Customer service has never been more important – 96% of consumers say that it’s at the top of their list when it comes to choosing one brand over another.
Think about it: when something goes wrong with a product or service and you’re desperately trying to find help but can’t, it can cause you to abandon ship.
Brands have realised the need to make it easier for their customers to receive the help they need. The better customer service brands provide, the more likely they are to cultivate loyal customers; and loyal customers often result in new business.
We wanted to find the secret behind a successful customer service by analysing its 3 common approaches – traditional, digital native, and innovative. To help brands design and deliver the right customer service for their business, we outlined the 6 pillars of a leading customer service.
6 pillars of a leading customer service
Analysis of 3 customer service approaches
A traditional customer service usually involves an in-store visit or phone call with a human to solve your needs.
- Easier to explain a problem when speaking to a human.
- The customer can get more tailored advice specific to their problem.
- Easier to form emotional connections with a person, leading to increased brand loyalty.
- It’s usually easy and quick to find a person to help in-store
- Slim opportunity to self-serve for help.
- The customer might need to travel to a location.
- Subject to long phone waiting times if calling and can often be put on hold.
- Risk being passed on from one operator to another and having to repeat your problem over and over.
- The agent might have limited knowledge and can only help regarding their knowledge of their own products/services.
- Younger millennial and Gen Z generations prefer to get help online over in-store or the phone.
- Help isn’t proactive – this approach is reliant on the customer reaching out first.
This approach works quite well for traditional businesses selling a product, which have in-store branches and need to direct customers there for personalised and tailored help.
TOP TRADITIONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE BRANDS
Lululemon relies on a sense of community and the expertise of its staff to help customers find what they’re looking for. In terms of empathy, community, and brand loyalty, it leads the pack. The business has a network of ’Lulu angels’ who promote its products and connect with other customers to share experiences.
For the best advice, Specsavers always directs customers in-store – which, for something as important as eye-sight, is probably a good idea. Specasvers has evolved its online service by adding more options, such as virtual try-on, to help online customers find the best product, mimicking the in-store experience. But for anything beyond picking frames, such as an eye test, its go-to customer service approach is face-to-face, directing people in-store or offering a home visit for those who can’t travel.
A digital-native approach often includes live chat, FAQs, digital DIY and full product access so that customers can guide themselves to find a solution.
- Customers can self-serve for help, often not needing to get in touch with a human at all.
- It’s usually quick and easy to find help online or through an app.
- Support can be streamlined over multiple channels.
- More convenient for customers (they don’t need to travel or pick up the phone).
- Can cut operational costs.
- It can often feel like a one-size-fits-all approach.
- There is no human touch or empathy behind the service until you reach an agent (usually at the end of the journey).
- Chatbots can often lead to an endless, frustrating loop with no solution.
Although a digital approach is convenient for customers and benefits the bottom line, digital alone can’t solve every challenge. Digital-native brands with leading customer service usually include an agent at the stage of the customer service journey where digital fails.
LEADING BRANDS WITH A DIGITAL-FIRST CUSTOMER SERVICE
Amazon is often touted as a leading digital customer service brand: in 2020, it topped the UK’s list for best customer service. Its ability to personalise experience for its users often means that customers can usually find a solution by self-serving through its Help Centre. Talking to a human is often the last step of the journey. What this approach is missing is a helping human hand guiding customers to make the right purchase decision – it relies heavily on reviews from other customers, which often brings up issues around trust or personal taste.
Starling provides a 365/24/7 contact centre through live chat in-app or on desktop and phone support should you get stuck, which is incredibly convenient! It goes beyond a traditional approach of waiting on the customer to make the first move by sending app notifications if something isn’t quite right, providing more immediate and proactive support. Being digital, Starling has the benefit of tracking customer data to understand how to improve its service. It has great reviews and although its approach isn’t particularly innovative (Monzo is similar), it’s incredibly successful.
A hybrid approach combines the efficiency of digital with the reassurance, personalisation, and customisation of a human. Note: this isn’t sticking a digital solution on top of an offline experience, like Specsavers, or including an agent at the end of the digital journey, like Amazon.
- A human can help the customer during the decision-making process, to ensure they make the right decision to minimise issues.
- The journey is seamless: the customer doesn’t leave the channel to get the help they need. There is no transferring between web and phone, or waiting on an agent to call back.
- Meets the customer’s needs at the stage they are at, bringing in expert support when necessary, for as long as necessary before passing back to digital.
- Has a higher conversion rate than digital alone.
- This approach that relies heavily on customer data to implement. It can be hard to get right.
- Business need to invest in the right technology to make it work.
- It’s not necessary for all businesses, especially those that rely on more impulsive purchasing like Lululemon.
A hybrid customer service approach works well as human intervention is not the last step but there to support customer every step of the way. Therefore, it works best for businesses selling big ticket items and and customers doing more considered buying.
INNOVATORS LEADING THE WAY WITH HYBRID CUSTOMER SERVICE
As a small business energy comparison site, Bionic recognises its customers need support at every stage of the process. Its customer service starts with the standard steps (address, business name, etc.) but to get a quote, customer get to speak to a real human. An agent gets in touch, in real-time, to talk customers through the quotes on their screen – customer don’t hang up and then wait for someone to call back, it’s all done fluidly. Bionic figured out the bit that only human-to-human interaction can do and built its service around delivering that with as much digital efficiency as possible.
Currys PC World
Currys connects online customers to live, in-store customer service experts. In 2020, Currys launched ShopLive, a service that connects customers to video chat with one of the its tech experts in-store, who help customers make the right decision when shopping, even from the comfort of their own homes. Customers are able to get a personalised service, remote or in-store if they wish, with the human touch for peace-of-mind when making big-ticket purchases.
Poor customer service can strangle business growth – it costs 5 times more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones. Innovation in customer service and technology means that brands can unlock loyalty and growth by finding which approach works best for them.
In summary, there needs to be some offering of both human and digital services to appeal to all audiences and ensure brands are meeting its customers where they are.
To find out more about Future Platforms and how we help brands build a leading customer service, get in touch.