What is Digital Customer Service?
The process of providing customer support via digital channels such as email, text (SMS), chat, and social media is known as digital customer service. This allows consumers to interact with an organization using a range of devices and operating systems including Android or Apple smartphones, computers, and tablets based on their preferences and ease of use.
Historically, customer service has been provided through customers’ phone calls into an organization’s contact center agents. Depending on the industry itself, there may be different levels of customer service. Contact center agents can then escalate calls to unique parts of the organization to better handle customer inquiries.
Whether it’s for work or leisure, people are spending large amounts of time online which has changed the ways they communicate. So, it should come as no surprise people are using those digital methods of communication for their customer service needs. By utilizing digital channels like chats, social media, emails, and other platforms, businesses can better connect and serve today’s customers. And so, customer service across all industries were somewhat forced to adapt their operations to meet consumer demand.
Perhaps the most valuable benefit of digital customer service is that it allows customers to raise queries and get their issues resolved in the way that’s easiest for them, in their own timeframes. It’s exceptionally customer friendly, but that only works if the organization is responsive. Today’s customers want (and expect) quick resolutions for their problems. They do not want to wait for hours before their queries are resolved.
Digital communication channels are a low-cost way to provide customer support, especially if self-service options are already in place. By having a good support section on an organization’s website and utilizing self-service options can help reduce labor costs. Artificial intelligence (AI) based features like chatbots in the digital customer service system are essential to allow customers to get immediate and accurate responses and resolution to their queries.
How Has Digitization Revolutionized Customer Service?
With the advent of mass technology adoption, digitization of customer support has become a necessity. Today’s customers want to easily connect with the support provider and get a quick (if not immediate) resolution to their problems. This is where digital customer service options become essential. There are a few ways that digitization has changed customer service expectations, both within the organization and with customers.
Shift from Speaking to Typing Interactions via Chatbots and SMS
Taking time out of the day to speak to a support employee in person or on the phone is a thing of the past. Customers want to connect with organizations on their own time. Live chat via chatbots and SMS messages allow this in an on-the-go interaction from any connected device.
Chatbots are artificial intelligence (AI) based conversational solutions designed to help humans interact with machines through text-based conversations. SMS messages are similar in that they can be live interactive chats, but they are mainly done through cell phone texts. Customer service used to be provided exclusively through human customer service teams. Now, chatbots and SMS messages are becoming essential (and somewhat mandatory) parts of a customer support system, providing faster, 24/7 solutions to customers. Both are a great first contact for customers, answering basic queries, triaging complaints, and allowing the human customer support agents to focus on complex issues.
Being Present Where Customers Are Online with Social Media
With customers spending (at least some) time on social media, it is beneficial for businesses to have a customer service presence through platforms that make sense for their ideal customer for ease of accessibility. These digital customer service channels include platforms like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Whatsapp, and other social media channels. As an added bonus, having a presence on social media also allows businesses to build a good brand reputation, and improve their credibility.
24/7 Self-Service Portals and Online Forms
Many customers prefer to attempt to solve the problem themselves instead of directly approaching support centers. They also want help whenever they want it, and organizations may not be available at every hour of the day. Digital customer service via 24/7 self-service portals and online forms helps consumers by providing FAQs, articles, how-to guides, and other similar information on platforms like websites and social media. Self-service portals can help customers to pinpoint the problem and solve the problem themselves. However, organizations must ensure that the self-service portals are easily searchable, and the content available on these portals is always up to date.
At a Distance Service with Video Chat
As the world shifted to video conferences for meetings and discussions during the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies also moved their customer service to video platforms. Video chats are now being used more often for customer support cases to help customers solve their problems while sitting at home instead of visiting the service centers. Organizations are providing real-time demos of their products and services through video chat, which may be preferred by consumers. Video chat customer service is now being regularly used in different ways, from telehealth to technical support, remote learning about products, self-service, and insurance claims.
Customer Service Correspondence Via Email
Despite the varied channels of customer service, email remains among the most preferred platforms for many people when it comes to customer support. Organizations can use email for a variety of reasons including marketing their products, alerting customers about recalls, offering discounts and gifts, troubleshooting problems, and answering queries. For effective email-based customer service, a few points need to be considered:
- Prompt response: The business must reply to emails immediately. Making customers wait for many days – or even only a few hours—can create a negative impression. To help with this, there should be an automated response set up that informs customers about the next step in their queries, operating hours, and when they can expect a response.
- Problem-solving: While sending out automated responses can postpone human interaction with the customer for a short duration, it helps alleviate concerns of being left in the dark. However, it is important to respond to the problem with a tailored solution quickly as well. If the customer receives generic responses to their issues, they are likely to lose faith in the business and move to another business offering better customer service. No response at all often results in poor reviews and social media conversations.
- Follow-up email: Sending a follow-up email gives customers a sense that the business cares about them. A follow-up email can be sent after a solution is suggested, or after the problem is resolved.
- Customer feedback: Seeking feedback via email to learn more about performance and customer satisfaction is a great way for organizations to gauge how they are perceived. This will help business leaders better understand if there is a need for improvement.
- Using email as an opportunity: Once the connection has been developed through customer service emails, organizations can use this opening to further deepen their relationship via newsletters or tailored email sequences.
Digital Help Desks
Having a staff of people online via a digital help desk can help organizations build better relations with customers and provide a good experience throughout the customer journey. Digital help desks can also help streamline both internal and external communication to enable customers to be self-reliant, and help agents grow their expertise using surveys.
Benefits of Digital Customer Service for Contact Centers
As we mentioned above, the most sought-after aspect of digital customer service is its 24/7 capability to serve people from anywhere. However, as we look at contact centers already using or transitioning to a digital customer service model, there are many other benefits to keep in mind.
Agents Get a Single Source of Truth
Digital customer service allows businesses to connect with their customers over multiple channels including email, a variety of social media platforms, and private messengers. Communication in these forms allows organizations’ contact centers to easily save data about their customers and interactions, using it later to inform better communication and internal problem solving. But perhaps the biggest benefit of these omnichannel interactions is that organizations have a way to provide consistent answers for customers on any platform. Each communication method can be simultaneously updated with the same information at any time. This gives agents their own single source of truth to pull consistent knowledge from no matter what channel they communicate with customers.
Increased Agent Productivity
Digital customer service can help contact center agents save time and enhance productivity. By utilizing AI in their digital efforts, contact centers are able to respond to more generic queries of customers at a higher rate. AI helps automate answering everyday routine requests via chatbots, IVR (interactive voice response), virtual agents, knowledge management systems, RPA (robotics process automation), and more. This allows agents to spend more time on solving more complex issues. In short, digital customer service allows organizations to not only increase agent productivity but also save resources and reduce operation costs, while simultaneously enhancing customer satisfaction.
Seamless Agent Training
Productivity goes beyond what happens in the digital customer to agent interaction space. In addition to the AI tools that allow agents to have more productive calls, there are knowledge management systems (KMS) that enable a more seamless agent training experience. Implementing digital components into the customer service and agent experience can give organizations an advantage over their competitors. These digital elements help agents stay up to date with the latest and greatest training exercises which in turn allows faster problem resolution for happy and loyal customers.
Cognitive Load is Reduced for Agents
Traditional customer service systems are more prone to errors due to things like poor maintenance of guides, forms, and human error. However, with digitization, the room for human error from contact center agents is reduced drastically. It helps avoid overlapping of data, ensures consistency of replies, enables regular updates of guides and forms, and reduces errors in diagnosing problems.
Because the customer data is automatically updated to their file, they do not have to keep providing the same information again and again. This ensures a more accurate record of problems which can help agents to better diagnose issues and resolve problems. So, instead of agents having to keep so much information in their minds about their organization and each customer, they have direct access to everyone’s knowledge in the KMS and can focus more on the problem itself.
More Easily Enables a Knowledge-Sharing Culture
Without the burden of carrying too much information, agents’ cognitive load decreases. And thus, agents may have the time to cultivate a knowledge-sharing culture with their colleagues. When this occurs, agents may gain insights into areas they might not otherwise be exposed to, which boosts the overall digital customer service experience.
Quicker Average Handle Time for Customers
At the end of the day improving the customer service experience is what digital customer service is about. One of the biggest performance metrics for contact center agents is their average handling time (AHT) with each customer. With 24/7 availability and quick responses via digital communication methods, agents have more time to process more complicated customer queries. While AI takes care of the more routine customer service issues, agents have more cognitive space to focus on complex issues. By streamlining digital customer service in this way, agents are able to have quicker AHT for themselves and their contact center organization.
Better Knowledge Security
Digital customer service means all an organization’s knowledge is a bit more closely monitored. For consistency across all digital channels, there’s an employee regularly checking in on the updates done by automated systems. So, in addition to having better technology monitoring an organization’s knowledge, there’s a human in the loop (HITL) providing an added layer of security.
Best Practices for Digital Customer Service
Because digital customer service comes in from so many different communication channels, it can be difficult for contact centers to provide a quality omni-channel customer journey. To do this successfully, we’ve put together a few best practices for successful digital customer service implementation.
Maintain an Online Knowledge System for Everyone
Companies need to store data in an organized and logical way for both agents and customers. While contact centers have a knowledge management system (KMS) for their agents to access knowledge for the service they provide, customers have self-service online options. This way, the customer can easily search for their issue, find relevant answers, and retrieve the data that’s only important to them without having the need to reach out to customer service. This leads to a better customer experience.
Automate Contact Center Tasks Where Possible
Customer service automation helps in improving the overall performance of the business. It allows 24/7 availability and faster responses to customers. Automated chatbots can also help in quicker resolution of problems and the follow-up process becomes efficient and saves time. It also helps alleviate agents’ cognitive load by offloading more routine customer queries to AI-enabled solutions.
Integrate with Customer Relationship Management Systems
Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) tools with digital customer service can help in providing a better customer experience. CRM platforms can help businesses analyze customer behavior and interactions across individuals and as a population. This creates strategies and practices that contact centers can incorporate into the digital customer service system to better help their customers.
Personalize Customer Content
Personalization in digital customer service is very important. It makes customers feel that the organization they choose to do business with cares about them. Contact centers should ensure that their digital knowledge management system (KMS) has useful knowledge so that they can interact with the customers based on their choices and requirements based on previous interactions.
Common Mistakes in Digital Customer Service
Customer service digitization can help organizations build great connections with customers. However, there are a few mistakes that contact centers and agents may make that could end up annoying customers and inadvertently increase the churn rate. Listed below are some of the common mistakes when handling digital customer service.
Agents Searching for Answers Keeps Customers Waiting
Long waits for their queries to be answered can prove to be troublesome for everyone. While consumers may not have a problem with physically waiting in line at a store, they do not want to wait in queue for digital service of any kind. The whole reason customers opt for digital services is precisely because they are looking for a quick resolution. Organizations should ensure their agents respond on time and keep the customer updated about the progress being made towards resolving their issue.
Not Having Sufficient Communication Channels
The idea behind having a digital customer service system in place is to be able to communicate with consumers across multiple channels. Every customer has their preferred platform to communicate with the organization, so all channels must be covered. For example, Gen Z or millennials usually prefer social media while older customers may prefer to connect via phone calls. It is important that contact centers allow customers to use any platform they want, and not limit options. An omni-channel digital presence will prove to the customers that the organization cares for them and is doing everything it can to give them a quality customer experience.
Inconsistent information across digital channels
Sometimes when a customer reaches out to an organization through one channel, they are asked to switch to another channel. While this is an attempt to streamline the organization’s communication, it can be frustrating to the customer. To keep customers happy and information consistent, agents should ensure the problem is resolved on customers’ preferred platform to ensure a better experience.
Not Asking for Customer Feedback
For any organization to succeed, customer feedback is crucial. It’s what allows organizations to better understand what the customer thinks of their service and accordingly make improvements.
Not Having Self-Service Option
Today, many customers prefer solving their problems themselves rather than waiting for a contact center agent. When customers opt for digital customer service, they seek it out via to-do guides and FAQs. If these are unavailable, it can be frustrating, and require them to contact the business. Having up-to-date FAQs and guides saves time for both the customer and the organization.
Lack of Personalization
If there is a lack of personalization when dealing with customers, it is likely to increase frustration and churn. Having all customer data and interactions recorded in the customer management system means when the human or AI agent interacts with them, they can see previous contact. With this know interactions. When interactions with an organization feel more personal, there’s a higher likelihood people will become repeat customers.
Digital Customer Service Streamlines Customer Satisfaction
With full self-service portals, responsive chatbots, cross-platform engagements and better trained responsive agents, organizations can make their customers’ lives better. By making support functions easy through 24/7 access, escalation to an agent when necessary, and a wraparound service that brings customer data together for a holistic engagement view, organizations reap the rewards.