Each month, the Technology At Work Series will examine technology’s impact on a different functional area of the workplace.
Once the ink is dry on the contract or purchase order and the dust from the onboarding process has settled, the customer is left in the (hopefully) capable hands of your customer service and support team. At this point in the relationship, it’s not marketing or sales that becomes the face of your company– it’s the customer service rep that answers the phone when your client’s personal sky is falling. The end result of their interaction can have potentially huge ramifications on your brand’s image and the future of your business.
Good service, at worst, maintains the status quo. But that shouldn’t be your goal, of course. Great service can improve retention and create lifelong customers. But what makes great service? It’s starts with people, certainly, but the methods through which service is delivered are just as critical. And that’s where technology has completely changed the landscape of customer service and support.
The past: mailing it in
Great service is about the totality of the experience. In the past (think ‘90s and earlier), that experience was fairly limited. If you wanted immediate assistance, the phone was your only option. If you were really peeved, the strongly worded letter was always a weapon of choice. Of course, that took several days via the Pony Express, so you had to wait some time to get any sort of satisfying result. Issues raised via phone or mail were subject to longer response times, which could ocassionally lead to bigger issues.
Then came the Internet.
The present: the challenge of being everywhere
Email, chat and instant messaging have created a more immediate means of outreach to customer service reps. But those are just new formal channels. Today, customer service extends beyond the service team due to customers having one-on-one access to company’s 24/7 via social media and other online platforms, which are often ran by marketing or another department. This makes improved cross-functional communication a must. If, for example, a customer posts a complaint on Facebook, whoever runs your Facebook page needs to communicate that issue, customer name, etc… to the service team so they can follow up and rectify the issue.
All of this underscores the importance of internal and external communications systems and networks. Customers expect the ability to connect through whichever technology is more convenient for them– whether that’s chat, email, phone, or social media –and they expect the result to be the same regardless: a complete resolution of their issue. Internally, all external-facing departments have to have processes in place to streamline communication and how they hand off service issues that arise. Furthermore, if your business has on-site service teams, they need to be connected with the office and their clients, which makes unified communication or mobility software necessary for them to effectively do their job.
The future: service proliferation
If current trends continue, it will be even more critical for businesses to put thoughtful, tested processes in place to ensure quality service. This means getting every department on the same page when it comes to service. From a technology standpoint, the number of points of contact customers will have to reach you will only increase. It will be important for companies to determine which of these need to be closely monitored and which can be checked less frequently. It’s a big challenge for businesses, but one that can be overcome with a little planning and the right people.