Keeping up with the high expectations of your customers can be extremely difficult, especially when those expectations can be so diverse. Unsurprisingly, there has been a definite increase in automatic and self-service systems over the last ten years with customers taking an increasingly active role in their service.
Whether it's self-service checkouts, transferring money or checking if a product is in stock, there seems to be no end to what customers can achieve without ever having to engage with a company directly.
Despite that, research continues to reveal that traditional relationships with customers, either via the phone or face to face, are still highly valued and wanted.
So what's a business to do?
To help, we've outlined the three main support-models adopted by businesses and how they can alleviate pressures on staff whilst also keeping your customers happy.
1: Social Media and Chat Bots
Yes, it's true that there's no going back now where social media's concerned. Whether it's Twitter or Facebook, customers expect you to have a presence and more than that, they expect it to be an active one.
This approach is typically favoured by the younger demographic of consumers, who don't feel that have the time or inclination to pursue what they want through the traditional channels of phone-calls or email. Social media (if done well) not only allows for the immediacy that has come to be expected by many consumers, but also empowers those who use it.
Take the most obvious example of complaints, there was a time where customers could write a letter maybe, or make a call, but that was the only way to lodge a complaint. How a company handled it was entirely up to them and there was no threat of any widespread backlash.
As we all know however, times have changed, and companies are all too aware that a badly handled complaint online can have big ramifications.
Not that this should stop you using social media of course, just stop you using it complacently. As we said, this support-system is typically for a younger demographic (though certainly not limited to) and if that's the market you're in it would be very wise to create this space for your customers.
Chat-bots are just as useful and can take the strain off your staff by dealing with simple, routine queries and processes.
The beauty is that you only need a few people monitoring and shaping your social media presence, leaving the rest to deal with the day to day issues without worry.
Live Virtual Assistant Support
As we said previously, while there is a definite shift in consumer ideals, the desire for basic human interaction hasn't taken the hit people assumed it would and indeed, many people still report the phone as their most favoured method of communicating with a company.
The wonderful benefit of using a live virtual assistant to help support to your business is that it's much cheaper than hiring full time staff, and can be tailored exactly to your brand's tone and style. Better yet, your staff can get on with their day while a team of people are dedicated to taking calls on your behalf.
The sort of consumers who typically want this sort of service are those who are dealing with financial, legal or technological queries or quotes. Any business that has intricate internal systems or complicated technology with the potential to go wrong, finds time and again that what their customers really want is an actual human to speak to, not a chat-bot or an FAQ page.
Needless to say if you're a bank, a supermarket or a public transport provider, then self-service machines are undoubtedly a common expectation of your customer base. If we maintain that social media facilitates the need for immediacy many customers now feel, then by the same token, any business which has the potential to have customers lining up and waiting needs to also accommodate for that immediacy desire. No-one likes waiting in lines and your staff aren't robots, there will of course be human error with peaks and lows in their performance, which can cause a problem if it's holding everyone up by ten minutes at a time. Self-service machines meanwhile (while not infallible) can generally keep ticking over and act as a buffer when your staff are struggling.
So Which One?
This is blatantly obvious to answer for some businesses and a riddle for others. Generally speaking, social media is a support system that any business should be able to benefit from, even if you already feel your customer service manages fine without it.
On the other hand, self-service systems are the most niche perhaps, and can only be adopted by a few companies with the right business style and of course, the means.
Leaving the humble virtual assistant telephone answering service. A great many businesses see a surge in communication when they branch out their lines of correspondence via phone lines, rather than just relying on email or letters. Even better, you often find that a quality virtual assistant can offer a plethora of additional services like diary management and disaster recovery, which will also work wonders in easing the strain on your staff.
Customer service is an ever changing terrain and that's why we advise keeping an ear to the ground and adapting your business as you go.