5 Industries Where Customer Support Needs a Major Revamp (And How to Make it Happen)

Businesses have evolved over time and so have the approaches and traditions associated with it. Customers are in the driver’s seat and Customer Support has become the new Marketing. The key to keeping customers satisfied has always been at the heart of customer support, and now more than ever before.

The rise of the empowered customer, equipped with tools of mass leverage like social media is a critical cog when it comes to public brand perception. Customers can make or break your brand equity in a jiffy. We’ve all seen Yelp reviews and social media posts of anguished customers lambasting brands and have also seen the favorable sentiments a single positive customer review can drive. This extent of customer empowerment automatically increases their expectations, which makes customer support all the more important.

Customer support has evolved and has come a long way from doling out smiles and addressing customer complaints about static IVR systems. That being said a typical “Office Hours only” phone support or asking customers to file support tickets is not enough. Modern-day customer support needs to be real-time to satiate the savvy customer’s innate need for immediacy and should be personalized to make the consumer feel important.

Yet many industries have not been able to break free from the shackles of antiquated modes of support which are prone to bottlenecks and delays. Here I have thrown light on 5 such industries and how they can revamp their support into a quick and personalized setup.

  1. Telecom
Image Credit: Hexawire

The industry is among the most competitive ones, where most players are engaged in a severe price war in an effort to sustain market share. Typical new customer acquisition cost here is 5 times that of retention cost, which has shifted focus for brands to building customer loyalty.

Lowering prices is not the solution anymore, but Telcos should up their game on customer service. The onus should be on the quality and speed of service and how the customer complaints are dealt with. The journey from filing a complaint to getting it resolved should be consistent and ensure that the priorities of the customer should always come first.

Most Telcos still rely on static IVR systems for support, which put customers on long queues before they can get through. Well just think for once, your broadband service just broke down and now when you are trying to file an issue, first you have to navigate your way through a static IVR system and when you finally get past it, you are put on a queue. Not the greatest User Experience, for sure. No wonder, recent study by Telecom regulator Ofcom reports almost half of broadband and mobile customers (44% and 43% respectively) are not satisfied with complaint handling.

Smartphones and mobile applications have opened a lot more avenues for enterprises to stay connected with users. It has made it possible for businesses to be present where their customers are, right when they need to. With so much leeway available, Telcos should switch to an in-app support system as it is real-time and much more personalized.

Let us look at the above case in the light of an in-app support system. The moment your broadband breaks down, all you need to do is fire up your service provider’s app on your smartphone. Next, you need to navigate to the support section within and initiate a chat with the company’s support executive. As you can see this is much more convenient for users and is almost real-time.

The key takeaway for Telcos doesn’t just end there with a delighted customer, highly content with the quality and speed of support. According to a recent research by Mckinsey, a phone interaction costs a company anywhere between 8 to 10 dollars, while a messaging interaction costs less than $1. Also typically the number of customers helped by a single agent in an hour is 60 when on an in-app messaging setup, as compared to 8 when using phone calls for handling support.

2. Banking

Image Credit: Investopedia

Scratch recently polled 10,000 millennials to see which industry is prime for disruption and no wonder banks made up 4 of their top 10 most hated brands. The reason is simple, the financial industry is not able to meet the needs of this digital-savvy cohort of consumers.

Think about the typical interaction with your bank. First, you need to walk up to the nearest branch, which may not suffice in all cases wherein you may have to visit the parent branch. Once you enter the branch, there starts a long and confusing process. You need to first wait for the banker and finally, when you get past all that, you are then made to sit through unnecessary product descriptions and multiple hard and soft sells just to get to what you want.

Now, this old school sledgehammer approach of shoving unwanted information doesn’t resonate with consumers anymore. The new school is about learning people’s interest through enabling conversations, encouraging engagement and building trust. Naturally, this approach which aims to change the communication paradigm from interruption to conversation is well suited for mobile, where consumers are accustomed to and even demand personal two-way communication.

Modern day consumers are always on the move. They are finicky, impatient and time sensitive. They demand communication to be on their own terms. Service quality at every engagement point is, therefore, the key differentiator for banks to build and maintain their competitive advantage.

Hence the impetus is on mobile banking. Mobile is a highly personal device and an average person looks at their mobile phones 150 times a day. This coupled with major technological innovations around mobile technology has opened up ample avenues for banks to attract the millennials.

  • Chatbots can be used to feed consumers with relevant information based on their needs and also to automate routine transactional messages, thereby increasing engagement.
  • Personal Financial Advisors can be made available via In-app Chat to save consumers from the pain of visiting retail branches
  • P2P money transfer technology can be used for faster transactions

The possibilities don’t end there. There is a whole lot more that is achievable if banks decide to embrace mobile as their preferred mode of operations.

3. E-Commerce:

Image Credit: Yourstory Media

E-commerce is a whole different ball game from retail commerce. Customer Service in a retail store starts the moment a prospect sets foot inside. A service agent in a retail setup has access to multiple visual cues, which helps them in prioritizing the service level. For instance; he can sense whether the prospect is determined to buy or is he just killing time, he can judge the urgency and the mood of the prospect and more such traits.

Now for an e-tailer running an online store, visual cues are absent, so context has to come in the form of data. Now what exactly is this data, which ones are most useful and how do you leverage data to improve user experience?

Being an online store owner, you have access to every user’s browsing/purchase history. There is a trove of hidden treasure in there which you might have unconsciously overlooked. These data points can help you collaborate with Sales and Support by bringing in a proactive approach.

Let me help you understand with an example:

  • A user X is browsing for Men’s Casual shoes — a typical case of user interest, nothing conclusive
  • The user had shown similar browsing behavior in earlier sessions — stronger interest, higher chances of purchase
  • Current browsing session time is more than 15 minutes — he is not just killing time and is quite serious about the purchase
  • Has past history of purchase — has trust in the service and must have had a good experience

Now whenever a prospect meets these conditions, it is safe to assume that he is ready to talk to your service agent and at the same time ensure that the prospect is worth the extra effort. The very next instant a service agent can proactively initiate an in-app chat conversation with the prospect, enquiring about their interest and guide him down the purchase funnel. Something reminiscent of the typical retail approach to customer service.

Backing up hypothesis with data, a recent study by econsultancy shows, chat as a mode of communication has the highest level of customer satisfaction. 24% of customers polled reported they have used chat and 46% voted in favour of in-app chat as the most efficient mode of communication.

4. On-Demand Services:

Image Credit: Mckinsey

The industry that thrives on spontaneity, has made lives so easy for us that we can run it on our smartphones. Anything from buying grocery to ordering food, from booking a taxi to finding a parking spot — there is an app for it.

However, it’s not enough just to give users quick access to your product or service. Today’s customers also have a high expectation of the support and service that you back your business with. They reside on a tumultuous slope and a delayed response to any of their query might just be the nudge to set them rolling down the slope, only to be lapped up by one of your competitors.

Especially in the case of On-Demand Services any delay in handling customer queries might hugely hamper the overall customer experience. Imagine you have placed an order for a pizza, but forgot to add your favorite fries. The moment you realize this, you make a call to the support agent to make necessary modifications, but alas you are made to wait. By the time you reach the agent, your order is already out for delivery and making modifications is not possible anymore. Not the best experience right?

Customer service for the on-demand economy is, therefore, prime for the disruption that ensures 24X7 uptime with no lag. Intriguingly chatbot powered messaging platforms acting as virtual assistants can help companies provide exactly that.

Let us now look at the above example again, but this time with support happening over an automated system:

  • The moment you realize the mistake in your order, you fire up your app and navigate to the support chat widget.
  • You are then greeted with an automated message “How can I help you with your order”, followed by a list of predefined templated responses like “Modify Order”, “Cancel Order” etc.
  • Based on your case you choose the most relevant option — “Modify Order” in this example
  • Next based on your selection, you are asked some more information, again in the form of one-touch templated responses like “Add Items”, “Remove Items” etc.
  • You choose “Add Items”, basis the example use case
  • The next moment your chat screen will be populated with Rich cards showing menu items, that can be added to the order with a single tap.
  • All you need to do is look for your fav fries and click on “Add to Cart”, and you are done.

Hence you can see how a simple automated workflow can make the overall process of making modifications to an existing order much more efficient and seamless.

It is also very easy to imagine the value virtual assistants can have from an overall business perspective. Some of the most apparent ones are reduced costs, simplified customer service operations and decreased escalations to call centers. At the same time, customers are delighted because communication is quick, cross-channel and self-serve.

5. Travel & Hospitality:

Image Credit: pathwaytoaus.com

The one industry where customer service sells more than anything else is the Travel and Hospitality industry. While traveling, be it for business or for pleasure, people are looking to create memories and you wouldn’t want these memories to be of regretful experiences.

Now the path to delightful customer experience is paved by excellent customer support. This makes customer support of paramount importance to the travel and hospitality industry.

When people travel to a new place, they are at leisure, so they would most naturally want everything to happen smoothly without having to worry. In all likelihood they are at a completely new place and getting around by themselves might lead to mishaps and result in poor experience, so a bit of proactive support might work wonders.

Just, for instance, you wouldn’t want your customer to find their way through the city and reach your hotel, neither would you want them to call up the reception and seek help with navigation. A better way is to drop them an in-app message with your hotel’s complete address and a Google Map link leading up to your property.

When a guest is residing at your hotel, you would want them to make maximum use of the hotel facilities, but you can’t expect every guest to discover all that on their own. So an occasional nurturing message informing them of different services can incite their interest and thereby increase the value per customer.

There are many such instances where proactive support can play an important role in improving overall customer experience. Like you can’t expect everyone to visit your concierge desk on their own, but you can very well push them with updates on the latest events and places worth visiting around the city to instigate their interest. And well this gives you a chance to cross-sell some of the relevant services like hotel cabs, personal guides etc.

It is also advisable to give users the convenience of an in-app messenger to reach out to your staff and seek support on chat. This can be particularly useful as users wouldn’t have to bear pesky roaming charges and can also cover them in cases of poor network coverage.

Overall it is very much clear that transforming customer care from voice calls to mobile messaging is beneficial for businesses. It gives users the convenience of real-time connectivity, makes your support agents more efficient and is also comparatively much more economical. It is also important to note that, on employing the right techniques customer support chat is mighty strong at improving customer experience.

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