Every time the Big Winter Games come around, I find myself with an overwhelming sense of inspiration. The Big Games have been one of my favorite sports events ever since I was a child; I still remember watching virtually all of the events – yes, even figure skating – together with my dad, who was a huge fan of winter sports.
Watching the best athletes in the world overcome obstacles, push the limits and achieve greatness serves as a great motivator for how we can apply the same level of dedication and excellence to our own fields.
While I consider myself an avid skier, I am not racing down the mountain nor physically soaring to new heights on the half-pipe like the athletes on TV. However, I like to think my career in marketing, commerce, and customer service has plenty of opportunities for a healthy adrenaline spike.
The Recipe for Winning: Make Customer Service Effortless
Engaging with your customers and striving to provide a world-class customer experience is very similar to receiving a gold medal – whether it is on the halfpipe, the slope, the ice rink or the ice track – it needs to be effortless. Customers expect convenience, speed, reliability, and relevance when they interact with your company – whether they search for the right product, would like to get advice and recommendations, when they are ready to buy or when they need help after the purchase. Nowadays, many shoppers prefer to do all of this online or on their mobile device.
Effortless requires a lot of effort, just like becoming a world champion. You need to be aware of everything that affects how you get down the mountain – and that includes the snow conditions, your gear, your posture, the strength of your core, and how you react to difficult conditions. This requires relentless practice, rigid preparation, and the ambition to win.
When the final race is on, everything needs to come together and run like a well-oiled machine. To compete with the best of the best, you need to do all of this and perform with grace.
The same principal applies to wining the customer experience – it encompasses a broad range of functions. So, it’s important to hone and perfect all the various aspects of it – across the front-office and the back office – to achieve the ultimate prize: customer loyalty.
The Technology Factor: Man and Machine
Equipment and technology have always been factors in the Big Games: the material and shape of the skis, the wax, the suit of the ski-jumpers, and more. Recently, video, analytics, and data have had a role in these events. Similarly, in customer service, technologies such as AI and machine learning, have become available and they can be used to improve customer experiences.
Armed with these technologies, we are now entering a new stage of customer service. Chatbots never sleep and are easy to scale – posing many benefits for the “gold” standard of customer service. Chatbots can be a great supplemental service option that can help customers resolve simple requests quickly and conveniently, and enable human support resources to be more efficient and focused on larger, more in-depth customer demands.
Always On: Go Digital
According to a recent study, 87% of U.S. consumers expect response from customer service within 24 hours of a request and 20% within one hour. Traditionally, customer service has been placed at the tail-end of any engagement – solely a post-purchase experience, however, that is no longer adequate. Service needs to be integrated into every stage of the buying journey, which can be particularly tricky with the proliferation of digital channels, causing shoppers to look for relevant and timely answers to their questions, regardless of when or where they are being asked.
Airlines have become an early front runner in some aspects of the digital customer service race. In general, the industry makes a variety of online tools available – mobile apps, websites, and text alerts – allowing customers to answer questions themselves and handle routine tasks that were traditionally handled by agents.
You Are What You Eat: Gather Clean Data and Feed your Bots
With machine learning evolving, virtual assistants including chatbots, are taking on more tasks by the day. Essential to success of this technology is quality data – the more of it, the smarter machines become and the more accurate insights are derived. If effective, companies can digitalize manual tasks, shaving off minutes of customer resolution time, keeping the customer happy and facilitating loyalty.
Successful customer service is a combination of convenience (making service effortless), responsiveness (speed), and actual problem resolution. It doesn’t happen overnight and takes time, conscious practice, and diligence. Fortunately, for those in the commerce industry, the “gold” standard isn’t reserved to the lucky few, it’s available for all. Next time you see your favorite athlete do something incredible, consider how you can do the same in your own field to get your own gold medal.