As the importance of customer support in user experiences skyrockets, it’s time to turn what was once seen as a costly team into a revenue stream.
With the days of store-first shopping behind us, Heyday can help businesses stay ahead of the curve and monetize what used to be an expensive part of their endeavour. By helping them change their outlook from “how can we reduce costs?” to “how can we leverage chatbots to boost sales?,” customer service chat apps are allowing companies to think about their key performance indicator in a whole new way.
AI has had the effect of an earthquake in the business world as a whole, but its various tectonic shifts are also redefining the customer service landscape:
- As cell phones have become our primary computing device, it’s projected that mobile commerce will outperform ecommerce in 2019. Now that they have purchasing power at their fingertips 24/7, consumers are looking for the hyper-tailored user experience that comes with the immediate connection to businesses and brands.
- With the rise of omnichannel experiences (in which consumers use a brand’s ecommerce site, mobile app and brick-and-mortar stores fused into a single shopping experience), buyers are catered to and have come to expect the royal treatment. As the number of online services instantly available at all times has risen, user expectations have also grown in step.
- Thanks to AI and the automation of self-service in all realms of the purchasing experience, consumers have been able to tailor their interaction with brands exactly to their heart’s content.
These structural changes have had a huge impact on what consumers want from brands, and what type of service they expect to receive. Shopping behaviour shifts have also brought customer service front-and-centre to the user experience, making it the first point of contact between a brand or business and their customers. Let’s break down the main paradigm shifts taking place and dive a bit deeper into why they’re happening.
1) From Complaint Management to Consultative Selling
When you think about customer service, you might recall visiting the returns counter at a department store or pressing your way through seemingly endless phone menus to log a complaint, getting more irritated with each digit. However, with the new generation of live chat and chatbots, customer service comes into play before the purchase is even made, as support teams now play the role of sales clerks who get bombarded with pre-purchase browsing questions. Think more “we need a recommendation in aisle 5” instead of “unhappy client clean-up in aisle 5.”
A lot of this pre-purchase interaction can be chalked up to ecommerce and mobile commerce. With users shopping and scrolling on small screens, they’re less likely to bother figuring out how to find the FAQ section or where they can send an email. Instead, they’ll opt for asking questions to a chatbot and getting immediate answers. With this fast-paced shift, instant service has become the new normal.
Thanks to the integration of live chat, this inversion means that customer service teams can go beyond support and now do lead capture. Engaging users as soon as they arrive on the landing page means more on-the-spot purchases and bigger sales for companies.
2) From Phone-first to Chat-first
Customer service used to follow a phone-first, email-second and live-chat-third model, but that order has fully flipped, with live chat taking the top spot in client communication. According to a 2016 Nielsen study, 56% of Facebook Messenger users would prefer to send a business a text message than pick up the phone. If you think this shift means customers don’t want to talk to businesses, think again.
There are 20 billion messages being sent between customers and businesses each month on Facebook Messenger alone. What has changed is that customers are looking for brands to act like their on-demand personal butler rather than an advertiser.
People want companies to meet them on their level and chat in the same space they might use to make plans to meet a friend for coffee. Consumers are looking for that direct connection that feels more human-scaled and personalized than sending an email or having to navigate through step after step in an interactive phone tree.
Live chat’s back-and-forth gives these interactions a casual, comfortable and conversational vibe, while its immediacy signals to consumers that their time is valuable. Despite their recorded messages claiming “your call is important to us,” that’s more than can be said for IVR phone trees.
3) From Customer Service to Customer Experience
Once relegated to being the back office of companies, doing work that supported customers’ first interactions with brands via stores and marketing campaigns, customer service has now moved up to the frontlines and often acts as that initial point of contact, representing the brand as a whole. This change means that customer service has morphed into brand ambassadorship, and support teams know their brands inside and out to offer clients an experience rather than just a service.
Customer service teams are actually becoming the face of brands and are garnering the salaries and responsibility that come with the role. In the cyber world of luxury brands, customer service divisions work hard to bring the same premium shopping experience to their online clients as what they might encounter in-store.
Once relegated to a company’s peripheries with support and post-purchase issues, customer service reps are now at the very heart of the customer experience and play a key role throughout, from first contact to final purchase.
4) From Customer Service to Self-service
From ATMs, to the rise of cashier-less checkouts and even whole stores (like Amazon Go’s fully self-serve shopping experience in the United States) to the looming arrival of driverless cabs, people are increasingly open to the idea of automation and self-service as science fact rather than science fiction.
Actually, with ⅔ of customers welcoming self-service, it seems like the public is more than ready to help itself. Customer service is increasingly about helping people help themselves and only intervening in the consumer experience and transactions with human help when necessary. When situations get more sensitive, personal or complex and automated services don’t quite cut it, that’s when a human presence is wanted and warranted.
5) From Scale and Efficiency to Personalization
It’s possible for customer service teams to deal with all this increased pressure thanks to automation and AI. By handling the repetitive questions that come with the job’s territory, chatbots augment workflow rather than detract from it. With redundant tasks out of the way, customer service departments can act as go-to advisors who focus their energy on building trust with clients, which is the foundation of strong, high-value relationships.
As mentioned in the previous paradigm, customers have no problem with an automated approach to their buyer experience since it allows for immediacy, which is their top priority. In this brave new consumer world, there are four key pillars to keep in mind when thinking about customers: they’re looking for seamless omnichannel experience, rich customer conversations, data-driven personalization and the human touch of in-store shopping on online platforms.
Leveraging AI by integrating it seamlessly to human teams allows businesses to craft these high-demand experiences that are becoming the norm in the consumer goods sector. Along with the ability to create a readily available on-demand service, a hybrid human and AI customer service model offers the best of both worlds: 24/7 customer support with an involved human touch.
6) From Ticket IDs to Individuals
With virtual assistance and chatbots freeing up time for human customer support, these teams can devote their energy to what they do best: providing the brand’s human touch and exercising their expertise in all things human intelligence. If you remove worries about efficiency and scale from their work flow, customer service teams have the bandwidth to create personalized experiences for clients and the time to treat them like well-respected people rather than a ticket number or problem that needs to be resolved.
This final paradigm shift is important, because it paves the way to establishing new and long-lasting relationships between businesses and their customers. Having everyone on the same page thanks to breezier communication creates opportunities to build brand loyalty and maximize the potential lifetime value of every interaction.
Customer Service is Becoming Customized Service
As Kate Leggett elegantly summed up in Forrester’s 2018 Customer Service Trends: “Automation will free agents from working on low-value or repetitive tasks, as they will only have to address highly complex customer scenarios or exceptions to standard operations. This also enables them to focus on building connections with customers to garner their satisfaction and loyalty.”
Heyday’s mission is to lead businesses in future-proofing their customer service approach so that they can adjust to an ecommerce and mobile-commerce-first market.
To keep their business models sustainable, companies need to treat customer support teams as strategic players at the centre of the user experience rather than as troubleshooting cost centres.
In order for these changes to run smoothly, brands must be equipped with AI technology that will help them enjoy the full potential of a new customer-service-first approach.
Our AI chatbots can automate the most repetitive parts of the customer service experience, which leaves time for the human team to create hyper-personalized shopping experiences at scale. By turning customer service teams into the advisors of curated experiences, every new conversation with a user also has the potential of turning into new revenue.
Brands and businesses that harness the power of AI and combine it to their highly qualified customer service will see it morph into a powerful online sales team that can unlock a competitive advantage, now and in the future. These are the people who are on the frontlines of brands, who interact with clients and understand their needs better than anyone else.
Thanks to automation features like carts, push notifications and customer relationship management systems, paired with hands-on, tailored shopping experiences, companies are turning costly customer service into profitable customized service.