and must nurture this connection.

Log data and feed it back to the process

To achieve a complete service for the individual, big data analytics can be used. Big data is an opportunity to gain insights into behaviour, preferences and any issues that impact on customer experience. If this data is accessed and applied, it is possible to individualise the connection with the customer and then work to build a life-long relationship. Avoiding churn is achieved through an anticipation of needs, an improvement in the conversation with the customer and by making sure the pain points and passions of the person are identified.

Southwest Airlines is an excellent case-study of maximising data to improve the customer experience. They are a low-cost carrier but still gather and analyse data to improve customer experience when flying. A recent innovation, using voice analytics, has added the data from live recorded interactions. This is value-rich data that has enabled Southwest Airlines to explore the sentiment of the customer in relation to their company.

Look to the future

Artificial Intelligence (AI) are technology systems that are growing in possible applications for customer services. AI allows companies the opportunity to have individualised conversations with customers in real-time. This is made possible through the automation of communications based on customer behaviour and interactions. AI attempts to mimic the decision-making process of a human: when the customer interacts with the company, the system provides a proactive, actionable response to each customer.

AI is exciting because great customer experience relies heavily on the ability of a brand to respond in real-time in a conversational manner suitable to the individual customer. By drawing together big data with AI, brands have a chance of collecting feedback from the customer and then channeling this into an individualised communication. However, this does mean that companies need to shift the mode of communication with the customer, if they are going to remain relevant.

In summary, the customer service ecosystem is going to be defined by all these innovations. With the trend now to appoint a CXO, or Chief Customer Experience Officer, businesses will seek out opportunities to impress customers. By using these technology systems customers will be happy and offer rare loyalty in a modern digital world. Brands will also benefit from a deeper understanding of customer needs, which in turn will drive enhanced business results.