15 for 2015 – Customer Service Trends

by Rich Shapiro

reposted with permission from richardrshapiro.com

A new year is approaching and time to tap into what’s here and now.  What should your company focus be to make it the best?  All businesses, any size, any industry should examine some of the trends I see.

1.    Chat is here to stay

More brands than ever before are offering chat as an option to ask questions and discuss issues. This doesn’t mean that fewer consumers will be emailing or calling; it indicates that companies will now have the opportunity to interact with more people who would have not contacted them at all.

2.    Customers expect help when they need it and that means 24/7

Customers have the expectation of around the clock service.  Whether or not you’re a global organization, sunrise to sunset service is what’s in. Corporations may need to extend hours or outsource their calls for after-hour support to accommodate this growing desire for 24/7 service.

3.    Reward your employees who reward your customers

It will be a vital component of every business model to calculate the ROI of frontline associates and determine those who should be rewarded.  Businesses are developing targeted programs to recognize employees who are instrumental in creating and maintaining customer relationships. Since loyalty can begin and end at the employee level, these reward programs are essential to success.

4.    Brick and mortar and online retail is blending

Companies recognize that shopping online and in the store must not only be consistent but integrated. Whether the initial interaction was online or at the retail store, the experience should be seamless. Every interaction must be easy, personalized and coordinated to meet the needs of the individual customer.

5.    Customers want to be brand loyal, but will quickly jump ship

It’s simply human nature to resist change.  Therefore, customers are predisposed to loyalty but will seek out the competition if they are not welcomed, listened to and treated with respect. It’s almost impossible to get customers to return once they feel unappreciated.

6.    NPS, Customer Effort Score, and CSAT are all valid but…

One measure is not enough when it comes to customers because one size doesn’t fit all.  It is vital to evaluate the customer experience. Obtaining specific feedback and using it to improve is golden. One number doesn’t always tell the whole story in spite of what any proprietary research may show.

7.    Response time has become just as important as the actual response

This is a critical piece of the puzzle.  A major indicator of an organization’s efficiency and commitment to customer service is the lag time between a customer’s question and the answer.  The longer it takes to respond can directly impact how a customer feels about your company.  Make your customers feel important and respond timely.

8.    Establish customer service guidelines, not rules

Inflexibility breeds unhappy customers.  Creating adaptable, thoughtful guidelines and eliminating stubborn rules is a cornerstone of good customer service.  Empowering your employees to make decisions within those guidelines completes the package.

9.    Text messaging is the new business tool

The banking and airline industry have been leaders in leveraging text messaging to proactively service their customers.  In 2015, more businesses will begin to follow suit.   But beware of going too far. Use your judgment and utilize text messaging wisely.

10. Customer reviews are king

Where are customers getting their information about hotels, restaurants, etc.?  They look at reviews on sites like Trip Advisor to evaluate where they want to stay or eat.  More establishments are concentrating on increasing their reviews in all business arenas. But be cautious, consumers are wary of paid ads on review sites that tout doing business with certain recommended establishments.

11. Invest in technology to improve the customer experience

Even budget conscious organizations are finding the need to invest in technology to enhance the customer experience and create seamless service delivery for an integrated channel approach. Spend the dollars to differentiate yourself.

12. “Please call us” responses in social media are so 2014

When consumers post a question or complaint on a brand’s social media site, the days of asking them to call you are coming to an end.  Consumers expect a response in the same channel of communication.  If your brand has a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. page and you invite consumers to interact, then companies truly need to respond; that’s the definition of interaction.

13. Once you opt-in, you can never opt-out?

The answer is NO.  I can’t stress this enough.  Customers expect it to be as easy to opt-out of communication as it is to sign up. Having a transparent and simple way to opt-out for all channels; text, email, and phone will eliminate frustration.

14. Engage your employees to get the competitive edge

According to a recent Gallop survey, 63% of global workers are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged.  Employee engagement, creating an environment of participation and involvement goes a long way to generating a competitive edge and research has shown a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

15. The customer experience continues after the transaction

Last but certainly not least, it makes good business sense that a transaction does not end when the cash register closes.  In fact, it’s only the beginning. Customers must be shown they are still relevant when the transaction is complete.

- See more at: http://www.richardrshapiro.com/2014/11/17/15-2015-customer-service-trends/#sthash.ZdrYu7og.dpuf

About Richard Shapiro

Richard R. Shapiro is the founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR), which provides research, training and consulting services to Fortune 500 corporations on how to improve the customer experience. His first book is The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.

- See more at: http://www.richardrshapiro.com/2014/11/17/15-2015-customer-service-trends/#sthash.ZdrYu7og.dpuf

The Dark Market of People Who Whine About Big Data

by Jeffrey Kirchick (@JeffreyKirchick)

We hear the term “big data” a lot these days; I penned a blog about it only a few months ago. In the article, I outlined the many advantages we gain when businesses know more about us as consumers. If – and it’s a big “if” – we can be comfortable with our favorite brands knowing the minutiae of our lives, it will allow us to get access to better, targeted customer service and service offers that really speak to our needs. But perhaps this is just an optimist’s point of view.

There are those who take a decidedly different approach, and this is to throw “all of the above” out the window and insist that big data is infringing upon our personal lives. That businesses have no right to know about who we are, what we do, how much money we make, and our propensity to spend more money with their respective brands.

Frank Pasquale recently wrote a pretty good article for the New York Times called “The Dark Market for Personal Data.” This is a fairly good example of the perils of big data. He alludes to irrelevant data points being used to determine peoples’ fate in job interviews, or inaccuracies in data negatively affecting peoples’ personal lives.

This is all well and good except that any reasonable person can read through the lines. This is just someone who does not like change.

The data providers “peddle” sensitive information. He calls for regulation of big data, otherwise we will be “judged by a Big-Data Star Chamber.” This isn’t Star Wars. He does not offer any reasonable way that big data can be regulated. Had he asked any data provider how difficult it is to aggregate and normalize data and then build algorithms to accurately predict correct information, he might sing a different tune. It’s a difficult business, and difficult problems are not solved easily. Not even the NSA or the CIA knows everything about everyone, so how can big data really be regulated? Do we expect millions of Americans to sign up in droves to fill out a massive questionnaire about themselves? Even if this were to be achieved, data is fluid. People move. Jobs change. They have kids. And so on and so forth.

What I would ask is this: Is Mr. Pasquale ready to give up his smartphone? Is he ready to get off of Facebook? Is he ready to (gasp!) give up his internet access?!? If the answer is “no,” then he, and everyone else who complains about big data but still wants access to the sexy new gadgets we have in the year 2014, really just need to accept the consequences.

If you want to be under the radar, go under the radar. Give up your access to the internet, do not provide your data to your cell provider (because you no longer have a cell phone), and go live in the woods. Henry David Thoreau did it and he came out OK. But it is simply hypocritical to lament the collection of personal data when you are, in fact, using the tools that said businesses use to collect your personal data.

I do agree with Mr. Pasquale’s overarching message, which is that big data has imperfections, the ramifications of which can really hurt people. We should have an open conversation about ways to fix that. But in doing so, we should not peg data providers as Satanic thieves. We might instead think about why they do what they do, and oftentimes the answer is to help the people whose data they collect.

I stand more with Micah Solomon’s stance. He recently discussed the perils of big data, and uses a hotel as an example that might go overboard in delivering items to one’s hotel room based on what they know about the individual. That has the potential to be “weird” and “creepy” to a customer. But Mr. Solomon also recognized the many great ways big data can help customers, and I appreciate the balanced and level-headed approach to the issue.

Framed differently, check out this article about how Verizon and AT&T are tracking users’ internet behavior, specifically on Twitter. This might be troubling at first glance, but let’s back up a step.

When we are born, we are given certain unalienable rights. There are things we feel entitled to. As commonplace as smartphones and Twitter are today, these are not two of the things that we were born with or entitled to. This is technology that we willingly decide to use. In doing so, we have something of a contract in place: if we want to use this service, the provider of the service might track our behavior. If we decide to move forward, then the onus is on us to accept any and all negative ramifications of doing so. The alternative is to just not use the service.

Long story short: no one is forcing us to give up this information. Whether we know it or not, we give it up every day, and we do so in exchange for goods or services that make us happy.

This might leave the reader thinking we are heading into a digital era that is a little less exciting than the last one, one where we need to be particularly wary of what data we are sharing. But is this really news to anyone? It’s been about a decade now that an embarrassing photo you posted on Facebook could ruin your job prospects. In my opinion, it is up to each individual to be responsible.

Check out all the articles and articulate your own thoughts. These are just mine.