Is the Quality of Customer Care in a Downward Spiral?

22. January 2018

The subject of customer care has been a topic of discussion at most companies for years. In a recent Forrester study, 72 percent of business leaders stated that improving customer care was their top priority – and yet results remain the same. In fact, overall customer satisfaction levels across industries dropped between 2013 and 2016.

Good News: Customer Care Leaders are Investing in Digital Transformation

Only innovation can solve this dilemma. Back in 2015, Accenture discovered that it is generally customer care ‘leaders’ rather than ‘followers’ who believe in improving customer experience through digital channels and modern technologies, which help to connect employees, applications and workflows within a company more intelligently. This makes it possible to proactively solve customer requests and problems in a quicker and more competent manner, ideally before they are even noticed by the customer.

Jeff Bezos from Amazon explained Amazon’s outstanding customer service with a metaphor about a guest and host. According to Bezos, customers should be treated like guests at a party, so with the best possible service.

Always the gracious host: Jeff Bezos & the 1 millionth customer (image: Amazon)

So how can new technologies help companies become attentive hosts and accurately predict customer needs?

Acting with Foresight in Customer Care: Predictive Analytics

Companies collect data, analyse it, draw conclusions and then optimise their procedures and strategies based on those conclusions. Through business intelligence, factors such as response time, total waiting time and word choice for customer requests are collected and then compared to customer satisfaction levels. Thanks to such analyses, it is possible to calculate when and why interactions with customers are successful or not. Underlying factors are also identified which should then be avoided in future customer service scenarios.

For example, Delta Air Lines adopts this approach to find out what frustrates customers the most. The airline uses an app that informs passengers of their current luggage status. Thanks to real-time notifications, customers know if their baggage is on board and where they can claim it at their destination.

Service with care: Track my bags (image: Delta)

The app notifies travellers immediately if their luggage has gone missing and connects them to customer service during the flight through Wi-Fi service on the plane. This is a proactive approach to customer care, in which Delta Air Lines actively manages an unavoidable service case by partially compensating for the poor experience of baggage loss.

Understanding Emotions in Customer Care: Sentiment Analysis

Do you want to better understand who your customers are and what is important to them? The emotional part of a customer experience can be tested and categorised: When does your customer react in an annoyed, surprised or satisfied way? What triggers these emotions?

Typical causes for many requests are changes you can make. If you anticipate these, your employees will already have an answer prepared for when the customer complains. Through social listening tools and sentiment analysis, you can tell a lot about emotional levels of your customers. You can see how your customers react to your business, in comments and through hashtags, keywords and content.

Starbucks is a pioneer amongst the users of sentiment analysis. The coffee company can reliably respond to urgent tweets and negative comments, even if the @starbucks brand is routinely mentioned in high volume across social networks. Additionally, they use emotion tracking during telephone conversations, to learn what annoys customers the most or what makes customers the happiest. Sentiment analysis also enables the discovery of trends that can be brought into product development, for example.

Ready to serve: Opening of new store in White Center, WA, USA (image: Starbucks)

Starbucks then develops its own types of coffee based on the trends discovered through sentiment analysis.

Helping People Help Themselves: Online Self-Service & AI

For a long time, online self-service was the magic bullet for reducing customer care costs and relocating annoying customer requests from the call center to the website. This has sometimes been effective as a short-term customer defence measure, yet it has almost never contributed to customer satisfaction. With artificial intelligence, there are now new possibilities and practical solutions available. Whether as a virtual assistant or for data evaluation, AI can complement, or even take over, workflows in many areas of customer care.

Automated self-service features using AI do not have to deliver a WOW effect, but they do need to be well thought out. Intelligent self-service features can be useful for routine requests such as resetting a password, changing an address or finding out the account status. A Deloitte study found that 83 percent of respondents believe that these channels will have a greater role to play in the future. However, this means you must invest in high-quality, individual self-service based on AI so that customers can efficiently solve their problems themselves.

All for One: Customer Care Management Software

Solutions such as Zendesk, Freshdesk or the Salesforce Service Cloud reliably analyse and detect what causes customers to contact customer service. Nevertheless, this knowledge often remains within the walls of the customer service team and doesn’t reach other employees. With quality customer service management software, this information is transparently shared with all employees, and as a result, customer service is more closely connected to other departments.

Automated processes delegate tasks and communicate potential sources of conflict to those responsible. In this way, information is forwarded to the right team, which in turn can deal with the problem before the customer is confronted with it. This changes the dynamic of the work processes and ensures the company is the first one to find out when something has gone wrong.

Prevent Rather Than Cure: Proactive Customer Care with IoT

According to an Accenture IoT study, 48 percent of leaders invest in IoT (Internet of Things), making it the fastest growing digital investment. IoT is already being used in industrial environments to anticipate machine errors before they occur. When applied to customer care, this not only gives employees security, yet it also significantly contributes to high levels of customer satisfaction.

Freedom for all: Caring for your customers wherever you are (image: @rawpixel)

This way, the probability of failures (e.g. a network failure of a mobile provider) can be calculated and millions of people can be protected from being disconnected, as well as meaning that the call center won’t be bombarded with calls. People expect great customer experiences – the best ingredients to ensure these are an intelligent combination of IoT, analysis tools and digital technologies.

The Bottom Line

According to New Voice Media, bad customer service costs U.S. companies alone USD $62 million annually. The winners have clear strategies: reducing internal barriers, digitalising and connecting. With the ulterior motives of finding and avoiding problems before they occur and constantly improving products and services, you can remain one step ahead of competitors. A proactive approach to customer care differentiates the best from the good.