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The customer service landscape is changing, with technology allowing customer service to shift from call centers and direct contact solutions to self-service technology. 

“Customers have begun to use, and in some cases even prefer, non-agented interactions,” says Ian Jacobs, principal analyst at Forrester. “They use knowledge bases, FAQs, mobile customer self-service, chatbots and peer-to-peer communities in increasing numbers.”

These days, some 70 percent of consumers expect companies to offer a self-service option when they raise questions and/or complaints. As self-service technology expands, companies must innovate with new ideas to provide a better customer service and brand experience. Here’s a look at customer self-service and the role of burgeoning cloud contact centers.

The Rise of Self-Service

Gone are the days when a phone was the only option to reach a customer support team. Through the use of screenshots, as well as video and audio tutorials, self-service options have become powerful, bona fide tools to address customer pain points.

In particular, automated systems offer direct, immediate answers to simple questions and greater clarification. Of course, with this technology, consumers don’t have to wait in line, on-hold or for a response to an email. The answers are just “there” — and the buying public is embracing this new model.

“Customers often prefer self-service to employee-led options,” writes MIT Sloan Management Review. “For instance, rental car brands, such as Alamo and Enterprise, report that self-service kiosks can reduce check-in times by half, leading to greater customer satisfaction with the rental process.”

Customer Preferences and Self-Service

In spite of enhanced options and ease of use, experts say the only time customers tend to shy away from self-service options is when they’re poorly implemented. For a service to be used, it has to function well, answer questions without requiring information to be repeated and tie into a customer support network that has actual agents.

When a reliable and trustworthy self-service system is in place, consumers may actually enjoy a better customer service experience than they would when interacting with a live agent. Any time simple questions are answered via automation, live agents can spend more time and energy on more pressing issues.

As such, they will be more apt to spend time answering complex questions that self-service technology cannot support. In fact, some contact centers are adopting a concierge level of service and, as a result, are seeing big gains in customer satisfaction.

Cloud Contact Center

The rise of self-service options — as well as the integration of dedicated live agents who can now handle more complex issues — hinges on the use of cloud contact solutions. Self-service “is great … until something goes wrong,” says Forbes contributor Shep Hyken. “Then there has to be a backup plan, and that backup is usually a human on a phone or behind a ticket counter.”

It also has to be seamless to move a customer from self-service to agent-assisted help — and cloud contact center solutions are one way to make that happen. With these solutions in place, companies can keep customer service (self-service and agent interactions) in one place, allowing companies to provide all customers with the type of service they desire.

Of course, not all cloud-based contact options are created equally. Thus, in order to meet the needs of today’s consumers, your company will need to adopt cloud-based options that can handle inbound, outbound and blended interactions seamlessly.

The post Customer Self-Service and the Role of Cloud Contact Centers appeared first on Win the Customer!.

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Public relations disasters are many companies’ worst nightmares.

Whether it’s a common mistake that leads to a temporary bad reputation or a bigger problem that affects the future of your business, negative PR can be hard to recover from.

PR problems not only taints your brand name and personality, but can also eliminate customer loyalty and significantly decrease your profits and financial backing. And according to the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Report, over half of businesses are forced to stop operations for these exact reason. So what can you do to best address a PR disaster? Stay prepared by knowing all the best possible solutions:

Make a Joke Out of It

Beware that this answer is only appropriate if the reason for your company’s backlash is lighthearted and doesn’t have a serious affect on your customers. So make sure you thoroughly evaluate the problem before you decide to follow the path of making a joke out of the situation to draw consumers back in. If your PR disaster isn’t that serious, then this is actually probably the way to address, as it makes it seem like less of a big deal.

For example, when Reese’s released its Christmas tree chocolate in 2015, it received huge backlash as the shape of the chocolates looked like giant blobs rather than festive trees. Instead of addressing the issue as a serious event, Reese’s decided to create a campaign surrounding the idea of ‘tree shaming’ and #AllTreesAreBeautiful, which ended up gaining traction on social media and turned the disaster into a funny concept for fans to engage with.

Admit Quickly And Redeem

When it comes to big PR disasters such as the company lying, breaching policies and putting customers at risk, then timely admittance is vital to the reputation of your brand.

Back in 1994, Texaco was sued by former employees on the grounds of racial discrimination, and the allegations were confirmed after the release of recordings that proved discriminatory behavior. However, Texaco was able to bounce back in large because of its quick and honest approach — the CEO made a public apology, executives traveled to every location to apologize to employees, and the company hired an African-American owned advertising agency to formulate its next ad campaign. By taking this approach, companies have the opportunity to still show consumers that they have good intentions and genuinely care about their relationship with their audience, hopefully turning a negative situation into positive growth.

Educate Your Audience

In the case that your PR disaster is a result of false allegations and untrue statements, then educating your audience is vital to maintaining your reputation. When strategizing your message, ensure that the education clearly addresses the problem communicated in the disaster, and is easily accessible to your whole consumer base.

After being accused of being a pyramid scheme, Amway cleverly put together an engaging blog post that not only explicitly addressed the statement, but also provided a lot of background information about the company and how it works. By including employees’ testimonials and conducting ample research, the company was able to distribute this information online and successfully communicate the truth behind their company structure.

PR disasters are always trouble for any brand that runs into them. However, if proper preparation is done and the issue is addressed appropriately then it is definitely possible to turn a negative PR issue into a positive statement about your company.

The post 3 Ways to Turn Negative PR Into Positive PR appeared first on Win the Customer!.

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Cloud contact center solutions are becoming the new standard for customer service.

The cloud-based contact center market is growing at an explosive compound annual growth rate of 23.6 percent, on track to increase from $5.43 billion in 2016 to $15.67 billion by 2020, Markets and Markets projects. Demand for managed services that allow organizations to outsource their operations is driving this growth, especially in the consumer goods and retail industry.

If your organization is considering whether or not to switch to a cloud contact center, you might be wondering how contact centers differ from traditional call centers and whether or not the difference is worth it. Here’s a look at how contact centers compare to call centers and why many companies are making the switch.

Cloud-Based vs. Office-Based or VoIP-Based

The difference between a traditional call center and a contact center is analogous to the difference between a traditional on-premise IT data center and a cloud-based IT infrastructure service. A traditional call center is usually based in an office with a public switched telephone network, or increasingly, a VoIP phone network. A cloud contact center is hosted virtually on a cloud server which is usually based remotely, or less frequently, can be based on-premises on a private cloud.

One major advantage being cloud-based represents for businesses is the ability to run customer service operations from any location. This gives companies more flexibility to hire home-based workers or to outsource their customer service operations to a specialty service. This can in turn help companies cut payroll costs as well as office rent and equipment expenses.

Omnichannel vs. Single Channel

Another difference between call centers and cloud contact centers is the number of customer service channels they handle. Call centers, as the name indicates, specialize only in voice communications channels. Contact centers, in contrast, are omnichannel, integrating the capability of handling voice call tickets with tickets originating from email, web contact forms, instant messenger services, text chat and video chat.

Cloud contact centers’ omnichannel capability extends customers more options for choosing their preferred communication channel. It also provides representatives with a unified interface for viewing all information associated with a particular customer or ticket regardless of its channel of origin. This allows tickets to be passed smoothly from one channel or representative to another without the need to repeat information the customer has previously given, which can speed up resolution time and boost customer satisfaction.

Cloud contact centers can also integrate analytics data from all service channels. This provides companies with a more complete view of their customer service performance. It also makes it easier to customize service for individual customers, which can improve sales as well as customer service.

All-Purpose vs. Inbound or Outbound

A third difference between call centers and cloud contact centers is their function. Call centers typically specialize in either inbound or outbound calls. Cloud contact centers can support agents who handle both inbound and outbound communications.

Being able to field both inbound and outbound communications makes cloud contact centers more versatile than call centers. You can handle all types of communications from a single contact center, including purchase orders, order status inquiries, post-purchase satisfaction surveys and technical support.

In summary, cloud contact centers are cloud-based, while call centers are office-based or voice-based; contact centers are omnichannel, while call centers are voice-only; and contact centers are all-purpose, while call centers are either inbound or outbound. Together these advantages are making cloud-based contact centers the compelling choice for a growing majority of companies.

The post Why Build a Contact Center Instead of a Call Center? appeared first on Win the Customer!.

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