Just like no two snowflakes are the same, each of your customers is unique. All have different likes and dislikes, favorite television shows and favorite foods – and they certainly have individual preferences when it comes to communication. So why would you connect with them all the same way?
Multi-channel customer service is increasingly important. Research from Econsultancy shows that 83 percent of online shoppers need assistance to complete a transaction. In what form? Not every instance is the same: 61 percent of people want to talk with customer service on the phone, 60 percent expect to be able to use email, and 51 percent simply look to an online FAQ page for a solution. Even within a channel, people have distinct expectations – from the promptness of a response, to type of content, time of day and tone of voice.
Creating an exceptional customer experience isn’t as easy as catching a snowflake, but identifying preferences, analyzing data and developing strategies for appropriate responsive and proactive communication in multiple channels are good steps.
Enhancing the Customer Experience with Interactive Voice Technology
Consumers like to be heard. (Literally.) Voice services are still the most popular mode of communications. In fact, roughly 92 percent of annual customer service interactions are phone-based.
Interactive voice response (IVR) is an efficient way for brands to help customers who prefer using the phone. An IVR supports automated self-service and cuts down on the need for time-consuming conversation with a live agent, which can be both inconvenient for the customer and costly for the company.
Typically, consumers perceive representatives who are unable to immediately improve a situation to be incapable; in reality, this disconnect is usually because they lack technologies that enable a most efficient response. A skill-based routing system can help grade agents’ skills in different areas of business so customers get support from the most fitting agent every time they call.
To proactively improve the customer experience with voice services, it is important to integrate phone-based service with other channels so there is a full picture of the customer’s information and the channels he/she has already explored. This saves time and prevents often frustrating repetition of information – thus, enhancing customer service efficacy. For some, multi-modal IVR solutions make it possible to guide customers step-by-step through different self-service functions, while they’re still on the line.
Improving the Customer Experience with SMS/Text
Customer expectations for quick and convenient service rise with their dependence on mobile devices. Text messages/SMS, particularly proactive SMS notifications, are an appealing form of communication because they reach customers anytime, on devices they already have handy.
SMS engagement rates are six to eight times higher than those of email messages, and the average click-through rate for SMS Web-links is 19 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for email.
Still, mobile internet users tend to be fickle; they expect quick loading times for websites and abandonment rates are high. Case in point: 40 percent of users will leave a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load, and 47 percent expect the page to load within just two seconds. A one-second delay in loading is shown to decrease customer satisfaction by around 16 percent.
Furthermore, customers are concerned about receiving inconvenient SMS alerts. In fact, more Americans report having received unsolicited SMS than eaten breakfast (68 percent versus 60 percent). Typically, SMS should be used between 11am and 9pm, so not to disturb early-to-bed or late-to-rise consumers, but this rule of thumb isn’t enough; to meet customer expectations and reduce opt-out rates, start with user data. Like with any medium, monitor peak mobile usage times among your target audience to identify when messages will be most effective and be sure to comply with regulations.
Elevating the Customer Experience through Email and Social Channels
Your well-rounded customer experience may also include email and social media interactions.
With 3.9 billion active email accounts at the end of 2013, and another billion expected by 2017, it’s no surprise that 60 percent of consumers want to be able to engage via email.
It’s imperative to be realistic about response time so customers feel confident that you’re taking care of them. Most consumers expect a correct answer via email within 24 hours, and the average customer service response time is around 17 hours. If possible, immediately acknowledge customer inquiries with a confirmation page or an auto-response email, telling them when to expect an individualized response.
Email messages should be easy to understand, well-written and brand-aligned. The same goes for customer service responses through social media, which users want to be prompt and effective.
Ninety-nine percent of brands are present on Twitter, where, within the hour, 72 percent of customers expect a response to complaints and 42 percent expect answers to questions. However, only 10 percent of companies on Twitter satisfy these expectations; the average response-time is closer to five hours.
Creating a dedicated customer service handle has been shown to improve response time by 43 percent, double the total rate of response, de-clutter brands’ main pages and encourage viral marketing.
By listening intently to communication preferences, your brand can go above and beyond to improve the customer experience across multiple channels.