At our conference, Connect on Thursday, we will discuss how companies should rethink their sales and service approaches. The gap in information between what customers want and what businesses deliver is growing. This gap is largely due to three major shortcomings:
- Companies have not laid out an effective strategy for basic phone, email and social channels.
- Companies have not connected channels in a way that gives them visibility into every customer interaction.
- Rather than address problems 1 and 2, companies are banking on new technology to magically resolve their infrastructure issues.
Overall customer service is in dire straits. According to our Serial Switchers research, U.S. companies are losing $62 billion a year due to poor customer service, a 51 percent and $20 billion increase since 2013.
The biggest complaints?
Customers feel unappreciated and aren’t receiving the help/support they deserve. They are passed around to multiple people, are not able to speak to a live agent right away, are not able to get answers and are put on hold for too long.
There is a disconnect between the customer and company. And although the phone is one of our oldest channels for communication, it is still fundamentally flawed for many organizations.
More than half of people still prefer to first call companies to resolve customer service issues. But businesses continually fail to address simple issues of call routing, customer case visibility and quality management.
We can’t move forward until we fix what we already have.
The word “chatbot” has blanketed tech media publications over the past few weeks with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple making significant strides in the development of chat window AIs. Many think this AI chat will be the new face of customer service. But while the advancements in chatbot technology are truly impressive, companies should exercise caution.
Automation is great. But it won’t fix the customer service issue. There needs to be a balance. Bots can certainly ease some service strains, but the human touch needs an equal amount of work. Chatbots are a great solution for companies who have already nailed the fundamentals and want to move to the next step.
In a recent survey we conducted, 68 percent of respondents claim they would prefer to interact with a live agent rather than automated self-help (FAQs/guided support, dial directories, chatbots, etc.) when dealing with customer service.
This doesn’t mean self-help should not exist, but it is a clear indicator of how customers should be directed. They need to be guided quickly to an answer, or quickly to an agent, without lag in between. The issue with complete automation, or a heavy lean on automation, is that the components of agent intuition and dynamic response may be neglected.
If customers can’t get the answer they need right away, they may get caught in a system loop – an extremely frustrating process of queries with not-quite-right answers.
Above, we will talk a lot about customer service, primarily because it is the easiest company/customer disconnect to see. But sales and sales development are a key part of the equation as well. The issue is deeper than just customer service; it is an issue of company/customer communication.
Customer engagement is the intersection of the sales and service world. How are we interacting with the customer, and are we doing so in a way that yields better business?
It’s not a one channel job, nor is it a one channel issue. But because businesses adopt communication technologies independently, they tend to also monitor and strategize for each channel independently.
This is especially true of legacy companies. In the 80s, it was an all phone sales/service construct. Then, the 90s introduced email. Now, social media is marching in. The problem is that phone strategies are stuck in the 80s, email in the 90s and social is still getting an eyebrow raise from foot-dragging skeptics.
Customers see all communications channels for what they are – a single line of communication to a company. Whether customers reach out via phone, email or Twitter, they expect businesses to answer with competence. Similarly, they expect companies to remember conversations.
How annoyed would you be if you called your co-worker to explain a problem, then you had to repeat that conversation in an email and again in person because he/she kept forgetting?
Companies need to connect the dots between these lines of communications and allow their agents full visibility of customer/company interactions. Independently, the channels are creating conversational doors to companies that have customers wandering aimlessly. But together the can expedite sales and solutions with greater efficiency.
Consequently, AI and other advancements that should move us forward in sales and service are currently road blocked by silo’d systems. To better connect with customers we must repair our existing channels, link them together and then proceed to chart their evolution.
NewVoiceMedia has made dedicated progress toward all three of these goals. We are a sales and service communications platform that links the information you have in Salesforce to the conversations you have with customers. And this summer we are rolling out an even deeper Omnichannel integration with Salesforce. The deeper integration allows NewVoiceMedia to affect customer-to-agent routing. For instance, if you have an agent handling chat and phone, the chat queue for the agent can be paused when they are on the phone or visa-versa. The customers in queue are instead routed to available agents. NewVoiceMedia remains a third-party-agnostic application that allows those in the Salesforce ecosystem to leverage multiple applications for deeper analytics and stronger capabilities.
Sales and customer service are shifting focus to more specialized approaches. We provide solutions to make each customer engagement as meaningful as possible. It’s not just about analyzing markets anymore; it’s about looking at each interaction individually.Interested in learning more about how companies are working to improve the customer experience? Check out Connect, tomorrow (June 30), at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
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About Chris Bucholtz
Chris Bucholtz, director of content marketing at NewVoiceMedia, spent 15 years as a technology journalist, covering CRM, customer service and telecommunications among his many beats. He was the founding editor of InsideCRM and has managed marketing content for SugarCRM, Aplicor, Relayware and CallidusCloud. This year will be Chris’ 11th Dreamforce.Read more from Chris Bucholtz