Feature Story

Does Your Customer Service Need an Upgrade?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Dana Allender, Vice President of New Business Development, InfoCision Management Corporation
  |  June 01, 2011

Every time a person receives outstanding customer service, their threshold for anything less becomes smaller. A hundred years of “the customer is always right” has slowly but steadily raised expectations for customer service, and it is our job as professionals to see that those expectations are met or even exceeded. Our goal should be to create a top-notch customer experience that is consistent across every single interaction.

However, creating a totally consistent experience has become a much more difficult task with the advent of countless new channels for customer interaction. And with Internet and mobile technologies providing instant access to products, services and information, consumers have come to expect instant gratification. So the solution to customer issues not only needs to be right; it needs to be right now. 

While providing a timely and satisfying experience for customers might seem like a daunting task given these conditions, it is actually a very exciting time to be in the customer service industry. Technology, like data analytics and real-time scoring, accelerated lead conversion and integrated multimedia communication, can help you exceed even the loftiest customer expectations. In addition, enhanced training methods can transform your traditional agents into more effective “Brand Ambassadors”. Implementing each of these CRM strategies can make a drastic difference in your customer service capabilities.

Data analytics and real-time scoring

There have been great advances in the way consumer information is collected and applied, especially in the contact center environment. Every time a customer contacts you, makes a purchase or responds to a direct mail campaign, they are telling you something. Through data acquisition, you have the unique opportunity to listen to them. The more data you collect, the better you can pinpoint customers’ needs and use it to enhance the customer experience.

On the phone, using data and technology to determine service level differentiations and boost conversion rates, improve customer service, and customize call center scripts will increase customer value and drive long-term growth. In direct mail, you can use data to create customized messages that speak directly to the individual. Online, you can generate personalized URLs so every customer receives a one-to-one Web experience. The opportunities to positively enhance the consumer experience by leveraging data are endless.

Accelerated lead conversion

As more and more people adopt the Internet as a standard method of communication, organizations are seeing web-generated leads double or even triple. That’s good news. The problem arises when companies lack the capacity or strategy to effectively respond to increasing online lead intake. This can be a critical oversight. A lot of people use the Internet to make initial contact with an organization. This is their first impression of the organization, and the speed of your response can make all the difference.

We’re not talking hours here; the expectation is minutes – maybe even seconds. By waiting a day or more to contact a web-generated lead, you essentially negate your chances of qualifying or converting them. And even if you contact a lead instantly, it will only be effective if the right person makes the call – someone who is knowledgeable about the program/service/product and the organization. The focus cannot just be getting a sale today; you need to ensure a positive customer experience, leading to a long-term relationship.

Integrated multichannel communication

These days, many consumers are using communication channels interchangeably – email, text, phone, online. This can pose a challenge for marketers because you want to ensure a consistent brand experience no matter what the channel. But marketers must be careful not to pigeonhole consumers into one channel. People flow between channels and having the flexibility to customize solutions is key; one size does not fit all anymore.

We’ve reached an age where technology can actually bring businesses and customers closer together. All the available channels – teleservices, direct mail, Web – can be used as part of a multichannel effort to meet the diverse needs of your customers. This requires leveraging collected data to ensure you are meeting your customers’ communication habits and preferences. By improving the quality of their experience, customers will form a stronger bond with an organization and, as a result, increase their profit potential.

Employing Brand Ambassadors

All the above tactics are aimed at putting your customer service agents in the best position to provide outstanding experiences for your customers. But you should also focus on the agents themselves. Branding, the cornerstone of all marketing efforts, often gets lost in contact centers because representatives concentrate on specific tasks rather than fortifying brand. As a result, you can miss out on golden opportunities to bolster brand perception.

By employing “Brand Ambassadors” on the phones rather than traditional agents, you can enhance your brand value with every call. Brand Ambassadors differ from typical call center representatives in that they are trained to be extremely knowledgeable of your company and your products – not just the specific task in front of them. Their overall focus is to ensure a positive customer experience that will be tied to your brand. Brand Ambassadors build customer loyalty, cultivate repeat business and lay the foundation for long-term relationships. 

The bottom line is that customer service will continue to expand in scope and grow more challenging as we move into the future. Companies need to take steps now to meet rising customer expectations. By integrating innovative technology and training practices, you can build outstanding interactions that will enhance your brand value and keep your customers coming back.

Dana Allender is Vice President of New Business Development at InfoCision (News - Alert) Management Corporation. Reach him at [email protected]. In business since 1982, InfoCision is the second-largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of direct marketing solutions for Fortune 100 companies. Along with call center solutions, InfoCision offers business intelligence, direct mail, digital printing and interactive services. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.

TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.