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Guest Blogger

The customer journey has changed dramatically in the past few years. There is no longer a linear process where a customer seeks out information on products, makes a purchase, the possibly follows up with a call to the customer service team. Today, there is engagement and interaction at all stages in the journey, across many different channels, and these interactions are not even necessarily with customers.

Think about your own interactions with brands today. I recently booked a hotel room using WhatsApp. I asked an airline which movies they are showing using Twitter. I asked a planetarium about telescopes using Facebook. I exchanged jokes with Olympic athletes competing in Rio using Instagram.

The past half decade has seen an explosion in the channels that customers can use for communication and a change in customer expectations. It’s not possible for a brand to say “we don’t offer customer service on Snapchat” because if customers are talking about your products using that channel then you need to be there. Otherwise everyone will assume that you are ignoring them.

I was thinking about this when I saw a great article on the technology that underpins all this customer insight in Tech Target. Many companies installed Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems years ago, but found that the systems never delivered as promised. The problem with traditional CRM is that the systems are only as good as the data that goes in and data entry was often manual. How often would the sales team really go in and update the system to reflect all their client conversations that day?

Now most of the interactions between brands and customers are electronic. It’s easy to build systems that can capture and analyse this information. Companies can create a CRM system that gives real-time insights into what people are saying about products. This sentiment analysis can be extremely useful when planning a marketing campaign, but it’s also possible to jump into conversations – giving customers feedback in the same channels they are using.

But stop for a moment. As the Tech Target feature suggests, if you want better insights into your customers today then you need better systems. However this means that the days when running a customer service centre meany managing a contact centre are long gone. Today there is a need to understand existing and emerging social networks, Big Data sets, and data analysis. In addition, you may have other systems that support your business such as POS (Point of Sale) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) too – these also require analysis

All these systems need to allow customer data to be analysed so the customer experience is improved. This happens by using your knowledge of the customer to offer recommendations and deals that are personalised just for this individual customer – and if you are a retailer then it helps if you can also bundle together your payment and loyalty systems so the in-store customer gets the same personalised advice as the online shopper.

When you stop and think about the technology needed to create a great customer experience today, it can be staggeringly complex. But customers aren’t thinking about this – they just expect service 24/7 on any convenient channel they choose to use. It’s no surprise that only the biggest organisations can do all this internally today, but even the CX suppliers need to change their thinking. They are no longer selling FTEs (Full Time Equivalents) in contact centres, yet how many customer service suppliers are offering their services using a pricing model that resembles how an agency works?

This is something I’d like to investigate further. If you know of any CX experts offering an outsourced customer service package that operates across multiple channels and is not charged just by FTE then let me know, it would be interesting to learn more…

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