Customers Expect Support Across Ever More Channels: New Microsoft Parature Report

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Customers Expect Support Across Ever More Channels: New Microsoft Parature Report – MSDynamicsWorld.com 

Fully seven in 10 US consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience. And a poor experience can be, simply, not the experience the consumer would choose. However superior a company’s phone support, if the consumer prefers live chat or a knowledge base, they’ll gripe about the experience. (In fact, fully 92% expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal or FAQ page.)

So found Parature and Microsoft in their 2015 U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service Report (download required), released in July.

As the report describes, consumers regularly use at least four different channels when interacting with a brand or organization for customer-related questions and issues – any combination of phone, website, mobile apps, social media, live chat and more. On top of that, customers’ channel preferences are changing based on the customer’s perceived value for time spent. For example, this year’s survey found that customers rate live chat (used by 64%) not far behind the telephone (used by 81%) as the most preferred assisted channel, likely owing to live chat’s ability to provide prompt, personalized online assistance for complex questions (while allowing the customer to multitask rather than wait on hold).

Changing Channels for Self-Service
Source: 2015 U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service Report (Microsoft)

Among other findings:

  • Consistently satisfying service is increasingly important. Fully 98% of US consumers say customer service is somewhat or very important in their choice of or loyalty to a brand, and 68% have stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service.
  • Multichannel customer service is good; but omnichannel service is better. Brands and organizations increasingly engage on more channels, but a seamless customer experience where customers don’t have to repeat information when communicating across different channels/devices is what they demand.
  • The perception of customer service within organizations is moving away from that of a cost-center to a value-add. Those brands and organizations are willing to invest in the strategy, staff and solution to empower every employee to deliver consistently satisfying service and information across channels.

“It’s important to treat every interaction as meaningful and seamless, and each must be treated with the utmost focus so the job is done right from the very beginning,” says Sam Thepvongs. He is practice manager for public sector and Parature at Webfortis, a Microsoft partner that deals in Dynamics CRM, Dynamics Marketing, Parature, and Unified Service Desk. He provided us with his views on a range of the findings of the new report.

MSDW: This report focused upon consumers, but the service problem is a B2B problem as well, isn’t it?

Sam Thepvongs: We’re in high tech to media and entertainment to financials to government – quite a number, and more than that.

We focus on the problem which is customer service or customer support. That is a problem that every industry has, which could be as simple as consumer packaged goods or an internal IT help desk or service desk that may deal with thousands of people worldwide. Whether customer service is internal or external, it’s a challenge for most organizations and dealing with it in an effective, efficient manner is and will continue to be a major focus for every organization.

Especially when dealing with the public, any interaction matters. One bad interaction can go viral and generate a negative brand impression.

Self service growing expectations
Source: 2015 U.S. State of Multichannel Customer Service Report (Microsoft)

What is a good first step for a customer in revamping their customer service?

For most organizations it is to figure out what’s the most common channel people currently interact with? The last thing you want to do is uproot the existing customer service and tell them “We’re going to change the channel.” The organization has typically invested tremendous effort in maturing its customer service effort and agents, and you don’t want technology to dictate how you change that. You want it to complement their first capabilities, but make it easier to do their jobs and do them more efficiently. Information is power and always will be. So, enable the customer service representative with knowledge so they become more effective, and you’ve shortened call times and shortened the time to issue resolutions.

Social media is increasingly important to customers. What does a social resolution look like?

If a company is monitoring the social feeds they are able to see issues pop up and can respond so that everyone can see how responsive they are to issues.

But another very common thing is power social. Let’s say you come up with a new release of an operating system or a product, and it causes issues. A lot of people complain, either by calling the customer support desk or more times than not, will complain on social media. Well if [the company is] monitoring social media, you’ll quickly see trends show.

There’s two things you can do. One is to provide information about the issue on the website ahead of time so people don’t bombard customer service and hopefully can resolve the issue themselves. The company has basically deflected a whole bunch of communication and can proactively direct people’s attention to the resolution directly back through the originating social post.

Two is letting customer service representatives know that we have hundreds or thousands of people who potentially might have a problem – let them know “Here’s a solution,” so they can get through those calls quickly and get on the right track.

And it’s all very conspicuous, very visible.

You have someone who’s influential, someone who’s high profile and has a lot of followers. By addressing the one person who might have tweeted (and in the world we live in those people are called “influencers”), if you can satisfy them in addressing customer service issues, you’re putting yourself in a positive sentiment in the social media world. Conversely if you find out that you do a bad job and the influencer says “don’t ever buy them again,” you’ve potentially lost a big demographic who potentially are your next purchasers.

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at [email protected].