With customer experience (CX) being so vital for the acquisition and retainment of customers, online businesses are increasingly looking for ways to improve their customer service in order to meet growing consumer expectations and keep up with their competitors. Here, we look at some of the customer service trends that many online businesses are now adopting.
1. Real-time customer support
Every website owner knows that slow loading times cause customers to abandon their visit and go elsewhere. If the delay of a couple of seconds is an issue, how are today’s customers going to feel about having to wait much longer to speak to someone in person or get a reply to an email? In a world where people expect things instantly, real-time customer support can give a business a huge advantage over its competitors.
Common ways to achieve real-time support include chatbots (see below), live chat, FAQs and knowledgebases. However, today there are a growing number of specialised online tools being developed. Banks, for example, are deploying automated robo-advisors that use customer data and inputted responses to help customers choose the right financial products.2
Chatbots are a great innovation for delivering a superior customer service experience. They are available directly on the web page at the tap of a finger, so visitors don’t have to loiter in call queues or wait for an email reply, and the speed at which they can answer helps customers with purchasing decisions while they are still on the site.
What’s more, as they are AI, they are a more cost-effective way to provide 24/7 real-time support to large numbers of customers than employing an army of customer service personnel. Now that they make use of machine learning, just like their human counterparts, chatbots also get better with experience.
3. Support for mobile users
Mobile phones are the main device on which people search the internet today, so ensuring that customer support is optimised for smartphones is absolutely essential. This begins, of course, with a mobile-first approach to web design, with many businesses making use of web apps to do the job. Enabling visitors to contact customer service via calls or chat is important here, as is making sure that online chat or chatbots are made easy to use on mobile devices.
4. Personalised customer support
Personalisation is a major pillar of CX and it’s now expected in customer service too. Putting it in place, however, requires the same tools and infrastructure as are needed to personalise other aspects of the business, such as marketing and communications.
To ensure customers receive the right help at the right times and that messages are both relevant and consistent, regardless of who the customer is talking to (human or AI) or via which channel, businesses will need to unify data so that they can map customer journeys across all touchpoints. This means getting rid of departmental silos and moving all data to centralised storage – often in the cloud.
By unifying data, businesses will be better positioned to segment their customers. Analysing customer profiles will enable them to develop data-driven strategies to provide the most appropriate support for individuals, including vulnerable customers.
5. Linking customer service to marketing
A great deal of modern customer service interaction, especially on chatbots and online chat, is focused on sales. Customers want to ask questions about products and are keen to discuss their needs and doubts. The information they provide to the company during those conversations can be vital in helping the company provide them with the right sales advice. In this sense, customer service calls offer opportunities for improving sales. What’s more, when the CX is good, the customer is more likely to return.
6. Crisis management
Online businesses are improving customer services to deal with two different types of crises. These are company crises that affect the customer and personal crises affecting different customers.
Company crises can come in many guises, businesses might have services go offline, experience a data leak or have partial closure or disruption due to natural disasters (e.g., the pandemic), all of which can impact the customers. Customer service is vital during these times to minimise the impact, reassure concerned customers and ensure that those who need help can still get it.
Providing support during crises involves customer communications, so that important messages are delivered quickly, and real-time support to reassure and provide assistance. In times of crises, technologies like video chat are particularly important for those customers who need face to face conversations.
Where it’s the customer facing a crisis, they too want real-time support, whether it’s a mortgage customer being made unemployed, a driver who’s broken down on the motorway, or a homeowner whose house has been flooded. Online businesses are increasingly using customer journey information and real-time communication channels to ensure that empathetic support is available and that it is personalised around the specific needs of those customers.
Businesses are having to make considerable improvements to their customer service to meet the expectations of the modern consumer. Increasingly, customer service needs to be personalised, available in real-time and deliverable across the range of channels and devices. Putting these things in place means adopting transformative, cloud-based technologies, such as data analytics, chatbots and AI.
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