“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skilful execution; it represents the wise choice of many options.” – William A Foster
In the last exposition, we spoke about digital versus traditional customer service. We believe that a combination of both is intelligent customer service. Simple enough? Probably not. Companies are working tireless to attract, engage, and retain customers, using a variety of ways and techniques, and still, many companies struggle to provide the kind of personalized and customized service that tops the list of customer desires. The answer lies in the fact that technology, if not used wisely, can complicate and worsen issues rather than have the desired simplifying and enhancing effect. Companies struggle to manage technology and are incapable of providing information and service across channels, which could ensure that customers could make informed decisions. Customers are easily frustrated and tend to leave companies that appear incompetent and insufficient when meeting their expectations.
Intelligent customer service can help companies create truly meaningful and pleasant experiences, which in turn would draw customers in and keep them with a company for long. Customers are short on patience, and expect to receive the most relevant and appropriate service and solutions, which in turn would guide their perception and behaviour towards a company. The new way, to help customers get the kind of service they want and deserve, while simultaneously helping to make companies more efficient, is intelligent customer service. Such kind of service helps a business increase revenue by pleasing customers, while decreasing costs by providing efficient and instant responses, thereby eliminating the need for repeat queries, which could result in customer complaints. Intelligent customer service drive better service, high quality customer experiences, and is a cost effective solution for businesses as well.
Does your company ‘run’ on intelligent customer service? If your customers are empowered and have the leeway to help themselves through self-service portals, then your company is probably, guided by intelligent customer service. Customers want to spend as less time and effort on getting answers to simple queries and even to gain information about the company’s offerings. They want to have control over when and where they can get this information, and hence it is the responsibility of a company to provide updated information, which customers can easily and readily access when they want and from wherever they want. Customers would seek after a company that can provide knowledgeable answers, and solve customer problems instantly, for business. Intelligent customer service ensures that customers have the information they need at their fingertips. In addition, using analytics and tools, a company would be able to determine a customer’s search behaviour, the kind of information she or he seeks most often, and therefore become equipped to customize relevant information to best suit individual customers.
As mentioned, if a company is able to provide relevant answers to most of the routine queries from customers through self-service portals, it would be able to reduce the number of calls routed to service agents. While this is beneficial for a company, it also keeps customers happier since their wait times would reduce, and agents would have more time to focus on bigger and more important customer problems and queries. Even research shows that it is almost 100 times more expensive for a company to answer queries via phone and email, as compared to self-service portals. It would be better for both companies and customers to save those costs, and use the intelligent customer service enable self-service portals. The money that a company would save could be used to enhance product quality, and invest in systems that would take their customer service up several notches.
With the reduction of rote and mundane queries and tasks, intelligent customer service ensures that service agents become more engaged, happier, and more efficient in their jobs. Research shows that attrition in service centres is one of the highest, which in turn lowers the overall efficiency and service levels of the company. Intelligent customer service provides the agents with updated and relevant information, which they can use to quickly solve issues, and even new hires would be able to find the information they need instantly, reducing delays, wait-times, and opportunities for customer complaints. As agents are rid of routine queries, it allows them opportunities for training and self-development, and the ability to take on additional responsibility. This in turn, makes them feel useful, more knowledgeable, more valued, and important for the company. It gives their confidence a boost, and energizes them to go the extra mile to serve customers well – with empathy and care.
It would flow naturally that if employees feel empowered and are energized to produce more and work harder, it would be very easy for a company to scale up. It would be possible to get more work done with the same amount and number of resources – through intelligent customer service a company can boost its overall productivity, reduce costs, and bring down customer churn and employee attrition. The more a company saves internally, the more number of resources it would have to ‘pump’ into creating innovative products, working to reduce costs for customers, and ramp up its customer service levels.
Through a combination of digital and traditional customer service, a company would be able to provide top class and humane service to customers through multiple channels. This would enhance the overall experiences customers have with a company, since service would be consistently good across all channels. One of the pet peeves of customers is erratic and inconsistent service that companies provide across channels. Most customers start a conversation with a company through one channel, moving on to another, while expecting to receive a coherent and efficient response. Unless a company has all its channels coordinated, it would be unable to provide a suitable response, since it would not be able to connect the dots on the ‘journey’ of the customer’s query.
The main aim of any company should be to gain customer loyalty. However, that is hard to come by unless a company makes concerted and consistent effort towards it. With intelligent customer service in place, a company would be able to provide effortless experiences and top class responses, making way for customer delight and loyalty. As customers remain happy with a company, they would provide more business, which in turn would mean more profits and success for a company. Successful companies have happier workforces, who would be high on energy and productivity. It becomes a cyclical process, beneficial for all concerned – this would be the future for companies and customer service.
As a customer, you would know how frustrating it is to repeat constantly personal information or a query you may have placed, simply because an agent who could not answer your question, put your call to another without providing the relevant information. When service agents are not trained properly, do not have the right skills and attitude, and do not have access to a knowledge database, they would trip up when dealing with customers. Lack of empowerment of service agents, leads to poor responses and decisions, leading to a drop in customer satisfaction levels. Businesses need to change their approach to support through intelligent customer service. Creating a strategy that aligns business needs and processes, with that of customer expectations and needs, is what intelligent customer service is all about. Are you ready for ‘intelligence’?