The future of customer service is already with us today

The social media analysis company Hootsuite has just released a new white paper focused on the future of customer service. You can download a copy here.

As you might expect, it’s packed full of statistics, but I want to pull out three for discussion:

  1. Customers who engage with companies over social media spend an average of 30% more with those companies than other customers
  2. Only 39% of companies bother to answer questions from customers using social channels
  3. Customers almost always share a customer experience where it took place over social media – if it’s a good experience they tell on average 42 friends, if it’s bad then they tell 53.

This is not really about the future of customer service, it’s the here and now. We are seeing the effect of these preferences on a daily basis.

It cannot be denied that voice calls are still the most important channel for customer service interactions, but social media is growing fast.

If the customers that use social media when asking questions are more likely to spend more then it seems obvious that companies should engage – it’s just good business sense. In addition, these customers are likely to tell more friends about a bad experience than a good experience.

With statistics like this it seems that planning for a multichannel social media customer service strategy is something that is urgently needed now and with only 39% of companies regularly answering online questions there is still a lot of room for improvement.

What do you think about the need for a multichannel customer strategy? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Iced tea at Georgia's, version 2


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Telcos are focusing on content

I have often talked about the future for telcos being more focused on the content they provide rather than the number of free texts they offer to customers and a recent move by EE appears to be moving down this exact path.

EE has announced a TV service for all broadband subscribers, but they have decided to just offer content that is freely available in the UK rather than any premium content. I am not sure how attractive this service will be to customers.

There is a reason that people are prepared to pay up to £100 per month for a subscription TV service. It’s because the content is great and services such as live sport or catch-up for US TV channels are not going to be replicated in the very basic plan that EE is offering.

In contrast, Vodafone has already signed a deal with Netflix for their TV service so the free channels option from EE doesn’t appear to match up to others even at the time of launch.

I believe that the direction of travel is correct, even if the execution appears to be lacking here. If EE can evolve this strategy so additional premium channels and services are available – and also available on mobile devices rather than just in the home – then they will have a much stronger proposition.

The battle over content is only just beginning, but it’s already clear that offering a few free-to-air channels is not good enough. What’s your view on the network providers moving to a content strategy? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Forgotten television


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Customer loyalty is changing

I read a news item on TechRadar recently titled ‘customer loyalty is changing and your marketing plan should be too’ and I was interested in the idea that customer service commentators are now explicitly defining ‘customer loyalty’ and linking this to marketing and key messages.

This idea is not new and I have echoed similar sentiments on this blog before, but it’s my belief that there are still not enough people from the customer service industry reminding business leaders across all sectors how far-reaching this evolution in customer behaviour and the nature of what is defined as ‘loyalty’  are going to be.

Because it’s not just that customer service has changed. Anyone can see that. The introduction of social media and the explosion of new channels over the past few years has changed the way that customers communicate with brands, but customer service has never been the only place that brands interacted with their existing and potential customers.

Teams such as marketing, advertising, and public relations have always planned how messages should be communicated from a brand to customers, but the way customers behave and interact with service channels has changed. While these functions of business remain largely concerned with one-way dialogue and annual awards for creativity, customers expect two-way communications that test the credibility of the marketing message, product claim or service guarantee, and therefore in so doing, their ‘loyalty’ antennae is already tingling.

Moreover and as an extension of this customer behaviour, far more pre-purchase research is now undertaken. There is an ongoing debate about products with reviews posted by customers, and forums allow questions to be asked and to turn into ongoing debates.

All this information, often created by customers, has become an extension to the ‘official’ marketing plan for any company today, yet if the company does not create and control this material then how can it ensure the information is correct? Through improved direct engagement and debate.

Customers need to know that companies will interact and engage before, during, and after purchases. And every channel from voice to chat to social media needs to be integrated referencing one version of the truth. This engagement can ensure that online information is fair and correct and interacting in this way will stimulate more customer loyalty than any loyalty points offers ever could.

I wonder have you any examples of how your own customer behaviour and interaction with a customer service team is changing? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Stock Market

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Celebrating Customer Service Week

Last week was International Customer Service Week, an event started by the International Customer Service Association back in 1984 – thirty years ago! This week was originally created as a way to recognise and reward the people and companies that are focused on great customer service.

Unfortunately I was too busy working with customers last week to blog about it until the week was officially over, however as far as I am concerned every week is customer service week. So even though the international celebration was last week, what can we do on the blog to mark this once a year focus on customer service?

I think that with teams in 62 countries the Teleperformance team will have some great stories of customer service from recent weeks. What I would like to do is to collect together some examples of great service and to publish a collection of them here on the blog.

I think the best way to arrange this is not to ask people to self-nominate, but rather for people who have seen or heard a colleague go far beyond the level of service a customer might usually expect, to nominate these examples. Let’s hear about the best examples you have witnessed recently where team members have really helped the customer.

And there is no need for the examples to come only from Teleperformance. Just leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @matt_sims1 with your own examples of great service and I’ll plan to collect some together soon.

Customer Service


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Could British retailers learn from the phone networks?

I blogged recently about the collapse of Phones 4U and how the model of selling mobile phone contracts is changing. The biggest change is the decline of the third-party expert, able to advise on contracts from all the major networks, but there has been an interesting development since the collapse.

Both Vodafone and O2 have been focusing on the rapid increase in their own High Street presence. We talk a lot about the explosion in digital and social activity and how online retail has developed since the 90s, yet here we can see that as one phone retailer dies out the networks are rolling out their own stores in the High Street to fill that retail vacuum.

It’s clear that for something as complex as a telephone, most customers still want to be able to visit a store where they can see and touch the product as well as getting expert advice and support in person.

This is an interesting paradox as the product being sold by phone retailers facilitates price comparison and online sales from anyplace at anytime, yet the customers still value being able to walk into a store to ask questions when they have a problem.

It’s not a surprise, but it is contrary to the popular belief that ‘showrooming’ is killing the High Street. Perhaps other retailers could learn from the mix of online and in-store support the phone networks are offering to their customers?

What do you think? Will the High Street be saturated with too many stores offering phones? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

tesco phone shop


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The Future of Outbound

There are some who will tell you that outbound has no future and that customer acquisition has moved on, they will point to growing numbers of people on TPS and the fact that the modern day multi-channel environment means a customer can instigate the sales approach should they be inclined to do so.

But before we condemn the thousands of people working on outbound projects in the UK, and even greater numbers around the globe, to a gloomy future first we should look a little closer at what has actually changed in the industry as a detailed inspection shows a number of thriving outbound operations who are growing their teams. Perhaps the people who say outbound has no future are the same people who said CDs and vinyl have no place on the high-street; you only have to look at the resurrection of HMV to show that those who reflect and react can prove to be resilient.

It is certainly true that the number of people registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) has increased significantly in the last few years but many of those people did so to avoid unsolicited calls from companies who they have no associated or affiliation with. People registered on TPS still receive outbound calls from those companies who they have given permission to and from companies who they are a customer of which means there are huge numbers of customers who would welcome an outbound call from a company they know and to talk about a product or service that will actually be beneficial to them.

Only last week I received a call from my credit card provider, they were calling to talk to me about an insurance product that protects my gadgets and personal belongings without affecting my house insurance and protecting me from premium rises should I need to make a claim.  As a family with 3 tablets, 2 mobile phones, and consoles to keep children entertained the product was ideal for me and after arranging for a call-back in a week’s time, to give me time to consult with my home insurance provider, I took the product and can say that I am pleased that my credit card provider invested the time to call me and make me aware that this product existed. I certainly would not have thought to look for it online, via their web-chat service or by looking through statement inserts and as such without the call I wouldn’t have found it!  After the call I was invited to take part in a customer satisfaction survey which showed me they cared about my experience and not just about chalking another sale on the white board!

The experience I describe is a perfect example of a company who had a genuine relationship with a customer, tailoring what they knew about the customer to offer a product that the customer might value, making a  skilled and friendly call and allowing the customer time to think before calling back when they said they would and allowing the customer to make the decision. They also had a brand to protect and existing value in the customer they were speaking to which influenced how they made the call and ultimately gave them more than one way to deem the call a success.

Those companies who have the right product and are willing to trust their customers to make an informed decision without having to apply tough sales techniques certainly have a future in the world of outbound and I would go so far as to say that their future grows rosier by the day as others who cold-call with abrasive, un-trained staff who have tunnel vision for their commission find it increasingly hard to make ends meet and eventually leave the market.

Looking to the future the outbound industry should reflect on the 3 Ps of performance; people, products and processes. If you can pull a call recording and listen to it in front of our clients without wincing then you have the right people. If you can generate sales through description rather than prescription then you have the right product.  If you can manage a team consistently with your customer at the heart of every decision you make then you have the right processes.  If you can tick those 3 boxes then have confidence that your customers will welcome your call and have confidence that you can grow your market share by operating a successful outbound team.

Why Didn't You Call Me?
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Are you ignoring those silent, dissatisfied customers?

The business magazine Forbes recently featured an article that suggests only 25% of dissatisfied customers let companies know that they are unhappy with a product or service received. The vast majority of customers stay silent and just never return to your business.

This is important to remember when planning a customer service strategy because it shows just how many customers can be influenced. If you are not receiving very many complaints, it does not mean that every customer is happy and satisfied, yet this is often the conclusion that is drawn.

So if you turn this around and make the quality of interactions a focus of what the company plans to do well, then what can be achieved? In short, your company is going to earn a lot more – a focus on improving customer interactions will almost certainly lead to an improvement in revenue.

This process can be kick-started in three ways:

  1. Make it easier for customers to complain – ask for comments. You don’t want customers to be silent if they are not happy. You want an opportunity to fix the problem so an initially upset customer goes away happy and loyal, rather than silent and never to return.
  2. Analyse what customers are saying, even if they are not saying it to you. At Teleperformance we have a Customer Experience Lab in Portugal that can analyse social networks, blogs, media, and forums to find out what customers think about a product even if they are not telling the brand directly. This is the kind of intelligence you should also be seeking out.
  3. Have an opinion. Create more content to help customers with your products. Use multimedia channels such as video and audio to publish your ideas. This not only helps customers, it can prevent many complaints, and it can solicit discussion to help generate improvements and future products.

How have you tried addressing silent customers? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Gagged Beatles


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