The digitization of society requires that companies optimize their relationship with customers and as the rate of change accelerates, companies must question their customer service protocols more often in order to create value for their customers, support them fully, and be an interesting brand.
Marketers must apply a very different orientation to the design of customer experiences and businesses need to transform their organizational structures, processes, and cultures to reap the benefits and potential of social.
The shift to self and crowd service results in better service at a lower cost while still keeping things personal. The need for a personalized solution is diminishing but will continue to exist in those cases where self or crowd service fail to provide the answer.
Many companies in the finance and travel sectors have already invested in self-service. Investments in crowd service are more modest but are steadily increasing.
Companies like booking.com, a pure online player, focus on self-service (the consumer takes care of bookings and modifications) and crowd service (questions about hotels are answered by other consumers).
Nevertheless, the company still has a large call center to assist customers personally when self and crowd service fail. The customer has access to customer service on a permanent basis with 24/7 availability all year round.
Customer support specialist, Jacqueline Anderson, says, “It is critically important that consumers are able to find you in social, that’s the marketing, so they can talk to you when they need to, that’s the servicing. Then, of course, you want to keep those consumers engaged with your brand, so you circle back to the marketing again”
And some of the best marketing is signposting. One example is Koodo’s Help page on Facebook. Clear and simple.
The peer-to-peer support philosophy of crowd service enables companies to be more efficient and improve their service without losing sight of the human aspect.
Crowd service makes it possible to offer a broader range of services. When consumers ask questions about the product category, it is often too expensive for organizations to answer those questions themselves.
When the input on non-core questions comes from other consumers, the cost is very limited. Consumers taking part in a crowd service program feel like they are part of the company. They often become brand ambassadors and this creates an indirect marketing effect.
Studies show that consumers would rather do business with companies from the crowd economy than with the traditional players in the market. Fifty-five percent of consumers like the idea of other consumers helping them and 58% are prepared to help others.
When done well, these forums engage super fans who provide product feedback and answers for a good percentage of stuck customers. Crowd service thus becomes a type of personal service. Customers communicate with other customers and the personal interaction helps build an emotional bond with the brand.
Telecom player Verizon uses a customer forum in support of their other service channels. One percent of their users are so-called super users. They spend between 20 to 30 hours a week on the forum helping others. These super users are not rewarded financially; instead they are rewarded with a digital status. They earn recognition instead of money. Nine percent of users frequently answer questions by other users.
Forward-Thinking Customer Service: Mobile & Video
As the nature of customer conversions change, brands must adjust the tone and articulation of their message to resonate in the social environment. Companies need to move from managing customers to facilitating collaborative experiences and on-going dialogue valued by customers.
By doing this, companies will be able to monitor what consumers do and say to one another on social platforms and access unbiased feedback and behavioral data on a huge scale, revolutionizing the way marketers think and what they do.
Customer service is a multichannel affair and data centralization is a priority in the elaboration of the channel strategy. By 2016, more than half of all customer service questions will be submitted via a mobile device.
Self-service solutions for mobile devices are easy to design, and as self-service is digital, it is easier for companies to keep records of the interactions than with offline contact.
One area that is rapidly expanding in online customer service is online videos.
Video technology has introduced a better way for companies to provide online customer service, improve online sales, and create customer loyalty.
*for more information, see “The Future of Customer Service: From Personal, to Self, to Crowd Service” by steven van belleghem on Slideshare.
*featured image: customer service think tank hosted by Dell