Take a look around you and count how many people are looking at their phones. One person is probably browsing their favorite store deciding what to buy, another is on social media, someone else is trying to figure out why their phone isn’t working and maybe one person is even talking on their phone. It’s becoming a mobile-first world for consumers and this is requiring brands to upgrade their customer experience services to meet changing consumer channel preferences. Unfortunately, there is no “one-size fits all” solution, so it’s vital for most companies to take a multichannel approach– whether it’s serving customers via phone, web chat or in-person.
Creating a positive customer experience should be the number one priority for brands serving consumers. One poor experience on the phone with a customer service agent can spiral into a PR nightmare as more and more consumers take to social media and blogs to air their complaints. What many customers don’t realize is that often times these customer service agents helping them on the phone are outsourced employees that don’t work directly for the brand. This makes a brand’s customer experience approach even more essential, as priorities need to be aligned across multiple locations and channels.
Last year, Firstsource Solutions conducted a survey of over 1,000 consumers to find out where customers prefer to resolve their support problems. While half (54 percent) stated that they still prefer to use the phone to resolve a customer service issue, over 67 percent think web chat will eventually become more widely used.
Take the viral Netflix customer service conversation via web chat as a modern example of why web chat is growing as a standard customer support option. When a customer was having problems with a television show he was watching, he turned to the web chat option on the Netflix website to find out what could be done to resolve his issue. The customer service representative serving the customer in need started role-playing in Star-Trek laden language:
Customer: I’ve got a problem to report.
Agent: This is Cpt. Mike of the good ship Netflix, which member of the crew am I speaking with?
Customer: Greetings, Captain Lt. Norm here. Engineering has a problem to report.
What followed was a hilarious conversation that lasted roughly ten minutes while the customer representative figured out and resolved the customer’s problem with laughter resulting on both ends. The customer was so pleased, he posted the conversation online, allowing millions to see it. The real winner here was Netflix, which received endless positive PR of how great their customer service is – all over a silly ten minute conversation online.
Web chat is a proven cost saving customer solution for brands, but regardless of its effectiveness, the need for human interaction will always be a requirement for most companies. Take my personal experience as an example. When I knew I had an international vacation coming up, I called my phone service provider to find out how much it would cost to add international data to my plan for the month. This wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have online since I had several questions about the process, logistics and costs. The conversation took less than ten minutes via phone and I walked away a happy customer with the ability to use Google Maps wherever I please while on vacation.
What’s the difference between these two examples and why do we sometimes prefer online customer service and sometimes human interaction? Most of the time it comes down to the complexity of the problem the customer is looking to resolve. Trying to figure out why an episode on Netflix keeps looping sounds like a simple problem to fix that can be resolved quickly while chatting casually online. But figuring out how to manage international data that will likely come with extra costs and logistical need-to-knows sounds complicated and I’m relieved to know a person can talk me through it directly via phone quickly and efficiently.
Another point to consider is that companies can maximize both channels for different customer journeys. Digital doesn’t have to be an alternative channel –the two can be blended together by using digital to complement voice by sending links, video and content while we’re talking to customers. Many of us do this in our everyday lives – chatting to friends while sharing a video or article link. It’s not voice or digital, it can be voice and digital – at the same time!
From a brand perspective, having both options available for customers has multiple benefits. By seamlessly weaving human interaction with digital options, brands can deliver more positive and cost-saving customer services, allowing consumers to resolve the issues at hand and go back to what they do best: purchasing products.
Kathy Aman is Senior Vice President of Sales and Customer Relationship Management at Firstsource Solutions. She has 14+ years of experience in the Call Center Management industry with experience in Collections and Receivables Management for US domestic companies. Her strengths are in relationship management, business development and finding effective solutions to meet her client’s business needs. Kathy prides herself in honest and straight forward communication; never missing the subtle details that make the difference to her partners. Her experience with Fortune 500, multi-national companies allows her to understand the ever changing business environment her clients compete within.