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24 February 2017

Technology as a tool for total customer service

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Excellent customer service is the key to retaining customers and boosting profits — and technology can help your organization achieve it.The world of technology has opened up so many new areas to businesses, what is technology by the way; according to Dr. Mensah Otabil “it is the methods of solving problems”.

This is especially true when it comes to what they can offer their customers and how they can help improve their overall experience. While most businesses are leveraging the power of technology in their business, many are still working toward doing that as expressed by Joe Gerard.

Focusing on keeping current customers can drive profits far more than focusing on acquiring new customers according to Andrea Holved.

Increasing a business’s customer-retention rate by 5% leads to an increase in profits of 25% to 95%, while a 10% retention rate increase boosts a company’s value by 30%, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review. A separate study by Adobe found that it takes five new customers to equal the revenue of one repeat customer. Clearly, keeping your customers is important. But how do you do it? By providing the best possible customer service.

Eighty-two percent of consumers say they’ve stopped doing business with a company because of a negative customer-service experience, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for RightNow Technologies. Perhaps an even stronger vote in favor of providing good service: The majority of Americans are willing to spend more money with companies they believe provide excellent customer service, according to an annual survey by American Express.

Current technology can help or hurt your customer-service efforts, depending on how quick you’ve been to embrace your customers’ changing expectations. For example, if you aren’t utilizing live chat services—56% of 18- to 34-year-olds prefer it—or monitoring social media channels for customer complaints—88% of messages to brands go unanswered—you may be losing customers daily and not even realizing it.

The following customer-service technologies may be of help to organizations:

Live chat: “More than 70% of our tickets come through online chat,” Politis says. “Customers love interacting through live chat because it gives them instant gratification, instant interaction with someone who can help them and generally solves their problems much faster. With that being said, it is important to have enough team members fully dedicated to online chat because response times need to be sub-10 seconds to keep the customer from getting frustrated.”

CRM software: “It’s not just a sales tool anymore,” Politis says. “It needs to be used across the board, from sales to account management to technical support, all the way to the billing department. It’s important for everyone to be on exactly the same page about the customer’s history with the company.”

Customer-service platform: The biggest appeal of using a customer-service platform isn’t necessarily the increased speed of response or improved organization of support tickets—it’s the analytics. “We look at a number of key metrics: how many tickets have been opened in a day/week/month, how many tickets per agent, how many have been solved, first response time on web-tickets and chats, total resolution time, customer-satisfaction score, and interaction stats for our knowledge base,” Politis says. It’s this analytics that helps the company reward their best employees and adapt their products and systems to better serve their customers’ needs, he says.

From handling customer complaints to establishing better service that helps to reduce the number of complaints received, technology has made strides in all areas. There are technology tools today that all companies can tap into in order to improve their services and help provide better options to their customers. Here are a few of the advancements in technology that people are using today to improve customer service processes, and others should consider:

Case management software. No matter what type of business you have if there are customer cases that need to be managed this provides the best solution. It helps businesses keep all customer record information in one place, and allows for collaboration and access remotely. Case management software is a simple answer to handling every aspect of customer service.

Online account access. Most people go online today for more information. They want to be able to access their account information online, in addition to being able to make purchases, contact customer service, and a number of things. Using technology tools to be online for your customers means you are where they want you to be.

Cloud solutions. Being able to use technology to store information in the cloud means that you can provide better customer service. It has been designed to help protect your information, allow for collaboration, and be easily accessible from anywhere your staff needs to access it. The collaboration abilities allow your team to be able to provide better service overall.

Billing solutions. Technology tools that have been designed to handle customer billing are often integrated with the information that is needed and has been updated. This is especially true for those who work in a field like telecom. Billing tools have been integrated to work with such billing options making the process easier.

Social media. Technology advances have given us a whole new sector – social media. And the tools in social media can be effective for those who use them to find their target audience, make contact with their current and potential customers, and use the tools to handle customer complaints.

Total support. Technology advances have even opened up a whole world of total support packages. For example, when Virgin America wanted to improve on their customer service they hired a company to take care of the whole thing. Technology advances made it possible, and as a result the changes they implemented by using the outsourced customer service resulted in a 10 percent improvement in agent productivity and a 9.5 percent gain in accuracy of forecasting monthly call volumes.If you use technology to your advantage, a rewards program can benefit your business by providing the detailed customer data that businesses otherwise have to pay market-research firms thousands of Ghana cedis for. Turning that information into better promotions and higher revenue is easier than ever. Let us continue with a few tech tools that will help organizations do it:

POS systems

“The easiest way to get the ball rolling on some sort of rewards program is through a point-of-sale system,” says Justin Guinn, the market researcher who conducted the Software Advice survey and authored its report.Most modern point-of-sale (POS) systems offer customer relationship management (CRM) functionality, Guinn says, which tracks purchase histories and builds customer profiles using various identifiers: credit-card number, phone number, an email address—even a sensor that can detect the customer’s mobile phone (mobile payment systems).Many POS systems also include loyalty software, which manages your rewards program for you and seamlessly links your customer profiles to their rewards.

“A CRM doesn’t necessarily do anything with the information that you’re collecting,” says Julie Titterington, the managing editor at Merchant Maverick. “Loyalty software would help you act on any information that you have about your customers.”If your POS system doesn’t include loyalty software, there are many standalone options that are designed to be integrated with existing payment systems, including e-commerce systems.

Loyalty networks

An offshoot of loyalty software is a loyalty network: a loyalty program that does all of the marketing and management for you, and for the hundreds of other businesses in the network.Every loyalty network is different in its application: some issue rewards cards that a customer must swipe in order to accumulate points (and provide you with the iPad you need to do the swiping); some require customers to register their credit-card numbers or mobile money payment number, so their rewards can be tallied automatically when they pay with their card or mobile money payment number at an in-network store; some offer traditional rewards, like free drinks or discounts; some offer cash back.All of them have an online portal or an app that allows customers to search for network businesses and track their rewards.

Loyalty networks tend to focus on independent businesses, and some appealing to loyal customers who want to support their local businesses. For a fee, they’ll advertise your business to their members and provide you with detailed data about the customers who visit your store.For businesses that want to offer their customers a state-of-the-art rewards program, but don’t want to spend much time implementing or marketing it, a loyalty network can be a win-win.

Web forms and email marketing

David Yuengling, the president and CEO of Yuengling’s Ice Cream, faces an interesting problem: How can he reach his loyal customers when they buy his product exclusively at third-party retailers?A POS system wouldn’t help him, and neither would a loyalty network. So he’s asking customers to sign up on his website.

After giving their name, email address, mailing address, and birthday, a customer is added to the loyalty program, which Yuengling manages using the email marketing system Constant Contact. New members receive a free gift in the mail just for signing up, and an annual coupon for a free quart of ice cream during their birthday month. Yuengling also sends targeted email notices to nearby customers when a particular grocery store has a sale on his ice cream, which helps drive traffic to the store, like some telecom companies in Ghana does to its customers on their birthday, etc.

The strategy is about “making people aware of the customer loyalty program, and letting them know how to sign up, rather than trying to actually sign them up manually,” Yuengling says. At promotional events, his employees are equipped with cards to pass out to interested customers, explaining how to join the loyalty program. Also, the program is mentioned in the company’s advertising campaigns. Andrea Holved concludes that that is an important part of any loyalty program is “the marketing aspect of loyalty software is super important to its ultimate effectiveness”. “If you’re going to have a loyalty program, you’re going to have to be able to do the legwork to promote it. People aren’t going to use it if they don’t know about it.” Therefore, let us make use of technological tools to benefit both internal and external customers for the dividend of the organization; it is not enough to have the tools without making it known and using it – “the power is yours”.

 

Source: Daniel Adjei | Management Consultant | Spint Consult Limited | dadjei@spintconsult.com | +233-302-915421

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