In the face of economic uncertainty, leading customer service organizations are investing in three key areas to strengthen their customer relationships and position themselves for success now.
From chatbot conversations to field service appointments, customer service interactions are a brand’s most critical touch points in driving repeat business, loyalty, and word of mouth. Nearly half of those who switched brands last year blamed poor customer service, and almost 90% of customers say a company’s experience is just as important as its products and services. It’s the difference between repeat buyers who leave glowing reviews and disgruntled customers who take their complaints to social media — and their business elsewhere.
In today’s tumultuous economic environment, every company is doubling down on retaining its customers. It has become even more essential to adopt a ‘Shift to Scale’ strategy, which uses technology – namely, digitizing interactions across multiple channels, personalizing with AI, and driving efficiency with automation – to improve customer experiences while simultaneously reducing costs.
To strengthen customer relationships and do more with less, leading customer service organizations are changing their operations in three important ways. Businesses that understand and operationalize these changes are creating competitive advantages and positioning their companies for success now and as the economy stabilizes.
1. Smart leaders are embracing automation to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction
With growing demands on customer service amidst a tight frontline labor market and macroeconomic uncertainty, companies feel pressure to be more efficient and cost-effective while meeting increasing customer expectations. In a recent survey, nearly 80% of service teams said they found it difficult to juggle speed and quality, compared to just 63% in 2020. And, while most agents still said speed and quality were equally important, the number of agents who prioritized speed increased by 114% from 2020.
The need to do more with less is why a growing number of service organizations are adopting automation in their customer service operations. Automation offloads time-consuming, repetitive tasks while giving customers the power to serve themselves and get resolutions faster.
The most popular ways for companies to get started with automation are to set up a chatbot and self-service portal for commonly asked questions (e.g., updating a mailing address, resetting a password, initiating a refund), digitize forms and data collection, and create automated routing and approval rules.
Service teams cite time savings as the top benefit of automation, followed by fewer errors and a closer connection to other departments. By freeing service teams from mundane, manual tasks, agents and field technicians can focus on engaging customers and solving complex problems.
For example, Intel used Service Cloud to almost completely automate its global warranty process, which helps drive more efficient and timely warranty service for Intel’s customers. Since automating these processes, Intel's Global Customer Success Team has maintained a 90% success rate for warranty service – positively impacting customer retention – and increased its overall Customer Effort Score by ten percentage points.
Another example is luxury retailer Saks, which analyzed the top reasons customers were calling its contact center, such as checking on an order status or requesting a price adjustment, and turned these requests into self-service workflows on the Saks Customer Support page.
Despite the recent growth in the adoption of automation and AI for service, we are still in the early days. There is a tremendous opportunity and upside for organizations to deploy these tools further, drive efficiencies quickly, reduce costs and deliver excellent service at scale. The good news is that service teams can set up, test, and scale automation with a few clicks in a matter of days and weeks rather than requiring complex code and months of development.
2. Savvy leaders are simplifying their technology stacks and processes
For service teams, nothing is more stressful or frustrating than having to toggle between multiple different systems and wait for data to load while you have an angry customer waiting on the phone. A Salesforce survey released in February 2022 found that more than 70% of service agents have considered leaving their jobs, and among the top reasons were employees feeling saddled with mundane tasks and experiencing burnout.
As every service and IT leader knows, there is a significant opportunity to consolidate and simplify customer service technologies. UberEats, for example, started with a service technology stack of roughly 30 different platforms supporting 30 different workflows for merchants, which provided a disconnected and poor experience. By leveraging Service Cloud, UberEats was able to streamline processes for merchants on a single platform while also using Einstein case classification and digital engagement to create a great agent and customer experience.
Technology consolidation into fewer and more strategic tech vendors creates efficient service teams, reduces the risk of error, unlocks more favorable pricing, and simplifies identifying and deploying automation.
Service Cloud Voice embedded in the Service Console, for instance, helps service agents navigate through customer conversations with guided screen flows, voice coaching, and next-best-action recommendations. Instead of switching between disparate solutions for calls, chat/messaging, bots, self-service portals, and agent desktops, service teams and customers appreciate a simplified experience where everything just works together.
3. Customer-centric leaders are breaking down departmental silos to deliver connected customer experiences
While many companies have embraced digital transformation in their corporate headquarters and contact centers, field operations across many industries still need to be modernized. This need represents a big opportunity for companies to update a key set of customer touchpoints and create connected customer experiences.
Take Best Buy Canada, for example, which leveraged Salesforce Field Service to transform how its Geek Squad mobile workforce engaged with customers. Customers can now easily book and change appointments from their computer or mobile device, and Geek Squad team members can proactively update customers on ETAs, order replacement parts, and upsell additional services. By breaking down silos and creating a cohesive, connected experience across customers’ engagement online, in-store, with the contact center, and in-home with their mobile workforce, companies can provide nimble service when and where customers want.
Finally, connecting your mobile workforce and in-home and on-site interactions to the rest of the customer experience also reveal automation opportunities. Global manufacturing company Honeywell, for example, unlocked $11M in productivity while reducing its carbon footprint by 150 tons by shifting a large number of service appointments from in-person field technician visits to self-service and virtual appointments with contact center staff. This was only possible because field technicians, contact center agents, and self-service tools were all on the same platform, accessing the same customer data records and workflows.
Customer service is at the heart of customer experience
The future of service is about using every customer touch point across every channel – from the contact center to self-help pages to chatbots and beyond – to foster a cohesive, personalized customer experience.
Customer expectations for service experiences are higher than ever before, and economic headwinds are blowing. High-performing service organizations recognize they need to lead and embrace automation, simplification, and a connected customer experience to ensure customer loyalty and profitability – and they need to act quickly.
Investing in these areas will pay off in reduced service staff turnover, greater efficiency, and loyal customers for life — a winning combination for any company.