by Mike Serpan
Today, consumers have at their fingertips a wide variety of ways to interact with the companies with which they are customers. They can pick up a phone and call a help line; log on to the Internet and access a company Web site; write an email or send a tweet; or use their smartphones to send a text message or access a mobile app.
Clearly, advancements in technology have dramatically changed the customer service landscape by expanding the number of ways consumers are able to engage with companies. But, as new service channels grow in use and acceptance, the challenge for companies to provide a consistent multichannel experience becomes even greater.
For technology companies, customer expectations are especially high.
Tech consumers, who tend to be the early adopters of new devices, are the most likely to embrace new customer service channels, such as social media, texting, video support or a mobile app. According to Convergys 2011 U.S. Customer Scorecard Research, 85% of technology customers have a social media account, a smartphone or a tablet. With these devices conveniently at their disposal, 45% reported they had used one of the newer channels for customer care in the last six months. That’s nearly double the percentage for customers across all industries.
Although the majority (65%) of technology customers today still choose live phone support as one of their top two most preferred service options, as younger consumers become more dominant in the market, channel preference will further grow in variety. Among tech consumers, only 52% of Millennials listed phone support as one of their top two preferred channels compared to 70% of Gen Xers and 82% of Baby Boomers.
New channel use can also be seen among those customers who contacted a tech company more than once. Our research shows these customers used a more diverse mix of channels on their first attempt at contact, but often resorted to using phone support to resolve their issue on the second contact.
These failed first attempts are where we can see the importance of a consistent multichannel experience. While technology customers are generally positive about customer service, more than one-third of tech customers reported having a bad experience with a technology company. And when their experience goes sour, the same technologies that have empowered tech customers to interact with technology companies at their convenience quickly become conduits for airing their grievances. Social media can have a considerable impact. Nearly half of technology consumers said they had read a social media post about someone else’s bad experience in the past six months; of them, 84% said that they avoided or stopped doing business with a company as a result.
Providing multichannel customer care comes down to what you know about your customers and how you use that information. In order to deliver a consistent multichannel experience, technology companies can:
- Leverage analytics-driven systems to capture and integrate information from multiple sources to deliver a holistic view of the customer regardless of channel and help shape interactions to the individual’s preference.
- Enhance channel integration to enable smooth transitions for customers moving from one channel to the next reducing the time and effort associated with the interaction.
- Apply social media listening technologies to identify and proactively engage with customers through social networks.
The customer service bar is set a little higher for technology companies. Because many of their innovations helped make possible the new channels that exist, and because their customers are quick to adopt new channels, tech companies have to know how to best leverage them for service. For the most part, technology companies have risen to the occasion, but there’s always room for improvement.
Mike Serpan is a vice president in Convergys’ customer management business, which provides agent-assisted, self-service, and proactive care solutions that support client customers worldwide.