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How to choose the customer service channels to invest in

by Ana Lopez
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We live in an era defined by personalization and instant gratification. As a result, customer service has become more important than ever. Every interaction with a customer, both before and after the point of sale, doesn’t just determine whether they have a positive experience.

It can also influence their ratings and word of mouth for a brand – and it really matters. 90% of customers base their brand loyalty on the quality of customer service they experience. If they’re having a good time, they’ll come back. If they are offended or dissatisfied, they let everyone know.

Customer service is obviously not what it used to be. It’s gone from a series of phones connecting one human to another, to a smorgasbord of communication channels connecting customers with chatbots, automated replies, and the occasional human.

If you’re not sure which customer service channels to invest in, here are a few suggestions for meeting consumer expectations a quarter of the 21st century.

Set up a chatbot

We have all become accustomed to IVR (Interactive Voice Response) systems. Automated menus and pre-recorded responses can help solve some problems. But customer service often requires a more nuanced approach.

Chatbots use AI and machine learning to interact with customers in a more complex customer service environment. They can predict questions based on circumstances. They can also adjust recommendations and answers based on customer input.

Rideshare giant Lyft impressed with the use of AI chatbots in the in-app help option. Third-party developers have even gone a step further by building chatbots that allow drivers to connect directly with regular riders through channels like Messenger. This allows them to provide consistent, high-quality service at customizable rates.

Provide expert lifelines

In a world that is quickly dominated by automated reactions and lifeless interactions, it is important to consider where the human touch is still needed. Chatbots and pre-recorded messages are just a first step. In many cases, more complicated support is needed.

When that happens, companies need to establish customer support channels that give customers access to expert help.

For example, HVACDirect.com, an online marketplace for HVAC systems, has a chat box that pops up the moment a visitor arrives at their site. Unlike the chatbots mentioned earlier, this chatbox connects users with people. And not just people – expert technicians. The same can be said about their established phone and email options. Using experts for a customer support team means a company can answer detailed questions in an informed manner, which can allay customer anxiety, increase buying confidence and ultimately boost brand loyalty.

Take advantage of social media

Social media is often seen as a fluid and contemporary branch of the marketing department. It focuses on building customer communities and working with influencers.

However, what many overlook is its power as both a direct and indirect customer service channel.

On the one hand, businesses can use messages and group forums to address direct customer questions and concerns. On the other hand, McKinsey points out that social media can also be a way follow up on bad customer experiences when the customer speaks out on a social platform.

A timely, sensitive response can save a situation and even serve as a public message that a brand cares about its customers – even the dissatisfied.

Building the right customer service support network

Customer service is no longer the only lifeline between companies and their customers. It is a complex and nuanced network of channels, each serving a different purpose.

Chatbots answer initial questions. Social channels clean up and save negative experiences. Elite support from human experts provides that professional touch that many customers miss.

When brought together, they can create a synergistic level of support that can meet any customer need, even in the ever-evolving modern business landscape.

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