Author: Simon Blackwell, CMO at TelcoSwitch
Customer service and customer experience are often mistaken and used interchangeably, which causes a lot of confusion. While it’s true that these two areas are related, companies need to refine their understanding of not only how they differ, but also how they work together and how companies can deliver the best experience for their customers.
Customer service can make or break customer relationships, as it is the primary support function for answering queries or resolving any product or service-related issues that customers may encounter. Typically, customer service involves human contact but with the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we’re now seeing more technology involved in delivering customer service. AI chatbots are used in handling frequently asked questions or to route initial enquiries to specific agents based upon the nature of the question.
From a company’s perspective, its need for service is often reactive, in response to sales issues. Getting it right is that much more important to make sure a customer isn’t lost completely.
Prioritising the customer experience
Customer experience relies upon taking all interactions and managing them in a way that best impresses and satisfies your customer. These interactions may range from engagement with marketing materials to online queries, product demos to sale and post-sale support, but no two customer journeys are ever the same. How each journey is managed plays a significant role in customer retention, and even turning them into an advocate for further referrals and recommendations.
Whilst some would claim the idea of promoting the ‘customer experience’ boils down to just smart marketing, the truth is that it plays an important part in maintaining good sales and company reputation. Recent research from PwC showed that 86% of buyers are prepared to spend more for a great customer experience, so staying ahead of competitors when it comes to supporting customers should be a priority, lest businesses get left behind.
Many companies turn to their CRM to answer the need for customer experience. Used properly and optimally, a CRM should be at the heart of your business, yet many treat it as a digital Rolodex of contact information. Typically, businesses need more than just a CRM to support customers, implementing ticketing platforms, mailboxes, web contact forms, live chat or AI chatbot solutions, phone systems (more than anything else), email platforms and a range of social media channels to ensure they can communicate effectively.
Unifying customer interaction points
To provide a great customer experience, unifying all these interaction points together is the best step to delivering a service level that from the outside appears effortless. An omnichannel platform can be key for this. In the eyes of your customer, you need to be well informed of the relationship they have with you, what they buy, their history with you in terms of the conversations they’ve had both pre- and post-sale, and more.
Creating a great customer experience requires centralising social channels, SMS, emails and phone calls with every interaction logged in a single, easily accessible place. All previous customer interactions should be viewed and managed, and with integration from a CRM, chatbots and other communication tools, so customers can be provided with faster, more accurate responses to their queries. Moreover, ensuring that messages and calls can be delivered to the right departments is possible with intelligent routing. This minimises the time of the customer service experience overall, whilst providing the best results for any customer that needs help.
CCaaS solutions for the digital era
Finding ways to implement omnichannel platforms into daily operations can be challenging, yet in recent years CCaaS solutions have grown massively in popularity. CCaaS or Contact-Centre-as-a-Service solutions help by providing businesses with synchronised communication channels. Running traditional contact centres can be complex and costly, and these solutions help simplify the process while reducing costs and improving business efficiency.
CCaaS refers to the delivery of a cloud-based customer communication platform suitable for businesses of all sizes, hosted by a third-party provider in their Cloud network infrastructure. Ownership of the hardware is not required by the end customer; instead customers ‘rent’ space within the solution and pay for the service that comes with it.
Being cloud-based, CCaaS enables smaller businesses to access features that were previously only available to larger enterprise businesses, providing a scalable customer experience platform, that also offers a huge amount of flexibility when compared to legacy, on-premises solutions. Omnichannel capabilities are then added on top of customer service teams, providing agents with every customer touchpoint at their fingertips.
Embracing CCaaS for greater business return
CCaaS systems provide a myriad of benefits when it comes to maximising the wider customer experience against managing business efficiency and costs. Without the need for expensive hardware payments and onsite maintenance, businesses spend less overall. Its cloud-based nature allows businesses to also scale to meet consumer demand, without any loss of quality.
Streamlining communications allows business KPIs to be tracked that much easier, allowing faster and more informed decisions overall. In tracking interactions per customer complaints, flaws in support and procedures can be easily identified and improved, overall contributing to a better customer experience down the line.
By also supporting agents with improved technology, they can perform to a higher level in their role, which frequently sees extreme time constraints, unhappy customers and therefore a high employee turnover.
An omnichannel contact centre supports employees not only with centralised information but also through AI helping to provide the automation of manual, repetitive tasks, and answering basic FAQs that can be handled by conversational chat-bots, so workers can work more effectively whilst minimising mistakes. Happier employees are more productive, and only make the customer experience that much smoother and more impactful for the customer.