“In a world where publishing is effortless, the decision to publish isn’t terribly momentous”
Shirky, C. Here Comes Everybody (p.79)
Everybody has become a media outlet in today’s ‘flat world’, the internet has not only brought people closer together but also created a platform for the individual to voice their opinions to truly global audience. With blogs, vlogs, podcasts and social networks it has never been easier to publish and voice our views. Furthermore the advent of 3G mobile network means that we can now publish from anywhere. According to ITU the International Telecommunication Union right now on the planet over 77% of people living in developed nations use the Internet. So how does this affect the customer service industry?
The increase in connectivity and the ease of publication certainly adds to the reach of good customer experience. As common sense would dictate a good customer experience leads to a more loyal customer base. This principle of customer experience is reported by Forresters in June 2013 who found that:
“…a high correlation between consumers’ rating of a firm in the Customer Experience Index (CXi) and their willingness to buy from the company again and their likelihood to recommend that company”
Forrester, The Business Impact Of Customer Experience 2013
The same can be said when we evaluate companies such as ASOS, the UK based Internet fashion retailer. Established in 2001 ASOS has since become one of the UK biggest fashion brands. The rapid growth of the ASOS brand is down to creating a good customer experience, which their customers would later return home and share via social networking.
We can demonstrate the correlation between high CXi and brand loyalty by looking at the rapid growth ASOS has experienced. What sets ASOS apart from its competitors is in the way it interacts with its consumers. It actively encourages customers to blog about their range and encourages consumers to make suggestions. This has created an environment where consumers are not mere customers but fans with an active interest in the company and a sense of being a part of the decision making process. The role of a customer service agent within the digital age is no longer just about simply providing service and resolving issues. Agents in today’s environment must be brand and community leaders with a keen understanding of their demographic in order to encourage participation and not just create new customers but fans, (advocates in ladder of loyalty terms).
The ASOS brand of customer based marketing has also highlighted a distinct change in the way products are marketed. Which? 2013 customer satisfaction survey recently found people were becoming increasingly frustrated with extra sales being tacked onto call centre service. Companies using telemarketing as a means to advertise or highlight new products should take heed of this shift in customer preferences.
With an increasingly empowered and knowledgeable consumer, companies would benefit from making their services and product information available on all formats from tablets to mobile telephone. Prospective customers will approach companies when they feel drawn to the product or service and ready to make a purchase. It is as well to remember the old adage that as customers most of us love to buy but hate to be sold too.
Does this make call centre redundant? No, of course not. Call centre agents provide a vital service providing information quickly and accurately, taking the order and should upsell and cross sell where skillful discussion reveals a genuine customer requirement for the company service or products. This is very different from arbitrarily pitching for a sale without establishing a customer want or need. A ‘sales through service’ philosophy incorporates a ‘win-win’ for customer and company. It is therefore likely to be perceived by the customer as adding value to their purchase, as it is stimulated by their interest. In addition, the unique role of the front-line customer service agent makes them an ideal group to help grow a company’s S-Commerce presence. What forward thinking contact centres are doing is providing greater choice in how customers can contact them. The emphasis is now on call centres becoming true contact centres, not only answering queries via the telephone and responding to email and letter but in addition assisting customers via SMS text, social network sites, over a live chat and moderating forums.
If anything the role of contact centre has become an even more vital part of the organisation’s long-term business growth plan. This is only possible however with training and investment helping the contact centre adapt to the world of Web 2.0.