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Guest Blogger

Konstantin Selgitski is chief marketing officer at Apifonica.  He joined Apifonica more than three years ago to head up the company’s international business division.  His career spans more than 15 years, with experience in successfully defining, implementing and managing both marketing and IT projects across the tech, media, FMCG, entertainment and banking sectors.

By 2028, recent research forecasts that 70-80% of online purchases will be made using mobile devices.  Even today, m-commerce is widely used, with more than 65% of customers aged 18-44 using a mobile platform for customer service purposes more than once a month.

Online shopping from mobile devices is increasingly popular and offers many benefits – it is highly convenient; there is no need to worry about traffic or finding somewhere to park, there are no long checkout queues to contend with.  However, shoppers are too often left underwhelmed with the quality and responsiveness of customer support from online companies.

Forrester Research has highlighted that customers in every sector are expecting faster service, anywhere, at any time.  Customers are increasingly using multiple ways to get in touch with customer services, from a telephone call, to using email, SMS and social media.  In theory, this choice and access to more information should offer an easier, more integrated experience.

However, too often this does not seem to be the case. The UK Customer Satisfaction Index indicates that customers are now investing more effort dealing with organisations than ever before.  A recent study by Accenture found that 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their enquiries to multiple customer service representatives.  With customer communications coming from many channels, it is also harder for customer service advisers to be fully informed and to accurately handle customer enquiries.

Great customer service and long-term business success

Keeping ahead of rising customer service expectations and engaging customers effectively presents a huge challenge to organisations.  One of the crucial building blocks to offering a seamless customer experience is an effective omni-channel strategy.  This more integrated approach can help boost brand perception and long-term business success.

Research by Gartner has found that 64% of people rate customer service as more important than price when making a purchase.    Consumer champion Which released a report in November 2018 listing Britain’s best and worst online retailers.  The survey found that the most successful retailers are those offering a personalised, convenient service that gives customers exactly what they want.  In turn this positively contributes to long term customer engagement and retention.

Get to know individual preferences

Companies with a great reputation for customer service have invested in getting to know their audience. Understanding customers’ preferred methods of contact is key to providing a consistently excellent experience across multiple channels. In an increasingly digital era, as well as using the telephone, people are choosing to engage using live chat services, social media platforms, email and SMS. Artificial intelligence like chatbots and virtual assistants are also becoming more commonplace in the customer service mix.

Omni-channel flexibility is key

There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to customer service.  It is important to understand individual preferences and to tailor ways to get in touch with different customers. This will include incoming requests as well as customer outreach.  While one person may use one single way of communicating like a live chat service, another person may opt for the telephone, email and SMS to progress an enquiry.  The challenge here is to bring information about the same enquiry together from a range of channels, to provide an informed and seamless experience for each individual customer.

An effective omni-channel customer service strategy builds a better long-term relationship between brand and customer and demonstrates a company’s ability to be empathic with the customer.  Notably, Aberdeen Group observes that companies with the strongest omni-channel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, compared with 33% for companies with weaker omni-channel strategies in place.

Gathering customer interactions into one place

The challenge for companies is recording all customer interactions, whatever the communication channel, in one place.  Choosing a technology that seamlessly swaps between different communication methods and records all interactions with each customer in one place is essential.  The right technology can also integrate information across channels to provide a consistent customer experience.  Apifonica’s technology is easy, versatile and cost effective to deploy integrated communications, enabling businesses to go the extra mile to encourage brand loyalty and customer retention.

Take a customer service adviser who is dealing with an enquiry about product availability.  The customer calls to make an initial enquiry on the telephone, forgets to ask something and calls again, then follows up by email.  The adviser needs sight of every communication and be able to respond accordingly, perhaps by sending the customer a quick update via SMS.  This would go a long way towards the customer having a satisfactory and positive experience of how their enquiry was handled as well as inspiring confidence in the company.

Enabling a positive customer experience

A Walker study highlights that, as soon as 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.  Customer experience will arguably become a more important factor in engaging customers and securing long-term retention than the product or service a company is selling.

Companies need to up their game in providing great customer experience as a competitive differentiator and ensure they have a robust omni-channel strategy in place.  By focusing on communications and making it easier for customers to get the information they want, when they want it and via the channel they wish to receive it, companies will ensure a positive customer experience.  Integrating multiple channels of communication is a simple and very powerful way to build trusted, long-term relationships with customers and to differentiate a business.