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Article 4 min read

How to put customer service first in uncertain times

By Matthias Goehler, EMEA Chief Technology Officer

Last updated June 7, 2022

We wanted 2022 to be the year of pandemic recovery. Instead, it’s become a year of high prices, uncertainty, and further disruption. There’s a lot for both businesses and consumers to contend with against a background of war, inflation and Covid-19 fluctuations.

One thing we learned from the pandemic is that businesses have to adapt quickly in crisis. In some cases, where businesses couldn’t move quickly enough, customers had to put up with substandard customer service. The difference now is that customers aren’t willing to put up with bad experiences any longer. Almost half of European consumers say they have higher customer service expectations than before the pandemic started, according to recent research.

What’s more, 4 out of 5 consumers say they would spend more with businesses that can give them a personalised experience. Companies that connect their service with the digital purchase experience can open up new growth opportunities.

Build around your customers

Customers have a more nuanced view of good customer service than you might expect. It’s not just about how quickly a service agent can respond to a query. The quality of the service matters too. However, to look beyond speed as the only important factor and to deepen relationships with customers requires more insightful interactions. Each communication must build on previous ones and each interaction must be looked at as a chance to learn more about your customer base.

Messaging channels are a good way for this to take place. They allow for better quality of service and help deepen customer relationships in a responsive way. A brand that has done this well is Back Market, an online marketplace dedicated to refurbished devices. The company has made the customer experience a priority by focusing more on its messaging channels such as Whatsapp, as well as including an extensive help centre, to give their customers always-on, open-ended support.

The pandemic isn’t the only driver of change at present. But we can learn from the past two years to gain a better understanding of how businesses can grow in uncertain times – and use customer service as a tool to facilitate that growth.

Get ready for growth

Although many businesses are now starting to appreciate the importance of customer service, they might not have a clear strategy in mind when it comes to making improvements. Here are three ways to use service to boost business performance:

Look at the bigger picture – The world of customer service is bigger than your CSAT score. By widening your scope to focus on metrics such as customer retention and loyalty, you can easily see the correlation between customer service and the bottom line. Find out exactly what your customer wants and you can empower agents to upsell and cross-sell, while delivering great service at the same time.

Get leadership involved – Only a fifth (20%) of business leaders report viewing customer service metrics daily. That can be problematic. Companies could be missing a trick if they don’t see CX as a priority, particularly when there are growth opportunities to be had. Customer enquiries can be a helpful tool for businesses to receive feedback on their services and products in real time. But without C-suite involvement, those insights won’t result in positive action quickly enough.

Equip your agents – Everyone wants their business to offer the very best service possible. The only problem is many agents are too bogged down by heavy workloads and inefficient processes to make the time to get better. Businesses can lighten that load by automating repetitive tasks. This will give workers the time to engage in training programmes that businesses should also roll out. Yes, it’s an investment, but it’s one that will ultimately pay off because good service generates revenue.

Get your channel mix right – To truly meet and exceed customer expectations today, customer service strategy must look beyond traditional call support and embrace digital channels. This will not only help reduce call volumes but enable faster, more flexible support. The right channel mix should include a combination of self-service resources for simple query resolution such as FAQs, help centre, and knowledge base, and easy-to-use channels such as mobile messaging. Mobile conversations are asynchronous and allow agents to support multiple customers at the same time. Messaging channels like SMS, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp keep the customer conversations going, leaving a trail of previous transactions.

Businesses are on a rocky road so far in 2022. But one thing they can bank on is the continuing importance of the customer experience. Get it right and it can produce positive outcomes, despite the turbulence.

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