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In a choice-rich, highly crowded marketplace, consumers focus on product and price is steadily decreasing. Instead, they are demanding better customer service, with 97% saying that the quality of service is a deciding factor in the brand they choose and are loyal to.
–> Brands that focus on providing outstanding customer service and creating a delightful experience, instead of treating them like an afterthought, are the ones that will win customers in 2017.
–> Brands that take things a step further and exceed customer expectations by providing proactive customer service will be the ones to turn customers into advocates.
–> Brands that treat customer service as an afterthought won’t last long.
“In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.
A 2016 New Voice Media report shows that businesses lose approximately $62 billion per year due to poor customer service, which is a $20 billion increase since 2013 when the previous study was conducted.
If you don’t want your business to contribute to these losses, then you need to understand that proactive customer service is not only desired but required.
According to American Express, Americans are willing to spend 9% more with companies that offer amazing service. Interestingly enough, the Harvard Business Review has discovered that the most important factor to customer loyalty is reducing the level of effort a customer has to put in.
What can reduce customer effort more than a proactive approach to customer service? Not much considering that the whole idea behind a proactive approach is to anticipate a customer’s needs and fulfill them before they even realize they have an issue.
Let’s take a quick look at how proactive customer service is expected to evolve in 2017.
Proactive customer service is just another stage of evolution that digital has, essentially, imposed on the marketplace. Unlike previous stages, though, there will be a much steeper curve from novelty to expected standard. In other words, it’s going to take consumers much less time to go from being pleasantly surprised and excited to expecting the proactive approach to be standard.
Proactivity doesn’t require any effort from a customer. Once they realize how much more convenient it is for them, they will expect companies to deliver automatically. Those that don’t will be abandoned in favor of those that do, even if customers have to pay more.
In 2017 and beyond, convenience and simplicity are the keys to winning a customer’s loyalty. The easier you make your customer’s life, the more loyal they will be.
Providing proactive customer service is dependent on using various technologies to create a more convenient, personalized, and efficient service for customers. And artificial intelligence will play a major role in helping companies achieve this.
AI has evolved significantly in the past year. Apps are now available that provide personalized experiences to customers based on an analysis of their personal data. Cleo, an app that helps users stay on top of their finances, is such an example.
Of course, we’ve already seen this before with apps like Fitbit that collects and analyzes data in real time and then offers advice. However, until recently, these types of apps were limited to the fitness area. In 2017 and beyond, we expect to see an increasing number of apps and systems being developed in different fields. They are an excellent way of increasing engagement, minimizing effort, and ensuring customers have the right information at the right time.
While having a one-on-one relationship between a consumer and a human company rep, it’s simply not feasible. This is where combining machine learning and artificial intelligence can help.
In some cases, AI tries to do too much and tips over into the opposite end of the spectrum, resulting in irritated consumers. Sometimes, it can even become creepy. By combining empathetic machine learning with artificial intelligence, companies can develop systems that will look after customers effectively and at the right time.
The idea is to have a programmer set out rules for a machine to adapt and improve based on the responses it receives.
Take Amazon Go as an example. All a customer has to do is swipe their Amazon Go app on their phone when they enter the store. They can then pick up all the goods they need. Once they’ve picked something up, the item is added to the virtual cart automatically. They don’t have to wait in line to pay. They simply leave the store and everything is charged automatically. Take about effortless shopping.
They used sensor fusion, computer vision, and deep learning algorithms, like the technology in self-driving cars to achieve the most convenient shopping experience possible.
As more and more items are being developed with internet connectivity, companies have a unique opportunity to turn the data they collect into actionable insights. These can then be used to deliver the proactive service consumers expect.
For example, a fridge using similar technology to Amazon Go stores could automatically order groceries based on analysis of historical consumption, current contents, menu preferences and more. Or what about appliances that could initiate requests for service on their own when they detect a problem? There are already smart central heating systems that do this. When it experiences a fault, it lets the customer know but also books a service appointment with the parent company.
Gartner expects up to 5% of customer service cases to be initiated by IOT-enabled devices on their own within the next three years.
Switching to a proactive approach to customer service from a reactive one isn’t quite as difficult as you might believe. Yes, at some point you will have to invest in technology to maintain your competitive advantage, but you can start off small with the following tips.
Make Sure You Are Available
With so much focus on creating a great omnichannel experience, you’d think more companies would make themselves available to their customers via a number of communication channels. This is not the case. In fact, 41% of businesses don’t make their phone number easy to find, which is shocking if you think about it.So, the first step to becoming proactive is ensuring customers can reach via multiple channels, including phone, social media, and email.
Offer Self-Service Options
Many consumers would prefer being able to resolve their issue without getting in touch with you, especially if it’s something simple. By offering them the tools to solve their own issues, you will empower them and earn their loyalty.
To do this, create a comprehensive FAQ on your website, which you should keep updating based on the questions you receive from customers. You also want to let customers know of any issues they can solve on their own using a simple guide provided by your company.
Simple things like this will not only save you time and money by reducing inbound calls, but it will also make your customers happier.
Listen to Your Customers
Social media provides an excellent opportunity for you to not only delight your customers with your proactivity but to also show prospects precisely how excellent your customer service is.
According to an NYU study, over 37% of the 500 million daily tweets are related to customer service, which represents an amazing opportunity for you to delight your customers.
So, listen to your customers on social media and reach out to them when they mention your company, regardless of whether the message is positive or negative. This way, you can address their needs, make them happier, and impress everyone else too.
Morton’s Steakhouse does an excellent job of showing us the meaning of delightful customer service. Peter Shankman, a popular blogger, tweeted that he’d like a steak delivered from the restaurant to him when he landed at Newark Airport. Of course, it was a joke, but he was definitely extremely impressed when he discovered an employee from the restaurant waiting for him at the airport with a steak. And you can be certain that everyone who read that story was equally impressed.
The steakhouse managed to gain a significant amount of exposure through Shankman’s blog, expand their great reputation, and likely saw an influx of new customers. All because they were listening to their customers and took a proactive approach.
Proactive customer service is the future standard and companies that don’t get on board now will have a tough time winning new customers and retaining existing ones. Thankfully, the evolution of technology will make it increasingly easier for businesses to deliver the level of convenience, personalization, and effectiveness customers expect.
When designing your proactive strategy, your main focus has to be on making your customer’s life as simple as possible. The less they have to think, the less effort required of them, and the more their needs are anticipated, the higher the likelihood of you gaining a customer for life.