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Winning the customer service war

There is a new battleground in the fight for business success. Last year’s Gartner customer experience survey revealed that 89 per cent of companies are competing primarily on customer experience. This new era is the “age of the customer” – a new mantra for companies looking to move away from traditional ways of working to more customer-centric methods.

The key question for businesses then becomes – ‘in today’s digital-first world, what does it mean to be customer-centric and how can businesses incorporate technology to deliver on this customer-centric promise?’

Ultimately, a world-class customer service experience derives from an important combination of people and technology. No business can thrive in this ‘age of the customer’ without the confluence of an outstanding digital presence allowing anytime, anywhere access across all devices, and an engaged workforce to deliver on the customer’s needs.

Customer-centric employees are essential to delivering an exceptional service, but empowering the workforce with the right technology is what facilitates more efficient and effective interactions between customers and businesses.

Customer is King

With consumer expectations perpetually evolving, companies are in a constant race to enable their staff to work more efficiently and more productively in an effort to improve this experience. Cloud technology is at the heart of this trend. 

A holistic view of interactions is vital for businesses to gain the insight that drives customer experience. Data analytics technology can have a transformative effect in this respect. However, as technology advances, so to do customers’ expectations on how they use that technology to interact with businesses. Today customers expect a uniform service across the myriad of channels available to them – phone, email, web chat, social media, etc. Easy contact with the company through the medium of their choice is a top customer want. Consumers want to feel empowered to connect with organisations as needed and cloud can be a fantastic vehicle for ensuring access and consistency across these channels.

The website, mobile applications, and in-person service must all say the same things and react the same way in order to build trust so consistent responsiveness and communication are essential. Cloud applications can enable all stakeholders in an organisation to have visibility of a customer’s previous interactions with the business. For example, a cloud based CRM tool can display all customer information from all channels to a call centre agent, who is then in a better place to improve the customer experience.

Great Digital and Mobile Takeover

Customer service technology is progressing at such a pace that it is now about over-delivering on expectations. In today’s technology-driven world, companies must think digital and mobile first to be successful. To do this, businesses must use data to understand customer behaviour in order to establish a seamless, integrated digital experience across properties, systems, and human interactions.

Cloud apps can provide intuitive, real-time customer service solutions that help simplify the customer experience. People want faster, smarter communications and optimised processes when dealing with organisations.

The pace of growth in mobile technology is truly astonishing. Customers not only expect to have a seamless mobile experience, but tend to prefer that as their main method of interaction. The transition to a mobile-first mind-set compels organisations to include mobile as a customer service functionality. For some firms, this mobile mind shift in customer service will mean embedding knowledge and case management tools into existing apps hosted in the cloud. Other firms will create apps specifically designed to enhance customer service. 

This move towards mobile first also stretches to the business’ outbound communications. Websites and email communications are increasingly viewed on mobile screens and so it is vital that these are mobile-optimised in order to maintain a good customer experience.

The Human Element: Here Come the Millennials

If employees don’t buy into a company’s brand promise they will manifestly be unable to deliver a great customer experience, which can have a massive impact on the bottom line. You simply can’t deliver a game-changing, competitor-trumping customer experience without cementing a mission and creating a culture your workforce can get behind.

When it comes down to it, millennials — the new majority of the workforce – have simple wants and workers between the ages of 25 and 34 stay at a job for an average of just three years. While many companies don’t have the means to provide on-tap cold beer in the canteen, every company can and should provide a collaborative, flexible work environment. According to a study by Appirio, only 34 per cent of employees are engaged, largely due to a lack of mobility and/or flexible way of working. Companies need to create a culture in which people can congregate, share ideas, and have access to the best technology with which to better serve customers — not simply throw higher pay or free snacks into the mix and call it a day.

The one thing those companies with high levels of customer satisfaction have in common is that they understand how their worker experience affects the way their brand is perceived by the rest of the world. Businesses must treat employees as customers; providing those employees with the latest technology and tools that will keep them engaged and motivated. The use of technology such as IM and enterprise social networks can foster a sense of belonging among employees while increasing collaboration. For example, video conferencing is becoming more accessible as broadband speeds continue to rise. Why not offer your employees flexible working, with access to video conferencing facilities and IM, which makes them still feel part of the workforce, but increases engagement by improving their work/life balance.

The key for businesses is to empower all categories of worker with tools to manage their work and career on devices they prefer. By doing this, the business demonstrates that it is able to adapt to the new way that people work by applying new workforce models. By using cloud technology, businesses can better connect workers through communities to others working on common goals.

Technology will ultimately transform the way businesses interact with customers. Astute business leaders that embrace this cloud-employee-customer nexus trend will find their business well positioned on the customer experience battlefield.

Justin Anderson is GM for EMEA, Appirio

Image source: Shutterstock/lenetstan