Here are the latest insights from customer service consultant and bestselling author Micah Solomon…
The advantages of being a small or mid-sized business (SMB) are manifold: less red tape, fewer interminable meetings, more agility, and, let’s face it, more opportunities for fun.
But being a corporate giant has its advantages as well, including nearly endless research and testing budgets. So for a small or mid-sized business, a fantastically effective shortcut can be to “borrow” whatever you can from the big dogs and put it to work at your own scrappy company.
Here are three proven ideas from the corporate giants that are ripe for repurposing at your SMB.
1. T-mobile: Embrace text-based customer support
When T-Mobile made the move to messaging (true two-way messaging on your personal account or via Apple iMessage), it was instantly embraced by customers. CSAT (customer satisfaction) and first-contact resolution figures improved, and a high percentage of customers surveyed said they’d “always prefer to start with messaging in the future,” rather than with traditional phone support.
Which makes intuitive sense, of course. In their personal lives, customers spend five times longer messaging (texting) every day than they do on voice calls. So when a business embraces the functionality that they’re already comfortable with and using day to day, it’s not surprising that a large majority of consumers (68% in the U.S.) would rather send a message with a brand than call a customer service phone line.
And a whopping 85% would choose to receive a text rather than be interrupted by a phone call.
When adding text messaging to your mix, it’s important to make sure the system used by your agents is able to weave all contacts, regardless of channel, into a single thread. Your agents shouldn’t need to move endlessly from screen to screen, program to program, to keep track of communications that have come in via email vs. phone vs. live chat vs. messaging.
On average, businesses use 10-15 applications to communicate with customers, and this number is only expected to grow. It often leaves support agents with “app fatigue” and even worse, scattered customer records. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.
Nextiva offers business software to help with that – the platform takes all your customer conversations and interactions and groups them together in what we call “threaded messaging.” Now, no matter which agent connects with the customer next, they will have access to all the customer’s records in one place.
2. American Express: Move “beyond surveys” by gleaning everything possible from call listening and data-gathering.
American Express, the credit and travel services giant, has long been a customer service leader in its industry. Recently, Amex has been striving to get an even closer grasp of their customers’ experiences and satisfaction by augmenting and, to some extent replacing, traditional surveys with sentiment analysis based on customer calls. Not only does this give better insight into what customers are feeling, it provides a fairer and easier-to-learn-from metric for frontline employee reviews and training.
Surveys by and large represent a moment in time, tied to a single interaction. By moving toward sentiment analysis, Amex has managed to pivot to, as they put it, “take more of a journey centric lens than a transactional lens,” which has allowed them to gauge and improve customer satisfaction even further.
One expert tip: you don’t have to weigh every part of a call or series equally. The well-established primacy and recency effect principles suggest that you should weigh the sentiment at the beginning and the end of a customer journey most highly.
Again, you can use Nextiva to automate this. Not only do we have automated surveys built in, but there’s built-in business intelligence software to scan your calls and messages for words that indicate positive or negative experience. Then, the software flags and escalates customer accounts so you know where to invest time optimizing your customer experience. Finally, we serve up the Sentiment Analysis in our call pop feature so you know what to expect from a customer before you even answer the phone.
3. Google: Pivoting to real-time support
First: a look at the bad old days. For background, here’s how it used to be: When you were a customer of Google (a paying advertiser or similar), everything would go well until the day that you needed some help. In the “bad old days,” you’d send an email (the only channel of support that Google offered) and get an answer back maybe 10 or 16 hours later. Not a complete answer; rather, a partial answer, or worse, a “Dear Advertiser, in order to assist you we need to know more” kind of response, demanding some trivial technical detail you’d neglected to put in your initial email 16 hours earlier.
Once you provided this missing bit of information, you had to settle back for another 16 hours of waiting. For what might not be a complete answer to your question, even then.
To now: real-time support with queue times shorter than 30 seconds. The transformation that has improved life for Google customers (and improved its CSAT scores by a whopping 100%) is the switch to a real-time approach: answering customer questions one on one, at the time they’re being asked.
This can be telephone support (previously not an option for Google customers) or real-time text-based chat functionality, a channel even more popular than phone support (for technical inquiries, messaging has the advantages of allowing you to type or paste URLs and ad copy for clarification in your discussion).
In both the phone and chat channels, Google has committed to—and, they tell me, succeeded in–having almost all calls and chat requests answered in less than 30 seconds.
Know and understand your customers in real time.
If there’s one thing we can glean from all these corporate giants, it’s that “the old way” of doing customer support isn’t going to work. Customers expect more from us now, and “real time” is the way to go.
The best way to mimic what the corporate giants do is to invest in software that can help you automate this. Nextiva’s business software was created to help you run everything. It’s a single platform that eliminates siloed communication by delivering a seamless experience across voice, email, SMS, and video meetings. Plus, it comes with business intelligence software to help you grow faster.
Book a demo to see what it’s all about.