As PARN are running their customer service benchmarking project again, I thought I’d blog about customer service in the digital age. If you are interested in the project please contact the research team.
As the old adage goes: ‘the customer is always right’. Good customer service is still as important as it has ever been. In fact, there is a clear argument to suggest that in the digital age it is now more important than it has ever been.
The internet means that it is easy for customers (including members) to quickly move on to another organisation with a few taps and clicks. People have far more choice at their fingertips these days. What’s more, the plethora of ways for people to tell the world about a negative customer service experience online.
So, good customer service is definitely good for your organisation. In a recent study, the Institute of Customer Service found that consumers are willing to spend 38% more if they felt that the supplier’s “employees took time to understand their needs.” For membership bodies, good customer service can help with retention.
Here are my suggestions for the 4 steps an organisation can take to improve their customer service in the digital age.
- Audit your current customer service experience
The first step of any attempt to improve a process or service is to thoroughly review and reflect on the current picture. So, if your organisation hasn’t recently conducted a review of all the ways that members/customers can get in touch, start by doing so. You need to establish where they connect, how the query is processed (both online and offline) and how the resolution is then communicated back to the member/customer.
It is important to consider your findings in the context of the overall customer journey. Questions need to be asked: Are members feeding back when and how you expect them to – or are they using other times or methods? Customers can feedback in a variety of ways these days. It might be that your current feedback process needs to be updated to reflect customers’ preferred methods.
Customer feedback and queries should be collated. Look for any patterns that emerge. It could be that the same queries are being raised over and over again. How can this be addressed? A new webpage, such as a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section, might help. Similarly, the information that is communicated through the customer journey might need reviewing and updating.
Your website and social media analytics could help build a picture of your customer service delivery. This case study from the Government Digital Service (GDS) talks through their approach to improving their website content, in order to deliver a better service to users.
- Identify where your customers are
One of the key considerations of trying to improving your customer service in the digital age is to identify all the different channels and platforms where your customers are. For example, you may well have an enquires email inbox set up, but members/customers could be choosing to leave feedback on a social media platform instead.
Organisations need to appreciate that there are now far more places that your customers could be in the digital age too. It is important that you aware of this and are agile with it. Keep an eye on new channels that provide users with a platform to leave feedback. Many third-party sites offer reviews. These may not always reflect well on your organisation. Take a look at this Google Review of the BMA as an example:
- Improve your customer service journey
Having reviewed your customer journey and identified where your customers are, the next step is to make changes to your processes.
The refinements you need to make could take many forms. In general terms, anything that streamlines, speeds up or makes the customer experience feel seamless will bring great improvements to your customer service.
- Use technology to help
Almost inevitably, in the digital age, the answers often come from technology. New channels bring new ways for customers to interact, but they also offer opportunities and potential solutions for organisations.
You should not be afraid of embracing technology and incorporating automation into your customer service experience. Yes, personalisation is important to consumers, and there will always be a point in the customer journey where a personal response/approach is required.
But, also high on the list of consumer wants is the ability to find the information they need quickly and easily. Tools such as a Facebook Messenger Chatbot can help you interact with members/customers in a non-resource intensive way.
Abby Wright-Parkes is a membership development and marketing consultant who works with professional membership organisations to recruit, engage and retain their members. She operates under the brand name, Optimist Consulting (as she is one!). Connect with her via www.optimistconsulting.co.uk or @abby_w_p