Why Digital Customer Service?
Having a digital customer service function doesn’t just mean setting up a company Twitter account so that customers can tweet complaints to you. Done right, an effective strategy is a complex and gradual process, which integrates the delivery of customer service and support via the web and the social networks into the very fabric of your organization. Think about this for just a minute as it relates to your own behavior. Think about how you shop for something. If you’re like me you use multiple devices as part of that process. Discovery, research, comparing, asking peers for recommendations or reading reviews. Then you buy something and have a different journey with the company you’ve purchased from. You might have questions, you might need support, you might have problems. You might want to upgrade or buy more of something. You might want to recommend to someone else. Many of those things we all do as part of the customer path to purchase are across multiple channels. Now think about what systems you have in place to provide customer service to your customers and prospects—across multiple channels.
What it Takes to Develop a Digital Customer Care Strategy
As part of their Insights program, McKinsey published an article on this topic and called the process developing an “e-care strategy.” I enjoyed the read and especially liked the fact that they suggested that the development of an effective e-care strategy would take one to two years and as much due diligence as a company would provide for any major project launch—with the full support of the executive team.
McKinsey recommend a six-stage development strategy for a digital customer service program:
- Review what works well with the existing strategy and what the priority issues are most likely to be.
- Build a map to identify any services that wouldn’t benefit from digitization and where cross-selling opportunities might be lost.
- Set up an effective system to track and measure cross channel activity to ensure that the systems aren’t over-complicated and cause customer dissatisfaction.
- Set self-service and operational savings targets.
- Encourage customers to go online with a mixture of “push” and “pull” strategies.
- Synchronize and coordinate the implementation under the control of a designated team or cross-company committee.
The Benefits to You and Your Business
McKinsey sees benefits to a business in increasing customer engagement and satisfaction, together with the potential to cut operational costs by implementing a digital strategy. Obviously the complexity of the implementation, and the potential cost saving will depend on the size of the business, but it’s a safe bet that if you’re thinking about this you’re ahead of the pack. And bottom line, no matter what the size of your business, it’s a safe bet that developing and implementing a digital customer service strategy will result in happier, more satisfied customers, repeat business, referrals, and, of course, growth and profitability. In fact, one of the tenets of McKinsey’s piece was that the more digital the journey, the higher the satisfaction.
The Future of Customer Service?
Is it worth going to these lengths to digitize your customer service? Steven Van Belleghem’s study, The future of customer support: From personal, to self, to crowd service? makes that a resounding “yes.”
Belleghem’s research looks at the trends that are affecting the future of a fast-changing customer service culture. Van Belleghem anticipates a future where digitization enables a self-service and crowd service culture that involves and engages the customer, while also maintaining the human and personal connection that customers enjoy.
Let me give you an example of that from my own life. I’m a part of Google Fiber’s Trusted Tester program. This means that we routinely get new devices and equipment from Google to test their service and offer feedback and suggestions for improvement. New equipment often means change and bugginess and all kind of quirks that take not only some getting used to, but some workarounds. All of the trusted testers are part of a group list serve, where we share experiences, fixes, thoughts, suggestions and the like. The Google Fiber team participates there as well, but in many instances, we identify and solve through crowdsourcing our own problems and issues. Good for us, good for Google. Kind of interesting, isn’t it?
Belleghem identifies four trends that support a move towards a digital service culture. They are:
Mobile. Well, this is pretty much a given, isn’t it? The future (in my mind, it’s not the future, it’s the present) is undoubtedly all about mobile. Consumers research, review, and buy on their mobile devices in increasingly large numbers. It makes sense that they will also expect to receive support and be able to sort out any issues that they have with your company on their devices, too, doesn’t it?
Self-service. Customers set the bar pretty high now when it comes to their expectations for customer service. They want what they want when they want it. And that means when they need help at 10pm, they’d like for someone to be available. It’s obviously impossible for the small to midsize business to meet this demand, however self-service via a digital platform is likely to provide a solution that meets the needs of both customer and the service provider.
Crowd-service. Involving customers in the service and support process is becoming more popular (just like my Google Fiber issue), with the majority of consumers saying that they support the idea of customers helping each other. The customer seems to be ready for crowd service and companies need to provide the means for the crowd to function. Another example of this is something that happened to me today. I couldn’t get a browser extension that I didn’t know I’d enabled to shut off. I Googled for help on this and found several people answering other queries like mine – and their advice worked. What you want to make sure of, from a business standpoint, is to anticipate those kinds of questions about your products or services—and to be sure you’re the one providing the support and answers. It doesn’t have to be a 24/7/365 service, but it can be through support groups that you create, through information on your website or even through live chat. Answering your customers’ questions and solving their problems, endearing them to you and what it is you provide to them is the way you avoid becoming a commodity to them. Every business should always be keeping this in mind.
Competition. Fierce competition will drive a move towards digitization of customer services, with the businesses that can implement digital, while retaining a human touch, being the most likely to succeed. 100% true. Competition is fierce right now and growing exponentially more so. I mentioned the danger of becoming a commodity before, but there has never been more danger of being marginalized, of being forgotten, of just being just another average Joe than there is today. The businesses that go the extra mile, who build relationships, who put a human face and a human touch to their brands – no matter what they sell—those are the businesses that will survive.
Van Belleghem concludes that data integration to track cross channel results, together, with mobile conversion are key elements in the future of customer service. Also a critically important point and the importance here cannot be overstated. You can’t do this without data. You can’t do it without cross-channel data integration. And if you don’t know about this, and if you’re not yet collecting multi-channel data and learning how to analyze it, start. The customer journey is not happening on one device or in one channel. It is happening on multiple devices in multiple channels. If you’re not collecting and analyzing this data and letting that drive your marketing and customer service strategies, well, it’s a big deal.
Want to know more? I love this topic. If you do, too, check out Belleghem’s presentation, embedded below. Customer service and ongoing support are going to be a key battleground for not only share of mind but share of wallet moving forward. Those who can harness digital technology to find the perfect balance between efficiency and providing a positive customer experience are likely to thrive. I’ll leave it to you to decide what happens to the folks who opt to ignore the digital component of customer service. What do you think?
Other resources on this topic:
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