November 16, 2016
2016 has been a year of big surprises on both sides of the Atlantic, but the fact that customers have begun to demand the speed and efficiency of social media combined with the human touch of old fashioned, face-to-face customer service shouldn't have caught anyone off guard.
Way back in 2014, 89% of businesses were already planning to start competing more on the basis of customer experience than price. And considering that customer experience is synonymous with customer emotion, giving customers what they want is big business.
But with the undeniable convenience and speed of chatbots and automation, why invest in human-centric service? For starters, 83% of consumers prefer dealing with human beings for customer service, according to Accenture. Customers want to feel like individuals, not numbers. That means it's up to brands to take advantage of technology without losing contact with the people who really matter. So let's take a look at the top 5 traits of human-centric digital customer service to see how any brand can make it happen.
Because of the generally personal nature of conversations on social media, human-centric digital customer service is by nature engaging. Agents have the opportunity to connect with customers in real ways, and that's good for everyone.
Not every tweet has to solve a customer service issue. Sometimes it's important just to reach out and let your customers know you're listening. This establishes trust because customers know the brand is active on social media and will be available when they're needed. Here's a great example from Nordstrom:
A direct mention is obviously an invitation to connect, but what's really great about this exchange is the way the Nordstrom agent responds. By acknowledging the customer's comment and then asking a question, the agent pushes the conversation forward. That's an open-ended style of communication makes the customer feel valued rather than dispensed with.
How to do it: Never miss an opportunity to engage with a customer. Don't ignore the conversation and don't shut it down once you've connected.
If a police officer's job is "to serve and protect," a customer service agent's job should be "to serve and delight."
Since customer experience is a key differentiator, making customers happy is something brands can't afford to fail at. Customer service is no longer simply about solving problems. Brands that consistently delight their customers will enjoy more loyalty and sales. Humor is one way to do it, and in that regard, Zappos is masterful:
Whether it's a funny GIF or a great one-liner, service that delights will inspire positive emotions in the customer, and that's what outstanding customer experience is all about. That will lead to more loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing. Think of it as the 21st century version of "service with a smile."
How to do it: Hire agents with a sense of humor and encourage them to use it, along with creativity and imagination, to surprise and delight customers.
Customers are people too! It seems too obvious to bear repeating, but many contact centers seem to treat customers more like numbers.
When contact center managers emphasize efficiency-based KPIs like FRT to the detriment of KPIs based on empathy, agents aren't encouraged to take their time and personalize each exchange. It's also important to remember that the right social customer service software will tell you more about each customer. When agents have enough information and the freedom to reach out and connect, the customer will feel more personally attended to. Here's an example of personalization from JetBlue:
One reason social media is so popular is because it gives everyone a forum to express themselves. All that information is a gold mine for customer service agents looking to make connections. Use it! The right software will not only tell you more about each customer, it will route each query to the best agent based on criteria you set, ensuring that each customer experiences the best possible service.
How to do it: Encourage agents to use their name and the customer's name, and to use a colloquial tone whenever appropriate.
The popularity of using social media for customer service is due in large part to the speed and immediacy of the channel. That's an advantage and also a big challenge for digital customer service.
Digital channels allow customers direct access to brands 24/7, and customers expect a faster response than ever before. The plus side is that technology allows agents to work more efficiently across channels so brands can increase customer engagement and responsiveness without adding resources.
Few brands are instantly available 24/7, but it's always important to let your customers know how long they can expect to wait for a response. Facebook has led the way with its engagement badge, but waiting time needs to be clear on all digital channels and on the company's website. Allowing customers to realistically set their expectations will make them less likely to lose patience.
How to do it: Analyze workflow to make sure your team is tailored to respond to shifts in demand. Use digital customer service to make agents blended multi-channel specialists.
Digital customer service isn't just about responding to questions and complaints. In order to truly stay in touch with current and future customers, brands also need to pay attention to online conversations that are relevant, even if they don't mention the brand directly.
The constant conversation taking place on social media offers brands numerous opportunities to attract new customers and make current customers happy by reaching out to them proactively. The below example shows how powerful it can be when brands reach out to customers. It lets customers know the brand is listening and can even lead to a sale.
For brands that are looking to really reap the benefits of social media, listening technology is irreplaceable. The right tool will help brands find relevant conversations they can join, attracting new customers and delighting those they already have.
How to do it: Use listening technology for any relevant online conversations across digital channels. Respond whenever possible, even without direct brand mentions.
Knowing what it takes to deliver human-centric social customer service is only one half of the challenge. It also takes the right tools to cut through the noise of social media and focus on the conversations that matter. That way, you'll also know more about your customers so you can deliver service that's tailored to them, making sure they are put in touch with the best agent for the task. Those are just some of the things Brand Embassy can do. Get in touch to request a demo today, or go to our website to learn more.
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