Businesses have long known that customer service has a long-term impact on buying decisions, with customers continuing to be affected years after the initial interaction. Large global companies such as Apple or Amazon are famed for providing exceptional customer service. In recent years, this effect has been amplified as social media and web review sites provide increased awareness of customer service experiences and influence the purchases of others.
Customer service: the good, the bad and the ugly
A recent study of the long term impact of customer service experience conducted by Dimensional Research for Zendesk*, looked at the good, the bad and the ugly of customer service. This research clearly demonstrated that customer service has a dramatic impact on buying behaviour, with participants ranking customer service as the number one factor impacting vendor trust.
The survey showed that good customer service results in increased personal and business purchases (with 62 percent of business-to-business and 42 percent of business-to-consumer customers having purchased more after a good customer service experience) while bad customer service drives customers to find alternatives (with 66 percent of B2B and 52 percent of B2C customers having stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction).
Interestingly, customer service experiences are judged more on the timeliness of the interaction than on the final outcome (69 percent attributed their good customer service experience to quick resolution of their problem while 72 percent blamed their bad customer service interaction on having to explain their problem to multiple people).
Customer service has a long-term impact on buying decisions, with customers continuing to be affected years after the initial interaction. Customers share service interactions more widely than ever before, with 95 percent of respondents saying they share bad experiences and 87 percent sharing good experiences with others.
Social media and review sites are providing increased awareness of customer service experiences (45 percent share bad customer service experiences and 30 percent share good customer service experiences via social media), and these stories influence the purchases of others (88 percent have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision).
Technology for customer service success
Now armed with all this information about the affect customer service has on customer behaviour, what can CIOs do to help the organisation manage it simply, effectively and affordably?
Traditionally, customer service hasn't been a focus for CIOs, with the responsibility being given largely to the contact centre and seen very much as a cost centre rather than a profit centre. However, the smart CIOs recognise that their organisations can use technology to not only improve customer service experience across all channels—from online to social media as well as the traditional contact centre—but that they can use it to turn customer service into a tool for competitive advantage.
- Unified tools: To be an effective support organisation, a business needs to capture all its requests in a unified process and set of tools. While requests may arrive in different ways, the right technology allows an organisation to treat them all the same way at some level. This will reduce overlap of efforts, ensure consistent responses, and simplify the management of its support team.
- Cross channel communication: It is also important to ensure that technology enables cross-channel communication to work seamlessly. Customers are often switching from one channel to another (say, from Facebook to phone to email) when interacting with a business. To a customer, this is simply one continuous experience so it is important that the right technology supports this and treats it the same way within the organisation.
- Integration of business apps: By introducing best-of-breed business apps that integrate together and with existing systems, CIOs can satisfy the desire to use familiar tools while improving productivity. For example, the sales team wants to use the best CRM tool for their needs while the support team wants to use the best customer service software available. To keep customers happy and coming back for more, these teams need their tools to integrate with each other so that each team has a holistic understanding of their customers.
- Cloud based technology: Cloud-based customer service software can be easily integrated and offers fast access to information. It can help organisations provide exceptional customer service by having all customer support requests go through one place, irrespective of whether they've come in through the website, Twitter, phone or elsewhere. Queries can also be handled from mobile devices, so organisations can respond to their customer queries whilst they are out of the office or outside office hours.
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