The Keys to Customer Service Success? Consistency and Personalization

In an age dominated by technological advances, customer service can sometimes be an afterthought. There is a sense that some brands rely on their use of tech to "automatically" deliver great customer service, but tech must be applied intelligently before customer service will improve.

We've barely scratched the surface when it comes to providing decent customer service through the application of technology. The Internet has changed the flow of information from a "push" model to a "pull" model, putting the consumer very much in the driving seat, but the principles remain the same: Great service needs a personal touch.

But "personal touch" doesn't just mean knowing the customer's name and being polite. It means knowing what your customer wants at every stage of the purchasing journey.

"You Don’t Know Me"

Nearly 80 percent of consumers say brands don't know them well enough and don't tailor experiences to suit them. This is a headache for most big brands, which are all striving to answer the same question: How can you efficiently tailor experiences for millions of customers, all of whom are looking for different chunks of information and have different needs?

More and more, consumers are interacting with your brand across different channels—your Web site, numerous social networks, over the telephone, and in store. This means it is getting increasingly difficult to be consistent in your service. But consistency is the key to customer service success.

The answer can be found at the crossroads of technology and good old-fashioned customer care.

Knowledge, Not Just Data

Your company's Web site and your call center staff are all part of the vital front line that provides your customers with the crucial first impressions of your service quality—it's too important not to be consistent, tailored, and exhaustive.

The first and most important challenge is to pull together all of your touch points—your call center staff, your social media team, your in-store staff, your Web and e-commerce people—and provide them with a single information tool that allows anyone to interrogate a central knowledge database.

"Anyone" literally means any member of staff or customer, letting them all search the same knowledge base using natural language input and providing them with the same (or consistent) answers.

The Importance of Search—in More Ways Than You Think

In recent years, Google and other search and tech providers have been attempting to introduce more natural language search themselves. We see this in voice systems such as Siri, Cortana, and Google Now, and in increasingly intelligent text-based search results.

Good knowledge base systems will offer the same advanced functionality.

A properly functioning natural language search function also benefits SEO: Organic and paid search are likely to already be a major contributor to your site traffic, meaning search engine optimization is critical to your business's success. The content on your site plays a huge role in improving your search ranking, and a constantly learning, updating knowledge base system will help generate plenty of highly relevant content. It's a major benefit, but often overlooked.

Three Points to Remember

Here are three principles to help you achieve consistent customer service across all your customer channels.

1. Recap the basics. Keep these basics in mind: Remember that customer service quality is linked to your revenue; better service helps to retain customers and engenders loyalty to your brand; and almost every touch point with the customer is an opportunity to cross-sell or upsell. Remembering the importance of customer service is half the battle.

2. Consistency is crucial. Sixty-five percent of consumers say they will not tolerate inconsistent service from companies. With the average customer active on six different channels or platforms, achieving consistency is tough, but it is undeniably achievable. Your call center staff should have the same information available to them as your in-store staff, and a single knowledge base system will help make this a reality. If you're worried about the complexity of changing or adding systems, then customer engagement experts like Pitney Bowes can help.

3. Invest in an early warning system. The digital world lets us see what people actually do, not just what they say they do. With modern tools, you can begin to anticipate problems before they hit your business. Combining social media monitoring and call center management tools, it is now possible to see what your customers are talking about and potentially predict issues before the calls arrive in your call queue.

Consumers have great expectations, and knowledge base tech helps you meet them by centralizing FAQs so that your call center staff see the same information as what is stored on your Web site.

Through technology, customer service can be actually be made more human, and make more humans happy—and more likely to keep shopping with you!

Chris Hall, CMO of Transversal, brings to the role over 20 years of business experience as a senior marketing and product strategy professional in the enterprise software industry.

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