Technology does a lot to make everyone’s lives easier — and most of it can be done from our smartphones.
Set up alarms, send and receive work emails, and order food, to name a few. It’s all well and dandy and we’re all so used to it, leaving your phone at home can sometimes feel like walking around without a limb. #FirstWorldProblems.
But in addition to making the day-to-day more comfortable, having the right technology for your business has become as essential as the goods and services you offer. Failing to stay up to date means giving your competitors with a competitive advantage. This is especially true of your customer service technology because it directly impacts the entire customer experience you're providing.
However, like any technology, customer service technology can go wrong.
When your tech misbehaves, it inevitably sabotages any process it’s applied to. And since so much of software and IT is opaque, you might follow whatever recommendations it spits out – without ever knowing they’re off the mark.
It’s one thing when a piece of software stops working. It’s another when the problem is so subtle it leads you onto the wrong track. That can come from technical glitches, of course, but the issue is usually deeper: A misapplication of technology.
How can you ensure you’re using the best kind of customer service technology? Is what you’re currently using outdated? And what are some trends that you should be focusing on?
How Customer Service Technology Affects Business
In order to provide the best customer service in the market, you have to be able to effectively communicate with your customers. You have to be able to answer their questions the moment they need answers, and they have to be able to conduct transactions with you knowing that their information is secure.
In addition to making things easier for your customers, adequate technology also improves your team’s ability to do their jobs. Among many of its benefits, your employees can count on:
- Improved workflow
- The ability to work remotely
- Reduced workload, as AI and bots take care of simpler customer requests
- Making decisions based on data
- Increased productivity
- Assisting happier customers, since they have more options to choose when reaching out to your business (email, text, live chat, phone calls, social media)
What Is Customer Service Technology?
Customer service technology is software that allows you to organize customer data more efficiently, in a way that makes sense for your business. All information is safeguarded in one centralized location — visitors, leads, customers, contact information, a history of their interactions with your business.
This allows you to provide a more streamlined customer service experience, as reps will know how to best serve customers without asking them to repeat their stories ad infinitum.
Not all customer service technologies are created equal. There are many types of customer service software, each of them targeted to different types of industries, preferences, and target markets. Common examples of customer service technologies include:
- Call centers/phone support with automatic call routing
- Interactive voice recognition
- Virtual assistants
- Instant messaging/live chats
- Knowledge base/self-service
- Mobile applications
- Omni-channel communications
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software
How Technology Can Improve Customer Service
It Caters to User Preference.
Depending on your buyer persona’s age range, they’ll have a preferred method for reaching out to customer service. People your grandmother’s age likely prefer to make phone calls. Depending on who you are, you may prefer to email or text.
And for those who need an answer immediately, live chat is an ideal form of communication. Offering several options based on what your target market prefers makes them a happier bunch.
It Provides a Personalized Experience.
One of the most frustrating customer experiences is when a caller feels like the customer service rep is simply repeating responses memorized from a script. Referring to people by their name and making reference to facts they’ve already provided lets them know that you value them and that you’re listening.
Sometimes, you’ll already have this information because the customer told you. But in many instances, customer service technology will have already gathered relevant data for you — such as where in the sales funnel the person is on their buyer’s journey.
It Fosters More Effective Communications.
In some instances, resolving a situation requires the customer to reach out to you more than once. When that happens, you want your customer service reps to pick up right where the last communication left off.
Knowing what happened during the last point of contact and how to move forward to resolve issues helps to eliminate the frustration that comes from being just another number – and having to explain things over and over again as clueless operators take their calls.
It Allows Your Employees To Do Their Work More Efficiently.
Employee satisfaction and happy customers go hand in hand. Think about it. If they’re overworked and/or lack the resources necessary to do their job, customers will be able to tell at some point during their interaction.
It could be reflected on wait times, calls routed to the wrong department, tickets that fall through the cracks, etc. On the other hand, having the right technology streamlines processes and communications, so that your team can get their jobs done without any glitches.
7 Ways Outdated Customer Service Technology Can Hurt Your Business
1. Too Many Technical Issues
Outdated technology is best friends with downtime. While this may feel like a respite if your team is constantly dealing with customer communications, if their computers crash or freeze regularly, or have to be rebooted every couple of hours, you’re literally losing money.
If you want to lose money like that, at least go to a casino. It’s a lot more fun than running a failing business.
2. Inefficient Handling of Customer Communications
If you’re still using email to handle customer inquiries, time-sensitive matters are not going to be attended to on time. Multiple emails referring to the same issue are going to cause confusion and/or a backlog.
By the same token, outdated phone trees may result in callers getting frustrated with numerous menu options that don’t do anything to solve their problem. And making a customer wait for a simple answer that could be found in a knowledge base or answered by a bot increases the likelihood that you’ll lose their business.
3. Frustrated Customers
When a person calls customer service, they’re looking for a resolution to an issue. Maybe they need to learn how to use a product, make an exchange, or have a general question.
Facing hiccups when calling customer service can turn what could have been a simple interaction into an angry one. Nobody likes being put on hold for extended periods of time, dropped calls, or having to explain the same story to three different reps. Good customer service technology eliminates these risks.
4. High Turnover Rate
As previously mentioned, technology streamlines the customer service experience. If your employees are constantly dealing with angry customers because calls keep being routed to the wrong department, their communications fall through the cracks, or they can’t otherwise access vital information to resolve an issue, they’re going to quit.
And you’re going to have to deal with the continuous headache that is finding good people to interview and the costs of training them — only to have to repeat the entire process again in a couple of months.
5. Security Breaches
There are so many reasons to care about this. Security breaches don’t only allow hackers to access your data. They can hold it for ransom, use it to gain a competitive advantage, or something more sinister, like stealing your customers’ identities.
Failing to keep data secure can also expose you to a failure to comply with industry regulations, such as HIPAA, FINRA, and legal ethics. In a nutshell, outdated technology can ruin your business’ reputation and expose you to legal liabilities.
6. Competitive Disadvantage
If your competitors can offer faster, more efficient customer service, word will spread like wildfire. Why call you, when Mary from across the street can fix their issues in an instant?
In fact, three out of five consumers agree that in order for them to become loyal to a brand, it’s crucial for the company to provide good customer service.
7. Stagnant Business Growth
There’s not a single skillful worker who dreams of working for a company that still has rotary telephones. And if you don’t have adequate business technology, that’s you.
8 Customer Service Trends to Follow
Beating your competition comes down to staying ahead of the curve. If your current tech stack is slowing you down, you have a significant disadvantage in your space.
Fortunately, when equipped with the right technology, your customer service team can keep up and adopt strategies that align with the most important trends.
1. Open Multiple Channels for Contact.
One of the best ways to provide optimal customer service is to give your customers the choice of how to contact you. And even within one person, those choices may vary depending on what they’re doing that day, their mood, or whatever’s easiest at the moment.
Therefore, do some market research on the preferred options of your buyer persona and offer several of them. Email. Live chat. Social media. The world is not your oyster. It’s theirs.
2. Provide 24/7 Support.
People are used to instant gratification, and that’s not going away any time soon — if ever. 24/7 customer service caters to these expectations, and also comes in handy if you provide goods or services in different time zones.
Thankfully, technology like artificial intelligence and chatbots makes this a lot more feasible than it would’ve been several years ago.
3. Develop Empathetic Customer Service Reps.
The same way technology makes it easier for you to provide customer service around the clock, it also makes it easier for customers to switch providers if they’re not happy with you. And with so many companies offering the same goods or services, a customer’s decision to where to take their business often comes down to who offers the better customer experience.
Empathy is one of those traits that lets customers know that you truly value them; that they are more than dollar signs to you. You’re not there just to make a sale. You’re there to ensure they enjoy the process and are taken care of.
This is why it’s crucial to train reps on soft skills. Actively listening, putting yourself in customers’ shoes, and looking for ways to improve their circumstances will result in them coming back in the future, as well as recommending you to their friends and family.
4. Leverage Personalization.
Personalization goes hand in hand with empathy. It shows you’re making an effort to build a relationship with your customers. This includes addressing them by name, sending handwritten thank you notes with their orders, having a loyalty program, or pampering VIPs.
At the end of the day, these are the details that foster customer loyalty and increase your revenue.
5. Use Intelligent Technology.
Intelligent technology makes things better for your customers and easier for you. It answers easier questions, freeing up your customer service reps’ time to address more pressing matters, streamlines onboarding, and allows you to provide a customized experience.
What's more, it also facilitates offering 24/7 customer service without needing to hire additional team members to cover overnight shifts. It can also anticipate what customers will need. For example, technology can assist with reordering products, check out a product or service they would be interested in, and/or suggest items they may enjoy based on previous purchases.
6. Manage Omni-Channel Communications.
Omni-channel communications allow you to offer a seamless, integrated customer service. For example, if a customer who visits your website leaves an item in their cart, they can later receive a text message reminding them of the item, or offering to answer any questions they may have.
Or look at how the master of all marketing, Disney, does it. You book a hotel room on their website, then you get Magic Bands that you and your family wear around your wrists — with which you can enter the parks, make purchases, and use them as keys to enter your hotel room. This streamlines all sales processes and optimizes the customer experience.
7. Deliver Self-Service Support.
Self service is one of the many ways to cater to your customers’ preferences. Some people don’t want to interact with anyone. They just want an answer.
Whether it’s a FAQs page, a how to guide, infographic, or video tutorial, all of these resources help your customers understand your products and see immediate results. As a bonus, it doesn’t add to your customer service reps' work load. Fast solutions, on their own time. Now, that’s something to write home about.
8. Offer Social Media Support.
How much time do you spend on social media? Your customers are already logged in, and most of them would rather message a business than call them.
If you have a dedicated team to answer their queries, you’re prioritizing several aspects of a great customer experience — quick responses, a way to communicate that caters to their preferences, and making things as easy as possible, since they don’t have to take extra time to find your contact information.
Customer Service Technology Is All in How You Use It
More companies will adopt innovative customer service technology. These technologies have the potential to radically change how support is given and received across all industries.
There are bound to be bumps along the way. In general, though, efficiency and humanity can co-exist. The outcome of any technology stems from the vision of those who use it.
The answer isn’t to scale back on customer service technology, but to be mindful and deliberate about how it affects your customers.