Build Relationships Through Proactive Support

In the age of connected consumers, we're all too familiar with the sounds our devices make and keenly aware of when those devices cease to make noise, or when we hear the unfamiliar sounds that let us know something's not working properly.

The increase in consumer technology adoption has created new customer pain points and increased demand for remote technical support. While there is obviously a consumer need for such support, there is also a business need for retailers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and carriers to create new revenue streams. For businesses and CRM managers, this means increased complexities and the need to offer support that engages customers with their existing products, while also giving them the opportunity to grow those relationships—and revenue—through add-on services and products.

For consumer technology product and service companies, the dream scenario is having the ability to create bundles of subscription-based service offerings that meet the diverse needs of consumers for all of their devices. Although customers would be willing to pay for this type of service, right now, it's a race between the retailers that sell the devices, the OEMs that manufacture the devices, and the carriers that enable connectivity. With very few exceptions, customer support still takes a "one and done" transactional approach that fails to capitalize on opportunities to get to know each customer and ultimately drive new revenue. Geek Squad is an example of a service that has seen tremendous success—but they're not the only ones capable of delivering scalable, all-encompassing, premium tech support. Among retailers, OEMs, and carriers—who will build the next Geek Squad-like support model?

Following are tips on how your organization can offer and improve remote support for customers:

1)Implement the right services. Consider implementing proactive support services to complement your reactive support. Alerting customers when service issues occur or maintenance is required can go a long way toward building customer relationships and increasing revenue. Don't wait for your customers to come to you when there's a service inconsistency—let them know there is a problem, what it is, how it can be resolved (via automated fixes or with customer's help), and an estimated resolution time.

Service issues are inevitable; the differentiator is how companies respond to them. Implementing proactive service strategies versus reactive service helps build trust and often provides great convenience to customers.

Consider how proactive maintenance can improve your brand image and customer loyalty. Customers who never have a problem never have a complaint. By monitoring services and devices in connected homes, businesses create more direct, positive communication on an ongoing basis and change the relationship dynamics.

2)Select a model that accommodates all consumer lifestyles. Today, tech users have a wide range of ages and lifestyles, not to mention varying support preferences. Grandmothers are keeping in touch with their families via email on a laptop, while a young entrepreneur is running a business from his living room on the same device. Consider implementing a technical support model that accommodates consumers remotely, but also provides in-home and in-store support to meet diverse customer needs.

Retailers will need to go toe-to-toe with established services, like Geek Squad, to meet consumer and business demands through whichever channel the end user prefers.

3)Deliver an integrated end-to-end user experience. Ensure seamless channel transitions to reduce customer frustration by getting the customer to the right agent based on past experiences, user profile, etc. I know from personal experience that when it comes to customer service, there's nothing more frustrating than having to repeat your information and service issues multiple times during one interaction as you're bounced from Web site to live chat to call center and so on. By the time a customer has to repeat everything for the third or fourth time, he is often so frustrated that the interaction has turned into a negative experience, damaging the relationship.

Effective remote support services will leverage and/or pass along real-time customer data, to deliver a consistent experience, across any form of communication. Ideally, when a customer is transferred, the agent on the other end is already updated on who the customer is, past experiences, and what issue she is currently trying to resolve. In today's world, where there are several ways to connect to businesses, multichannel service is critical, but works best when the transitions are seamless.

4)Have a single, integrated view of the customer. Incorporate all data, customer information, and available features into interactions (subscription billing, remote service management, customer life cycle management, etc.) for an integrated customer experience.

Providing past data and a single view of customer purchase and service history enables support services to understand and anticipate customer needs. Integrating all of this information into one record and enabling remote or in-person agents to handle all of these issues eliminates steps for impatient customers and ultimately results in a positive experience with your brand.

Having a single view of the customer allows businesses to leverage customer data to provide insightful recommendations based on past experiences, preferences, purchase history, etc. For example, an agent viewing a record may see that the customer is using high-speed Internet, but that there are six laptops connected to the account. The agent can proactively suggest that the customer upgrade her Internet plan for more data usage, ensuring that service remains speedy, and eliminating the chance of slow connections or outages. This practice of actionable analytics will ensure the customer is satisfied with the service, but also helps build the relationship and ultimately brand loyalty by creating a personalized, relevant interaction.

As consumers adopt more technology, their lives become more complex. While the need for support grows, there is a greater willingness to pay for premium-level support. For retailers, OEMs, and carriers, there are opportunities to turn around consumer frustration, benefit from positive customer interactions, and generate new revenue streams. Businesses that take advantage of this opportunity will be at the forefront of the evolving, connected world.

Jordan Socran is vice president of business development, North America, at Radialpoint.

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