Gone are the days where brands can compete solely based on price - over the past five years, innovations in technology and an all-encompassing digital landscape have resulted in soaring consumer expectations, meaning customer experience (CX) is now a primary point of competition for every brand. Customer service experience is a vital component of overall CX.
Audiences today expect rapid-response customer support and customer care to be available through the digital channels of their choosing, even on platforms where support seems unintuitive like Twitter. This means that brands must be able to deliver fast, omnichannel performance on a consistent basis in order to meet consumer expectations for customer support in 2021.
What is the customer experience gap?
The customer experience gap refers to the disparity between what people expect from their experiences with brands (the consumer expectations referenced above) compared to what they actually receive. When it comes to customer service, the experience gap is a critical component of the overall CX gap, which is illustrated below:
Research suggests that brands have been slow to adapt to the needs of modern consumers, and their priorities. For example, a study by Wunderman Thompson found that while 42% of consumers say seamless experiences across all devices and channels is a "top expectation", only 11% of decision-makers see seamless, omnichannel experiences as the most important factor when delivering quality experiences.
Brands still have a long way to go when it comes to modernizing the customer service experience they offer, meaning those that offer the best customer service experience have much to gain.
Learn more about closing the customer experience gap here.
What is the ROI of strong customer service?
The return on customer service is the benefit received from the total investment in customer service/support operations minus the cost of the investment. While the cost of creating and maintaining a brand’s customer service experience can be easy to measure, how do you quantify the value gained from it?
The value of good customer service is qualitative, but comes in many forms that are all clearly impactful:
Increased customer retention
Customers become promoters and brand advocates
Increased customer loyalty, which is a strong competitive advantage (especially in industries where products or services are more interchangeable)
Quantifying the value of CX is not an exact science, but the data tells us that strong overall CX is essential, and poor CX puts brands at a major competitive disadvantage. Considering the large role customer service interactions play in determining overall CX, it’s clear that brands need to do everything in their power to ensure they can provide excellent customer service experiences for their customers.
What is the impact of poor customer service?
Perhaps more important than calculating the ROI of excellent customer service is measuring the negative impact poor customer service can have on brands.
Providing superior CX should be a priority for all brands, but for some, investing in a modern, omnichannel customer service experience is necessary just to meet baseline consumer expectations.
If brands fail to meet basic expectations when interacting with customers and audiences, negative customer experiences are generated that can cause irreparable damage:
According to a PwC study, even when people love a brand/product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences.
The same study found that 32% of all customers in the US would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience.
Why a holistic approach to customer service (and overall CX) is critical
Modern consumers expect to have meaningful and helpful interactions with brands through the channel of their choice, at the time of their choosing. Interactions before and after the sale can no longer be managed independently like they were in 2010. Today’s digital landscape has forced brands to take a more holistic approach to CX in order to avoid fragmented and disjointed customer experiences.
This means that customer support and customer service experiences need to be viewed in the context of every interaction a customer will have with a brand: before, during, and after the actual customer support/service interaction. Thus, a critical feature of a modern customer service strategy is the ability for support agents to access the entire history of a customer’s previous interactions with a brand across all channels.
A modern customer service strategy is designed with every post-support interaction in mind as well – the scope of a strong customer service strategy does not end when the issue or ticket is resolved.
Superior customer service and support in 2021
Without the adoption of completely new strategies and tools, brands simply will not be able to meet the expectations of modern consumers (which requires delivering personalized customer experiences quickly across multiple channels) with traditional approaches. This holds especially true when it comes to customer service and customer support experiences, as traditional approaches cannot provide the cross-channel capabilities needed to satisfy customers in a scalable manner.
In order to provide outstanding customer service today, businesses must fundamentally change their approach to customer support if they haven’t already adapted to omnichannel care.
Understanding the two critical factors in customer service: speed and personalization
What makes a great customer service experience? When it comes to the rapidly increasing standards that consumers have when dealing with brands, the most obvious and easily quantifiable metric to capture this change is response time.
However, in addition to fast response times, modern consumers are expecting increasingly tailored and personalized experiences. This is especially true when seeking out customer support since these interactions have a clear point of resolution, and more personalization tends to correlate with a more seamless resolution of support requests.
Thus, the focus for any modern customer service strategy should be on delivering fast responses, without compromising the level of personalization needed to easily and seamlessly resolve issues.
This is much easier said than done, as the level of personalization needed in support interactions varies depending on the individual customer and the nature of the support request. Thus, an efficient customer service strategy attempts to tailor the support experience to each individual, offering resources that range from self-service documentation (FAQ, articles, etc.) to live agents, based on the needs of the customer and inquiry.
Later we will go over the specific ways that technologies like chatbots and messaging can help brands create a customer service strategy that provides the right support resources to the right customer, at the right time.
Eliminating operational and channel-specific silos to modernize customer service and customer support
A decade ago, it was commonplace for brands to view, analyze, and iterate on their customer support operations in an operational silo. Today, businesses must view customer service as just one component of the overall customer experience they provide across every stage of the customer journey.
This means that all departments and teams involved in delivering strong CX (hint: every single one) can access the customer support data relevant to them. For example, product and engineering teams need access to aggregated and segmented customer service data to identify the areas of a product that need to be improved.
In addition to operational silos, any channel silos will hinder the effectiveness of any customer service strategy as it is impossibly difficult and inefficient for brands to provide omnichannel support without a centralized and unified way to view and analyze customer service data across disparate platforms.
A study by Dimension Data suggests that the average brand’s support operations spans over nine channels. Despite this, “only a third of brands are able to perform analysis that considers data relationships across [different] CX touchpoints.”
No modern customer support strategy involves separate teams managing disparate channels with no visibility between them. In fact, a strong customer service strategy should unify the support operations of every channel as much as possible, from execution to analysis.
The Emplifi Service Cloud empowers organizations by giving them one simple and unified place to manage customer service and customer care across any number of channels.
Why chatbots and messaging are essential to strong customer service experiences
As modern brands recognize that they cannot meet consumer expectations with the traditional siloed approach to customer service, we have seen plenty of innovation in customer service experiences as businesses adopt new technologies and take radically different approaches to customer support in order to provide superior experiences in a scalable manner.
By offering messaging as a communication channel throughout the customer journey, brands help consumers overcome points of friction they might otherwise encounter when interfacing with brands through channels like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
As mentioned, having the flexibility to connect with customers - both when and where they want to - is essential to providing strong customer experiences in today’s digital age. When brands leverage messaging technology, they empower customers to reach out to them on their own terms, while simultaneously fostering a deeper and more personal connection.
While messaging opens up the possibility for these seamless and highly personal interactions to take place, brands still need to make sure they are capable of providing these experiences, not just occasionally, but consistently and at scale. This leads us to our next technology that brands must leverage if they want to offer outstanding customer service experiences: chatbots.
Without the adoption of chatbot technology, larger brands simply cannot meet the modern consumer’s expectation for speed and response time on digital channels due to the volume of queries, messages, and mentions received.
Because of this, chatbots have become a ubiquitous way for customers to interface with large brands. Chatbots address the expectation for speed in a scalable manner, with well-programmed ones excelling when it comes to the personalization of customer support interactions as well.
For tasks within their scope, chatbots can provide the fastest and most seamless customer experience possible. For tasks or inquiries outside their scope, automatic escalation to a human agent ensures that the customers who need live assistance are connected quickly with someone who can help.
In addition, agents can go into each customer interaction with more context (preceding dialogue with chatbot and historical interactions with brands) and provide a faster and more seamless support experience.
When leveraged properly, chatbots and messaging help brands create a customer service strategy that provides the right support resources to the right customer, at the right time. They also drive efficiencies in the operational costs of customer service and support teams by ensuring that live agents:
spend all of their time helping customers that actually need their assistance
do not degrade and over-complicate support experiences for customers that do not need them
Meeting today’s demanding expectations for speed, personalization, and ease when it comes to customer service requires far more than investing in existing workflows and operations – a paradigm shift in consumer behavior demands a corresponding change of a similar magnitude on the side of brands.
This means that brands will need to adopt technologies and solutions that are dedicated to providing an excellent customer service experience at scale. Chatbots and messaging are at the forefront of these technologies, and while these solutions may seem like optional, “nice-to-haves” in the present moment, they will soon be seen as essential as more brands recognize the need to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience and empathy.