You know how frustrating it can be to get through to a customer services advisor in a large company? And when you do eventually get to speak to someone, very often they don’t have the information they need to deal effectively with your issue.
A few years back, most of grudgingly accepted this poor service as part and parcel of being a customer of a large company. But, oh how times have changed…
In today’s socially active society, we have so many opportunities and channels in which to vent our anger and frustration. Either by ranting away on social media or by leaving disparagingly negative feedback on review platforms like trustpilot.com and reviews.co.uk
As big companies recognised the damage angry customers could heap on their brand, they were forced to find ways to improve communication. Not just the professionalism quality of the support they were providing, but the ease with which customers and prospects were able to get their questions answered.
Time to put the customer first
One of the biggest challenges for B2C companies over recent years has been how to adapt their communication channels to become more customer-centric.
Not surprisingly, companies who grasped the importance of this shift have been the ones who’ve seen the biggest customer growth and retention. If you’ve tried contacting Amazon Customer Support recently, you’ll have noticed the speed with which they answer queries has improved immeasurably, along with their customer-friendly attitude to complaint resolution.
Many other companies have invested heavily in their communication infrastructure so customer service and inbound sales requests are answered quickly, and by the advisors best positioned to do deal with the call.
B2C communication is more than just answering the phone
But customers are now demanding more than just to have their calls answered promptly. According to the 2016 study by Forrester, Your Customers Don’t Want To Call You For Support, a growing number want to avoid phone calls completely, preferring to use low-friction channels such as web livechat or self-service.
Mobile communication has given customers the ability to interact with brands anywhere, at any time, via a choice of channels in the palm of their hand, creating new opportunities to spot, target and engage customers.
Effectively delivering such an “omni-channel” approach has many benefits, but primarily it enables brands to ensure that the quality and consistency of service across all channels is achieved and maintained.
And it’s not just multinationals with large call-centres that recognise the need to put the customer first. Businesses of all sizes, across all industries, are starting to accept that the future won’t just be about telephony. It will be about smart communication management, where companies make it easy for customers to get the answers and information they’re seeking.
Social Media is now mainstream communication
The mobile customer is often more comfortable communicating via social media than a voice call, providing a significant opportunity to reach your customers when and where they are most receptive to your brand.
Whether it’s by email, Whatsapp, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, Webchat, etc., companies need to have an active presence everywhere.
By “active”, I mean that it’s not enough to just open an account and sporadically respond to queries days after they arise.
Customers or prospects who communicate via these channels want answers instantaneously. Thankfully, there is already technology that allows you to automatically stream posts, tweets and comments to the right contact centre queue.
What’s the upside of adopting customer-centric communication technology? Various studies have shown that social media enabled contact centres report a reduction in call volumes by a whopping 12-15%.
How Artificial Intelligence is affecting B2C communication
Deloitte’s 2017 global contact centre survey showed that 56% of technology, media, and telecommunications companies are looking to invest in artificial intelligence.
But, how can AI help businesses communicate better with their customers?
There are already AI-based system that enable “smart” routing of calls based on voice commands and other factors such as outcome of previous calls, complaint history and so on.
But in 2018 we’ll see more companies rolling out machine-learning algorithms that help to identify the traits that signify a high value potential customer, a support request, or the product proficiency level of whoever is calling. Armed with this information, the communication platform is able to connect the caller with the most appropriate support or sales staff.
These intelligent algorithms will also recognise advisors who have previously spoken with callers, and connect the customer directly to them so there is consistency and continuity in ongoing communications.
How smaller companies are communicating better with their customers
You’d be forgiven for thinking that only big companies with massive resources can deliver customer-focused improvements in their B2C communications. But this isn’t the case.
Smaller companies who run their business communications through a cloud PBX have a range of options open to them. One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve communication with customers and prospects is to offer a more personalized service. This means being able to identify the caller’s name and call up their personal details whenever they call.
In the case of our cloud PBX customers, this is achieved through the use of webhooks, which sync the company CRM with the call management dashboard. The phone numbers of customers or sales prospects are already listed in the CRM, which is a unique identifier. With a few simple variables, the PBX can be configured to display any of the CRM fields to the operator when someone calls from the identified number. The ability to identify callers this way can also be used to intelligently route calls to people in the company who are best positioned to deal with the caller, e.g. an Account Manager.
Another interesting development is the growing number of app-only customers, i.e. those who communicate with companies directly through a dial feature within an app or web application, as opposed to ringing the company by traditional means.
Companies have recognised that having a well-maintained knowledgebase section within their app means they can automate and answer the most frequently asked questions. This saves a considerable amount of time for both the customers and the call centres. However, this means the calls that do come through to the contact centres are often queries that a customer has not been able to find the answer to. As a result customer advisors are answering more unusual and difficult questions than they have before.
Apple have also recognised the opportunity to enhance app-only communication with the launch of Business Chat which gives companies the ability to communicate with app customers via iMessage.
As customers seek more low-friction ways to communicate with companies, we can expect to see more integration between apps and social media and messaging platforms in the coming year. Businesses that continue to make it hard for customers to communicate with them will lose out to companies that give customers what they want.
Cloud communication is making all this possible
Underpinning all of the advancements in B2C communication is cloud technology. Our own cloud-hosted PBX system is making it easier for companies to identify callers and route to the person best positioned to deal with the call.
If you’re afraid of being left behind while your competitors take the lead in adopting new call technologies, get in touch with us. We’ll show you how to make it easier and cheaper to connect with your customers and sales prospects. What’s not to like about that?