There is a growing adoption of new technologies in the customer service sector; individual organisations have adopted multiple channels to provide e-care choice for consumers, and industries as a whole have welcomed new technologies based on new consumer preferences. Take live chat and social media as prime examples. Their usage has grown rapidly in recent years and are now used by 37% and 14% of UK consumers, respectively.
These new channels show that many brands are beginning to listen to their customers’ demands. Brands now allow customers to reach out to customer service through the communication channels that they want to use. We’ve discussed previously the importance of providing the right channels and choice for customers; it's an important part of providing consumers with a great experience and meeting customer service expectations.
Channel specific expectations
Simply adopting new communication tools isn’t enough to satisfy consumers. Each channel comes with its own challenges, merits and downfalls. What is important for every company to know is that every channel comes with an unspoken level of expectation from the customer. There's always a rough set of ground rules on criteria such as response time, answer depth, anonymity and formality. And I'll let you into a secret...shhhhh...you should follow them.
When a new channel is adopted by an industry or firm, then the same protocol that they used for email, for example, won’t necessarily be applicable.
For channels such as social media, customer service teams must accept the public nature and informality of the social network that they have been contacted through. If a customer has chosen to Tweet customer service then it’s because they’d prefer a succinct, public reply within a short period of time. A slower but detailed response (acceptable on email) is not acceptable on Twitter. 72% of people who complain on Twitter expect a response within 1 hour.
If the customer service team does not reply in a suitable manner then the customer may be left confused or frustrated…their customer service expectations for that channel have not been met.
Even if an innovative piece of e-care technology was to be introduced, a customer service team must understand the key differences between this communication channel and the others already on offer. Support teams must realise why each channel has been adopted and how each has their own individual merits, if they intend to reach customer expectations on these channels.
As a digital customer service provider, we like to keep a close eye on how various companies and industries are using the plethora of customer service communication channels available. We’ve started to notice that there are a growing number of firms that aren’t following the basic ground rules of the different e-care channels. These companies and industries aren't meeting customer service expectations.
For example, live chat is a customer service tool that became popular due to its on-site accessibility and the ability to get almost immediate answers.
Some organisations however, don’t expect their live chat agents to respond within a short window and some even expect every visitor to accept receiving a response to their question hours later via email or instant messenger. We don't. In these situations the customer's expectations of the live chat channel are clearly not being met.
Why do some firms not even attempt to reach customer live chat expectations? Often it is due to lack of resources – an understaffed or inexperienced team may not be able to provide quality responses in the short time expected. They sacrifice the basic expectations that come from that channel being available to the customer, for the sake of satisfying the customers’ expectations of high quality responses.
With a larger team or the backup of more live chat agents that are able to come online in busy periods, every customer expectation can be achieved and even overachieved.
What about the other channels? Why are basic expectations not met there? Often it is a lack of knowledge and understanding of customers – companies and their support teams not realising how important it is to adjust their service for different channels.
As adopting more channels such as social media and live chat became the norm, these companies may have simply felt the need to keep up by also offering these channels. They must realise that simply offering the channel is not enough; if customer service channel expectations are not met then the customer is receiving a bad experience. It is better to not offer the extra channel if you aren't offering it in the right way.
Meeting expectations whilst innovating
Just because there is a need to provide the basic customer service expectations across different channels doesn't mean that service innovation has to grind to a halt. We are trying to push the status quo of customer service by going beyond the basic expectations of the digital customer service channels that we manage.
We carefully study the analytics of our interactions to understand expectations across brands and industries, work with our customer service agents to respond with quality answers in the manner expected of the communication channel used and help clients decide the channels that would be most suitable for their brand and customers.
Are you satisfying a range of customers by offering multiple support channels? Does your service offering differentiate between channels in order to meet the different customer expectations of each one?