National Customer Service Week: The expert view

6th Oct 2021

This week marks National Customer Service Week in the UK, which has given business leaders in the technology world a chance to step back and evaluate just how much they’ve seen consumer behaviour change. To support their viewpoint, a recent report by McKinsey found that consumers across the globe have responded to the pandemic crisis and its associated disruption to normal consumer behaviours, by trying different shopping behaviours and expressing a high intent (65 percent or more) to incorporate these behaviours going forward.

Whether it be mass order cancellations or the accelerated digital transformation we’ve all witnessed, business leaders have had to adapt – and quickly. As we enter the post pandemic landscape, there has been very little sign of heightened consumer expectations easing. 

So, with all this in mind, we ask a number of technology experts what companies must look to do to foster and retain brand loyalty, and what tools businesses must utilise to be successful. 

Embedding a customer first culture

Clive Shepherd, Head of Customer Experience at Shared Services Connected Ltd is of the opinion that “Within a B2B environment, embedding a customer-first culture is absolutely crucial to success. Services simply must be built with the user front of mind, and businesses need to follow in the footsteps of the more customer-centric, consumer facing industries. How then can organisations truly achieve this coveted customer-first culture? 

“B2B organisations need to recognise the component parts that make up a user experience and each of the parties involved obligations in that space, focus on their own stakeholders and obligations before jumping straight to the end user. This starts with moving away from the current focus many businesses have on SLAs and KPI performance for internal stakeholders and moving towards employee and consumer satisfaction. Providing tools for staff to share feedback and openly articulate their levels of satisfaction is essential to happy teams, higher productivity, and better customer service. As part of this, organisations need to ensure they’re considering each employee or consumer as an individual.” 

Changes in the way we interact

John Crossan, VP and General Manager, Europe, Freshworks, believes “The pandemic has made a significant difference to the way consumers interact with brands and how they expect to be communicated to. Recent Freshworks research made it clear that businesses cultivating closer, more personal relationships with customers will be looked on more favourably. In fact, over half of Brits (55%) said they expect brands to consider their personal values when communicating and show more honesty (77%) and empathy (61%) in their customer interactions.

“At the same time, consumers will prioritise brands that give them choice in how to communicate with them. It’s no longer acceptable to make customers sit on hold for hours – customers expect to receive fast, informative service across an array of different channels, depending on what’s convenient for them.

“Given the variety of preferences within the customer base of any business, it’s crucial to provide a number of different channels and options, including both opportunities for human interaction and more automated routes for those that prefer customer service via self-service chatbots. The opportunity is there for businesses to delight the customers that are increasingly looking for easy, modern and more meaningful brand interactions – now they need to take it.”

Operating through digital channels

Matthew O’Neill, Industry Managing Director at VMware shares his take that National Customer Service week presents a good opportunity to discuss the shift in how businesses operate, as many shifted their approach to solely operating through digital channels during the pandemic. He explains further that “This transition didn’t come without its challenges. In many cases, businesses were forced to reassess their creativity and, in some cases, even their business models.

“Recent research from VMware reveals that this investment is at least starting to pay off. In the retail sector, almost one third of the British public reported that retailers now deliver a better digital experience than they did prior to the pandemic, indicating the evolved role of ecommerce stores in not just continuing but in some cases improving customer experiences.  In line with this, one-third (32%) of the public have said that they are not missing in-store retail as much as they thought they would. 

“Moreover, there has been a growing appetite for more innovative digital experiences over the past year. For example, our research found that almost half (45%) of people would welcome an increased use of virtual or augmented reality by retailers to better understand how products might look in their homes.”

Delivering empathetic experiences 

Helen Briggs, senior vice president and general manager for EMEA at Genesys believes the world and the way we interact with each other has changed forever by the events of the past year and a half. She says “Our recent survey shows people feel that the companies they work for have actively listened, understood and acted on their feedback, resulting in a significant proportion feeling more seen and heard by bosses than ever before. In fact, nearly half of workers (45%) believe the organisation they work for is more empathetic towards staff today than it was prior to the pandemic – with 35% of respondents stating that they now receive more emotional support at work. 

“It is vital for brands to follow suit, using technologies to digitally scale and orchestrate empathetic experiences as we enter a landscape of even greater digital adaptation and possibility. Our survey found that over two thirds of respondents (69%) state it is important for brands to act with empathy when dealing with them as a customer today. Additionally, it also discovered that more than one in ten (12%) believe brand empathy has decreased. Over half (57%) of respondents want brands to get better at assigning the best available resource (bot or human) to engage with them in real-time depending on the issue they experience. Companies must take onboard these findings, understanding that key to their survival now will involve actively listening to what consumers have to say and taking the appropriate action.  

“Taking these findings on board will help businesses foster even greater customer and brand loyalty. When orchestrated cohesively across every channel, businesses can offer the same level of empathy to each consumer as they do to their own employees. This approach has the power to differentiate organisations from their competitors, drive deeper emotional connections with customers, and establish companies as loyalty leaders in our increasingly digital economy.”

Utilising technology to secure brand loyalty

Suzette Meadows, Lead Consultant, Contact Centre/Unified Communications, Exponential-e summarises the overall sentiment well by explaining “This year’s Customer Service Week’s theme is ‘The Power of Service’, so it seems fitting to celebrate how technology empowers businesses to provide the best customer service – even during global crises like the one we are experiencing – and explore how its role could grow even further. 

“The best thing about technology is that it allows us to always be connected, whether it’s with friends, families, or for a business, with its customers. Its role in responsive and proactive customer service strategies is crucial. Firstly, because it enables consumers to have that 24/7 connection with a brand that is needed to build trust, and secondly because it allows businesses to implement and enforce SLAs which guarantee customer queries and issues will be responded to within a short timeframe. 

“Brand loyalty is something most businesses today can’t survive without. Technology is a huge part of that equation, but can’t simply be introduced via a series of stand-alone initiatives. It has to put customer service at the heart of a business, so companies can make their customer experience a true differentiator and USP in crowded markets. 

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