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Posted August 8, 2016

customer service technology

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It’s easy to remember the past as better than it was, was there really a time when customers were greeted by name, transactions ended with “thank you” and problems addressed as if the customer was always right?

Even if those halcyon days are more imagined than real, there’s no question that much modern customer service is anything but customer-focused. Menu systems are designed to keep customers from speaking to anyone, and when they do reach a real person, that person often lacks the knowledge or authority to help. Some companies explicitly charge fees for “premium” customer service, forcing customers to pay to reach someone who can actually help them.

Customers aren’t happy about this; recordings of excruciating support interactions regularly go viral. In some cases, customers have little choice to but to put up with this because contracts or limited competition in the industry mean there’s no alternative.

In other industries, customers don’t have to put up with it and companies are starting to recognize that. Rather than customer service being solely an expense, it can be a differentiator, presenting a competitive advantage. In fact, a Gartner study a few years ago predicted that 89 percent of companies expected to compete based on customer experience by 2016.

Their thinking? Old fashioned caring for your customers can get you ahead in the modern world.

Appreciate Your Customers

The main point of old school customer service is personalized interactions that also make customers feel appreciated. Thank your customers for their business in ways that feel (and are) sincere.

Know your customer and use that knowledge to allow them to get the help they need in the ways they want it. It means providing continuity of experience, so they don’t need to repeat their story every time they follow up on a problem or try an alternate means of support.

Empower Representatives

Many customers will try self-service solutions first, so by the time someone calls for support, they’ve likely been frustrated by the help available online. Make those interactions easy for them. Your representatives need to be able to do more than read scripts; they need to be able to understand the customer’s problem and work to resolve it. Agents need access to all relevant information about the customer as well as guidance that helps them actively support the customer and generate a solution.

Old-Fashioned Doesn’t Mean Low-Tech

Providing old-fashioned, personal support doesn’t mean doing away with technology. It means using technology effectively to help customers through all possible channels.

Customers need support available to them through self-service, online chat and texting, as well as over the phone, and you need to allow them to choose whichever method they’re most comfortable with.

In fact, you can the latest technical methods, like predictive analytics, to reach out to support customers before they even realize they need assistance. That’s a level of personal attention that’s hard to come by these days, particularly with the largely anonymous interactions over the internet.

Old School Customer Service Requires Time

Although you can use technology to support you in providing old school customer service, one of the most important factors is simply taking the time to understand customers. Streamlining your other business processes can free up your time from dealing with other problems to focus on meeting your customer’s needs.

Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs) let you simplify your payments to vendors, reducing the risk in the payments you make to suppliers. These cards reduce payments pain points by assuring vendors are paid efficiently and accurately. You reduce the time you spend answering their questions, letting you focus on customer questions instead. Plus, you get data and reporting that lets you run analytics that help you understand your purchasing patterns better and identify opportunities for savings. When you save money that way, you can spend a little bit of it improving your customer service reputation so you start earning more money, too.

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