How to Provide World-Class Customer Service

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
customer service and support

Businesses must tune into customer preferences, attitudes and needs, and, ultimately, construct a framework that provides personalized, relevant communication.

World-class customer service requires more than efficient call routing, channel management and device integration, however. There's a need to take a broader and deeper view of relationships and interrelationships, Clarke says. Tools such as real-time social listening, analytics and big data are critical to spotting fast-changing trends. Savvy organizations are putting these tools to work.

"How customers evaluate products and services—and the underlying value drivers—are becoming more complex, fragmented and buried," he says. "It's critical to understand what customers are trying to do and how they feel at the point of interaction, and then build the systems and processes to support them."

A trap that many business and IT executives fall into is viewing things from a business-centric perspective. "Customers do not think about channels and touch points," Clarke explains. "They just want to have the issue resolved."

For business, this means creating as seamless and consistent an experience as possible. "A person should be able to pick up one device or another, start on one channel or app and move to another, and experience no disruption or loss of information," he says. "The business simply addresses their inquiry in a prompt and efficient manner."

Rethinking Customer Relationships

Innovation is also at the center of this new era of customer service. In recent years, many companies have turned to online discussion boards where people can post problems and help other people. But now some organizations are taking the concept to another level by providing rewards and incentives for those who assist others and attempt to solve problems.

This might take the form of gift cards or discounts on products, or a reputation score that allows individuals to gain ego points in a game-like environment. While it's still necessary to monitor these posts and the advice offered for accuracy (and possibly for civility), this scenario can greatly off-load customer service staffing demands.

Within this new frontier of customer service, Capgemini's Clarke says that it's important to rethink the fundamental concept of relationships and a customer's true value. "Historically, the most valuable customers were thought to be those who bought the most products or had the lowest service costs," he explains.

"But today, through social media, online discussion boards and elsewhere, we see leaders and influencers that play an entirely different role in the business and buying continuum. They may never actually buy the product, but they know a great deal about it. They can play a key role in everything from marketing to customer service."

To be certain, organizations must focus on providing greater value through technology and by engaging the customer on an end-to-end basis. When customers believe they will receive a diminished experience through a kiosk, Web browser or app, they will likely seek the more expensive and time-consuming options of calling on the phone or showing up for an in-person exchange.

When customers can't accomplish a task using one channel—or when assistance falters—they are likely to grow frustrated and post negative comments on social media or at a review site. Clarke says there's a need to educate and support customers as they transition to a new support technology.

In the end, an organization may need to fundamentally rethink and remap the way customer service takes place, where it comes from and how the organization rewards results. "There's a need to think out of the box," Clarke concludes.

"In the digital world, organizations must strike the right balance between creativity and productivity, speed and efficiency, and automation and results." The common denominator, he adds, "is an ability to deliver customer service consistently and provide a level of service and support that elevates the firm above the competition."

This article was originally published on 2014-05-28

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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