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November 09, 2012

Keeping Customers Happy and Costs Low with Self-Service

By Robbie Pleasant, TMCnet Contributor

Happy customers means more profit. If you want to build brand loyalty, you need to make sure customers have the best experience you can offer. But that creates a certain Catch-22: “If you spare no expense to make the customer satisfied, you’ll make more. But to do so, you must then spend more.”

There’s therefore a precarious balance to be found, at which a business must find how to provide the best service at the lowest cost possible.

Today’s customers want to interact with companies in new ways, such as mobile, social media, or through agents or menus. The main desire is basically to get the most convenient service no matter where they are, when it is, or what sort of request they have.

Fortunately, today’s technology allows for new ways to help one’s customers, from self-service applications to speech recognition software that allows for rather helpful virtual assistants.

“Customer demand is changing based on our research,” said Joe Outlaw, Principal Analyst of Frost & Sullivan’s (News - Alert) Contact Center Group. “We have found a segment of customers who actually prefer self- service. The catch is – it must be done well.”

Customer service has been taking to the mobile world. Customers who use their mobile phones frequently have shown an interest in receiving SMS notifications, although the majority of customers over 30 years old are less likely to want that.

Thus, there’s a need for a distinct customer service experience, where people can receive notifications about things such as shipping notifications, payment reminders, account notifications and more, but only if they want to receive them.

Equally important is the use of real-time customer data across channels. By locating issues in self-service channels, one can ensure that their customers receive the best service quickly, receiving direct answers rather than having to be transferred to agents. There are few things more irate than customers who have struggled with trying to get an answer from a machine for ten minutes before having to speak to an agent, and many often take that irritation out on the agents they’re transferred to.

Of course, in order to ensure that all customers are satisfied, customer service applications need to have a unified experience across all their communication channels. Not only will it provide satisfied customers all around, but it keeps costs on equipment investment, licensing, and vendors low.

In short, there is a balance to be found, but striking it can both improve customer loyalty and keep costs down. Contrary to all the jokes about cursing at an automated message as it lists options and refuses to hear the customer correctly, customers will often prefer being able to help themselves, as long as it’s easy, convenient, and done correctly.

More information on the topic can be found on the full Frost & Sullivan White Paper.

Edited by Braden Becker
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