This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Five years ago, 51 percent of respondents named landline telephone customer support as their most preferred channel. That number has declined to 19 percent today. What has risen up as preferred channels in the last five years?
You can probably guess: e-mail and websites.
A whopping 63 percent of consumers first turn to a company’s website before placing a call to customer support, according to a survey Angel conducted at the 2012 Dreamforce event in San Francisco. That means your company’s website can be major cost savings for the company.
If the proper information is easily available on your website, you can save hundreds or even thousands of calls to your customer service center by allowing customers to self-serve without needing to talk to a representative.
Another indication of the changing face of customer service was revealed by this answer: 41 percent confirmed they have downloaded a mobile app to connect to customer service. That stat indicates rapid adoption in a channel that didn’t even exist a little over five years ago.
Certain companies have been first-movers in this new arena. For instance, three years ago, USAA, the military-focused bank, added a feature to its app that allowed customers to take a picture of a check and immediately deposit it into one of their accounts. Other banks have followed suit, most recently with Bank of America adding this feature earlier this year.
This functionality is precisely what consumers are looking for – and frankly, have come to expect. The convenience of the app affords consumers the ability to self-serve and take care of their banking needs directly from their mobile devices at any time they choose.
In addition to the banking industry, which the survey indicated was the leading industry among respondents for most time spent on customer service, the retail industry was second. Retail organizations have the potential to harness purchase history data about their customers, and ideally provide a personalized experience for them.
Amazon is the premier example in this field. From early on, Amazon leveraged the massive amount of data from its customers and built algorithms to generate recommendations for customers about other products they may be interested in purchasing.
While this is helpful to consumers, simultaneously, Amazon increases sales as customers take them up on the recommendations and place orders to buy additional products.
A final finding from the survey reveals that customer service is oftentimes not one-to-one any longer, and instead is one-to-many. The cause: social media. Twenty-six percent of the respondents indicated they are likely to tell their friends about their experience. An additional 14 percent said they would share their experience online. The ease – and seemingly second nature for many – that social media affords consumers to share both positive and negative experiences with customer service, increases the importance of every interaction. A great experience when a customer question is answered in seconds through instant messaging could result in a rave review on Facebook (News - Alert).
Alternatively, a frustrating customer service phone call during which the customer is transferred multiple times and the experience takes a long time to accomplish a single task could easily end up on Twitter (News - Alert) and take on a life of its own.
Case in point is the YouTube video that went viral about a customer’s United Airline experience when his guitar was broken; the video has more than 12 million views three years later.
Kelly Weinhold is a product strategist at Angel.
Edited by Braden Becker