Opinion

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With businesses striving to become more customer-focused, new communications pathways are changing the paradigm of customer engagement. Chris Potts examines the growing need for all companies to adopt a contact centre approach, and dispels an old myth: size doesn’t matter.

In the so-called ‘age of the customer’, buzzwords like customer intimacy, customer experience and customer optimisation are thrown around like confetti to describe what traditionalists still regard as ‘good old customer service’. But, in a modern, multi-channel marketplace, customer engagement goes beyond mere semantics; it’s at the heart of every growth strategy.

Perhaps the most frequent customer experiences have historically occurred during direct interaction with customer service teams via traditional call centres. But you don’t need to have a call centre to deliver customer experience; all you need is customers – and a route for them to contact you. Good or bad, customer experience can have a major impact on brand loyalty. Fortunately, the technology to support customer-centricity is not only well-established, it’s both affordable and beneficial. Moreover, it’s relevant to all businesses, large and small.

A memorable experience

Customer experience begins the moment a customer first encounters your brand, and it pervades every single interaction before, during and after purchase. In a competitive environment where brand loyalty is a rare commodity, customer experience is everything. In fact, a recentreport cited that 89 per cent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.

Bad customer experience can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Taking too long to answer calls;
  •  Variability in service representatives;
  • Being placed on hold, or transferred from agent to agent without resolution;
  • Poorly informed customer service representatives;
  • Delays in response, or no response at all;
  • Failing to provide interaction over customers’ preferred communication channels;
  • Poor continuity in case handling; and
  • Failure to personalise communications.

Many of these are familiar, but with data suggesting that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience, it’s clear that poor service is not only memorable, but customers have famously long memories.

The business implications are significant; a poor experience can negatively impact customer retention, damage brand reputation and result in lost sales. Moreover, sub-optimal customer experience operations can lead to inefficient resourcing, poor productivity and increased costs. This can result in missed calls, missed opportunities and, inevitably, lost revenues.

Myth-busting

2013 data suggests that only around a quarter of companies have a well-developed strategy in place for improving customer experience. Although a growing number of businesses now regard it as a key strategic differentiator, many still regard communications systems that support customer experience as the preserve of big corporate. But it’s time to bust the myth; size doesn’t matter. When it comes to customer intimacy, experience counts, but size is irrelevant.

So here’s a ridiculous question: is your business too small to care about your customers’ experiences? No, thought not. So having established the absurdity of the suggestion, how can companies improve customer experience and drive brand loyalty? One answer is to deploy smart technologies that reflect evolving consumer communication preferences, and provide greater accountability for business managers.

Multi-channel approach

The customer is always right! So why do many businesses rely on outdated methodologies to interact with their clients? It’s time to communicate on your customers’ terms. The call centre is a dying breed; today’s consumers want to engage with businesses through channels other than the telephone. SMS, email, virtual agents, instant messaging, web chats, video and even social media are now all common touchpoints in the customer experience.

Chris Potts is Marketing Director of ANT Telecom.

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