Technology as a tool for total customer service (2)

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There's no denying the fact that customer service is important to a small or mid-sized business.

The quality of that service will either enhance or degrade customer loyalty to your brand and your business. With the world economic challenges, customers have more alternatives than ever. The business that proves to be responsive to customer questions, complaints, or other needs can gain a clear competitive advantage. 

That's why it's so important to understand how new technologies can help you anticipate customer needs, tailor business processes to best serve customers, and ultimately improve the efficiency of your business – the latter can keep costs down according to Inc. Staff.

The local and international feedback I got from the first part of the topic above has encouraged me to do this Part Two. Technology rules the world now and anyone who takes it for granted will bear the consequence thereof. Inc. continue to state that the goal of business in terms of its customer interactions is the generate loyalty. There's no better way to do that than to offer quality products and services and to be responsive to the customers. 

But as new technologies have come to market to make it easier for businesses to provide customer service, they may also be increasing the number of channels through which organizations interact with customers and the complexity of those interactions. Accenture, the technology consulting firm, suggests that businesses that want to use technology to raise the quality of their customer service focus on the following:

1. Data management and analytics. Using data collected from the customer to analyze their preferences.

2. Insight-driven marketing. Gaining insights into your business from customer data so you can more effectively target marketing.

3. Marketing automation. Streamlining and automating business processes to improve efficiency and keep costs low.

4. Self-service optimization. Finding ways for customers to interact with your business when they want.

5.Workforce effectiveness. Encouraging your staff to embrace new ways improving customer treatment by providing tools and training to deliver better service.

“The easiest way to get the ball rolling on some sort of rewards program is through a point-of-sale system,” says Justin Guinn, the market researcher who wrote the report for Software Advice, a retail CRM consultancy. 

Let us share Brenda Priddy’s views on “4 Ways to Use New Technology for Better Customer Service”. It states new technology is continuously emerging all around us, particularly in the world of the consumer market. 

Companies are seeing massive advertising space in social media like Facebook and blogs, and customers are increasingly using online platforms to shop, compare, recommend or review

Products and services - It’s definitely safe to say that our customers are becoming more tech-smart, and whilst it’s thrilling to be able to see what our audiences want, it requires some shift in company approach, particularly when it comes to presentation and communication.

One area where this could not be truer is the realm of customer service. Customer service is the crucial yet frequently overlooked asset of a company that is largely responsible for generating customer satisfaction, loyalty, and inevitably company turnover. Customer service should be a number one priority for every company and recognized as the genuine minefield for profit, not merely a necessary or formal-sounding ‘add on’ for the company’s structure. Some companies have failed to see the potential of an effective, properly-equipped customer service department and have been reluctant to invest in its growth, which has eventually led to outsourcing and in some cases, complete eradication of the service.

But many companies are upping their game when it comes to customer service, making use of new technologies, namely social media, which has definitely made it easier for customers to be more openly vocal about their complaints to a loomingly large audience in just a short moment. Yes, customers now have an easier way of getting negativity out there, and managing bad press can seem much more difficult and at times futile. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way; especially when new technologies are making it easier for companies to accommodate customers in a way they never could before.

Your company is probably already on Facebook and Twitter. You have a website and perhaps a blog too. If your website offers a Customer Help forum, a clear presentation of appropriate contact numbers to call, or an online chat service for resolving customer issues, even better. (If not, these come highly recommended.) But even if you think your company has it covered; check whether you’re taking on these four initiatives.

1. Put your experts on the frontline of social media.

These can be in-house or external, but it helps to have somebody who knows their stuff responding to customers directly. If your brand’s social media platforms are teeming with individuals already and are willing to help, then customers are less likely to post ad hoc, unspecific comments, either via Facebook or Twitter. Customers want to be treated like an individual, which often means being approached by individuals, and not a faceless brand.

2. Help customers help themselves.

Social media is a fantastic way to share and exchange information, so use your platforms to post or share external resources that will empower customers to become their own fountain of knowledge and even help create an engaging community. This can be in the form of blogs, how-to videos, webinars, infographics etc., anything that addresses a hypothetical crisis. This also has the effect almost of swooping in to save your customers before they even need saving, which lets them know you’ll be there for them should the moment ever arise.

3. Deliver to your customers...wherever they are.

Many companies are taking their customer service mobile, creating a mobile customer service app or SMS text support service to provide customer service on-the-go. If this is not you, it's high time you got on the bandwagon.

Facebook, for example, allows companies to provide a Customer Service Base right in the heart of their Facebook page, where social media-savvy customers are likely to head first. They can make use of features such as the Knowledge Base, the Ticket Customer Support system, or Chat. Not only does this make things easier for the customers; it also makes it easier for customer service departments to monitor and process complaints and can be a welcome alternative to managing those sporadic waves of wall posts.

Desk.com by Salesforce is ideal for smaller businesses, enabling them to keep all of their customer feedback channels such as Facebook, Twitter, email, phone and instant chat all in one place. This is likely to boost efficiency and also provides an opportunity for customer service reps to monitor their customers’ contact preferences.

4. Unify and analyze

On the note of monitoring customer contact preferences, this too is a proven gem when it comes to delivering what your customers want – sometimes before they’ve even asked for it. Gone will be the days when your customers will wait impatiently in a call queue, only to be cut off and become increasingly angrier as they spend their morning making five or six more stuttered calls. Unification of communication is helpful for consistency – many customers are likely to use more than one channel in the hope that they can ‘cut in line’ and have their problem resolved faster.

Meanwhile, data collection and analytics will enable you to establish the preferred channels of communication of your customers, and be better prepared or enforced to handle those that receive the most traffic. This is where Social CRM software cannot be underestimated, in particular, Justin Guinn - the market researcher for Software Advice, a retail CRM consultancy again can be of a great help and support to organizations irrespective of location in the world.

The Salesforce app has various capabilities in sales and customer service management, as well as many other content management applications to suit your company. Technology and social media need not be an overwhelming thing – they ought to be harnessed and exploited in order to provide the best customer service experience possible and small businesses, in particular, can benefit from this. Although new channels have made customer interactions more complex, they also create opportunity for better-controlled and more manageable onsets of heavy customer service demands, let us take advantage of the new age systems and technology to improve our organizations for the next generation ahead of us - the power is yours.