The following is an excerpt of a chapter from my new book, Message Me, coming out soon. To sign up for updates, click here.
When I landed in New York recently, where I’ve lived for the last five years, a notification popped up automatically from my Delta app telling me the carousel where my bag would arrive. After picking up my bag, I ordered a Lyft that arrived in minutes to whisk me home. During the journey, I opened Postmates and ordered dinner, which arrived just minutes after I walked into my apartment. And while eating dinner, I opened up the Salesforce app to check on the progress of new sales deals while I’d been traveling.
It’s now possible to do almost anything through a smartphone app. You can run your business, you can control the lights in your home, you can order almost anything to your door in minutes, and you can even—with Tinder—find true love (or whatever kind of love you’re looking for).
The world is forging ahead. But customer service hasn’t caught up yet.
In a survey in 2016, the analyst firm Ovum found that “easier access to online support channels” was the biggest request from consumers, of all ages. Consumer preference is clear, but companies still have to catch up.
The problem with today’s service model
The authors of the book Effortless Experience asked a key question at the heart of modern competition: “Should companies try to create differentiation and build customer loyalty by delivering superior service?” It’s a crucial question in an age of product and service commoditization and razor thin margins. Given the cutthroat and expensive competition to acquire and keep a customer, the authors wanted to know to what extent customer service impacted loyalty, and what service leaders should be focusing on in order to make the most impact.
They discovered powerful insights that profoundly impact the future of customer service, and underpin how brands can leverage social messaging and AI to deliver easy service:
A strategy of delight doesn’t pay
The authors’ analysis and data showed that customers who are moved from a level of “below expectations” up to “meets expectations” offer about the same economic value as those whose experiences were exceeded[ii]. From a customer’s perspective, when something goes wrong, the overriding sentiment is: just help me fix it.
Many companies today are stuck between the pressure to decrease service costs (usually by making it hard to reach an agent) and the pressure to maintain customer loyalty (by attempting to make the service experience, when you finally get to it, as “delightful” as possible). But they’re focusing on the wrong things.
Customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
Customers go to a brand because of product features—but they tend to leave a brand because of poor service experiences. Unfortunately, the authors noted that “any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty.”
According to Dixon, Toman and DeLisi, key drivers that impact disloyalty include (in order of impact): more than one contact to resolve, generic service, repeating information, additional effort to resolve, and transfers between agents or channels. Sound familiar? Making a customer jump through hoops and repeat themselves to finally get through to an agent creates a hugely negative experience, no matter how great that final agent ends up being.
The end of waiting on hold
Customers don’t want to use the phone. In Effortless Experience, the authors found that, on average, 58% of a company’s call volume is from customers who tried to resolve their issue digitally first. Almost two-thirds of all phone calls could have been deflected with better digital care.
At the same time, companies in America spend tens of billions of dollars on answering customer service phone calls every single year, and are under constant pressure to do whatever they can to reduce this number. But despite everyone’s best efforts, the mainstream digital channels available today have only made a minor impact on the number of calls made every year. It takes days to get an email response from most companies, so consumers will never use it for anything urgent. Chat is great if you’re sitting at your desktop computer, but requires constant attention—and if you lose your session you have to start all over again. And traditional self-service forums require a lot of manual searching—i.e., effort—to discover answers. So customers pick up the phone instead, and the cycle continues.
Messaging is the first channel to emerge that can change this, by combining the in-the-moment speed of chat with the asynchronous convenience of email.
Delivering in-channel resolution wherever the customer is
Once customers started tweeting complaints, the standard response from most companies was to ask them to contact customer service by emailing or phoning. The thoughts and tweets from consumers in return were … “What? This is me contacting you!” Deflection to other channels is the worst possible response to give to someone who has reached out—especially if they’re reaching out because they’ve already had a bad service experience on other channels. And this isn’t even limited to social media—many companies offer differing levels of service on different channels, forcing customers to channel switch to get their issue resolved—an immensely frustrating experience and a major cause of disloyalty. Focusing on ‘first contact resolution’ is irrelevant if you only offer this over the phone (and only after going through a painful phone tree to get to an agent). Deflecting customers from one channel to another is not only damaging to the customer relationship, but also means your agents must respond to the same issue on multiple channels, increasing complexity and expense. Enabling consumers to quickly and effortlessly get resolution in their original channel is critical, whatever channel that is. With the ability today to securely authenticate customers over social and messaging channels, there is no excuse to not deliver full resolution wherever your customers are. It is simply a matter of will (and sometimes executive support).
Message Me is about the future of customer service, examining the major forces impacting organizations today and in the future, including the rise of messaging, bots and AI, coming soon. To be the first to hear when it's available, click here.