Service: The unexpected experience influencer

  • Posted on January 28, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
Service: The unexpected experience influencer

As we move through this pandemic, it’s clear that the norms of conducting business and the processes that we presumed to be fixed are changing. 

Consumer values are also changing. Customers are looking at organizations’ abilities to change with the times to service their needs. The shift is happening at every turn: whether it be contactless pick-up at the grocery store, “smarter” utilities that self-reduce usage automatically, touchless checkout, mobile banking, or personalized e-commerce versions of the auto dealership. Customer expectations for time-sensitive, personalized and empathetic experiences are now consistent across industry and geography.

Meanwhile, abrupt changes in our global operating environment – like the shift to remote working, social distancing, and reduced mobility - have challenged how businesses reach out to their customers, fulfill their immediate needs, and provide ongoing service. The digital channels that were part of a steady, scheduled CX transformation are now exploding in urgency, adoption and scale. And this is where integration and simplification of service channels and the concept of customer service are being redefined. For example, we’ve seen organizations like Austrian Post embrace digitization to enhance and personalize customer service as part of an elevated customer journey. 

Service is influential sooner – and later
Historically, customer service has been relegated as a post-purchase business function. It’s often seen as a cost center that reactively fixes customer problems after they occur. But that legacy mindset can result in missed opportunity. In fact, a recent Gartner survey indicated that, “only 13% of respondents report any type of proactive customer service. However, that same research shows that proactive customer service results in a full percentage point increase in the net promoter score, customer satisfaction score, customer effort score and value enhancement score”. 

There has been a shift in the process equilibrium where service is becoming increasingly pervasive throughout the customer journey. No longer just a post-purchase consideration (“I bought this earlier and now need help/service”), service is a serious pre-purchase consideration. During the consideration phase, consumers look to trusted networks and peer reviews to judge not only products/services themselves, but how the brand’s service team responds to issues. Did the brand rise to the occasion or fail to meet other fellow buyers’ expectations when they were counted on to do the right thing? Is the brand exercising responsible messaging, setting the right expectations for customers up-front?  This is why the promise of service is a strong influencer on the act of purchase. 

It’s more important than ever that organizations look at customer service in a different way both from a technological as well as a process standpoint. 
3 ways to rethink service as a connected part of your customer experience
It’s a mistake to consider service as an afterthought in your customer experience strategy. And that’s because service flows as a continuum, infusing its impact throughout the entire customer journey, from consideration and connecting back to post-purchase, loyalty and advocacy. Below are three ways to ensure that it contributes to a differentiated experience that helps you not only keep existing customers happy and become evangelists who attract new buyers in today’s evolving digital landscape.

1) Build Service-as-a-Service into products and offerings
Enable customer interaction and feedback throughout the customer journey. This could be through notifications of related product reviews, or brief surveys. Within the context of email communications and marketing nurture programs, consider prompts for pre-emptive tune-ups, and reminders or “care tips” to extend the life of the product or improve the service itself. If you know of common ways to help customers enjoy their purchase more so they recommend it to others, pair these product insights with customer data to be sure to share these tips proactively to the right people at the right time when they are most relevant.

2) Position service early as a value-add
Convey the right customer service messages and service promise at the beginning of the sales process, as part of the overall brand experience. Recent research has shown that brands can benefit from a “97% chance of positive word of mouth and 86% likelihood of increased wallet share after value-enhancing service interactions." Excellent service ratings inspire confidence, and marketing and sales teams should use that kind of differentiation to set expectations early and influence purchasing decisions. Customers who feel assured that their future service needs will be met and hassle-free – even if there does end up being an issue down the line – will be more inclined to make a purchase, compared to those who fear an inevitable painful service experience. 

3) Empower the front line to accelerate decision-making
Does the phrase “happy employees = happy customers” sound familiar? Employee empowerment is key to delivering stellar customer service. This happens when organizations invest in and train front line employees to make decisions not only to resolve customer issues but also to add value to the experience. The “moment-of-truth” in service is the interaction of the employee with customers. And the more flexibility and decision-making power employees have, the better chance they have of tailoring a positive experience. Are your service technicians empowered to sell alternative service, or complementary product options that help your customers? Are your contact center agents able to use customer engagement web history to offer care tips or upsell or cross-sell services or products that may be more relevant, based on their needs? Sharing front-line insights from service hubs with your marketing team can help them optimize messaging and retention tactics to drive loyalty among your most valued customers. 

Digitization of channels and change are continuing to impact us all, enterprises included. But when marketing and service organizations work symbiotically with shared insight, they are better positioned to provide responsive customer care and an excellent brand experience throughout the customer lifecycle. 

Ready to learn more about how organizations are achieving better business outcomes with connected service? Check out our Service Evolved podcast series that touches on emerging trends and advises practical steps to help organizations transform for the future.

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