Customer Service 2.0

It goes without saying that customers today expect better, faster service than ever before. Keeping up with demand is challenging enough, but exceeding expectations is entirely another animal—and it's called Customer Service 2.0. Below are five tips for getting your call center ready to meet high customer service expectations while keeping expenses low.

1. Grant access: anytime, anywhere. Limiting hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for live assistance might keep costs down, but it's not going to satisfy your customer base. In the long run, it will cost you relationships, as customers jump ship for businesses that are better able to meet their needs, both any time of day AND on a platform of their own choosing. Customer Service 2.0 includes offering customer support via multiple channels—phone, email, Web browser, chat, Facebook, or Twitter—and following up as quickly as possible to address and resolve customer needs and problems, regardless of traditional business hours.

2. Put information at agents' fingertips. Making personalized customer data easy to find, within a few clicks, and all in one place gives agents a holistic view of the customers with whom they are engaging. This keeps them up to speed on each previous interaction customers have had with the company, what products they own, the services they subscribe to, their previous feedback, and service level agreements—all in an instant. Agents need to be able to access all of this easily, so that regardless of what time of day it is or what platform a customer is using (such as a Web browser, mobile app, or a basic phone call), the agent can respond with the same quality of service without the call center incurring enormous expenses.

3. Go mobile, go social, go to the cloud. Enabling service agents to respond to customers anytime, anywhere is one thing. But enabling an agent enjoying a caramel macchiato at Starbucks to immediately respond to a pressing tweet from a disgruntled customer? And ensuring the agent follows up on a landline later in the day per the customer's request? In the old customer service paradigm, that's going above and beyond excellent service. In Customer Service 2.0, exceptional service is the norm. And in the age of social media, where tweets and Facebook posts go viral, response time is even more critical. Keeping customer information on desktops in the corporate office is no longer an option. Customer Service 2.0 requires call centers to have information available through cloud-based technology so that exceptional service is possible regardless of customer and agent location. Leveraging cloud-based technology also helps keep costs down.

4. Shift from multichannel service to agile channeling. The focus of Customer Service 2.0 is not just to provide service via all major channels, but to deliver an entirely seamless and consistent customer experience across all these channels. Customers expect service to be cross-touch point—that is, able to start an interaction in one communication channel and complete it in another. Flexibility to respond to a single customer on various channels throughout a single customer service inquiry will be critical to customer satisfaction and retention in Customer Service 2.0.

5. Lean on knowledge bases. According to a recent Coleman Parkes study, 91 percent of consumers surveyed say they would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. Keeping these self-serve, readily available resources up to date requires regular management and trend watching of customer concerns and product issues. This is key to improving customer experience over time. Text analytics technologies are now being used to mine customer service channels to keep knowledge management teams up to date with new content topics. Customer Service 2.0 makes use of these technologies to maintain a robust service center that allows customers to easily search, find, and implement solutions to their problems within a few clicks—again, whether they're accessing the support page through Facebook, a mobile app, or a basic Web browser. Leveraging a knowledge base as a first avenue for customers to find their own answers also helps to cut down on costly customer service calls.

Incorporating these five elements of Customer Service 2.0 into your customer service strategy will dramatically improve customer service satisfaction over traditional call center models. It will also improve the agent experience by giving agents the tools and the platforms they need to understand, and to ultimately serve, their customers better and in a more cost-effective manner. Most likely, the rest of your business has evolved to keep up with consumer trends and demands. It's time your customer service center got an upgrade as well.


Duke Chung is chairman and cofounder of Parature, a global leader in cloud-based customer engagement software.

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