The digital landscape is evolving at a breakneck pace, pushing the boundaries of what innovative customer service means — and, with that, what customers expect from your business.
In today’s world of constant change, businesses need to pay close attention to trends in digital technology to stay ahead of the curve with exceptional customer service.
It’s for that reason more and more companies are turning to digital transformation. It’s also why innovation is more achievable — and more essential — than ever before. And that’s great news, because it’s a win-win for your business and your customers.
What is innovative customer service?
Modern consumers have modern expectations. They’re increasingly connected to the digital world, and that means greater access to your business, products, and services. All this helps to forge connections that stretch far beyond the traditional boundaries of physical stores.
Innovative online customer service uses technology to address these evolving expectations and plays a major role in forging the overall customer experience.
Today’s customers don’t want to just be one of the crowd. They want to build a meaningful relationship with your business throughout their whole customer journey. So much so, that a massive 80 percent of customers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.
New technology better equips you to provide this kind of personalization, to scale. For example, well designed chatbots can handle a multitude of interactions at the same time, while pulling a customer’s name, information, and history from integrated systems. It’s an approach that allows every interaction with customer service to become a continuation of the customer’s journey with you.
With the tap of a finger, we have immediate access to information, services, and options through our smart devices. With so much instant gratification, customers aren’t prepared to wait around anymore — 60 percent of customers are fed up with long holds or wait times for service. They expect answers now, and they won’t stay with a business that can’t offer them that.
Tools, such as live chat and chatbots, which are always ready and able to assist, can provide round-the-clock customer service — minus the hold time.
Seamless cross-channel interactions
In the modern digital age, it's essential to meet customers where they are. They expect to engage on their terms, when and where it’s convenient for them. These days, the where can span everything from your website to social media, messaging apps, and a huge range of other channels.
Before today’s innovations, managing and maintaining consistent service across all these channels was a major challenge. Now, there are tools and techniques to help you provide a seamless omnichannel customer experience. Incorporating these into your customer service experience can set you apart from the competition.
The benefits of innovative customer service
Innovative customer service can offer a variety of advantages. By enhancing your customer service with technology, both you and your customer can enjoy:
- Empowered agents and better service. Using technology to automate through tools like chatbots and other self-service options (which 70 percent of consumers have come to expect), you can improve operational efficiency to reduce the burden on your agents, freeing them up to provide better service.
- Increased opportunities for engagement. Creating digital engagement makes sure customers remember you. With technology, you can use methods like gamification to create custom interactive experiences that stick. Mobile interactions also help add convenience and personality to your brand — as much as 89 percent of customers would recommend a company after a good mobile brand experience.
- More accessibility for customers. With more channels and ways for customers to engage with you, every touchpoint provides an opportunity to gather feedback and insight into what customers think, and therefore ways to improve the customer journey, as well as your product or service.
At the end of the day, good service is good sales — a whopping 93 percent of customers are more likely to be repeat customers when your businesses provides excellent customer service. It keeps your brand top of mind — so, even if a customer isn’t purchasing at the moment, they’re more likely to come back and find you in the future.
5 ways to innovate your customer service
Innovative customer service hinges on fully understanding your customers’ needs. By centering your strategy and planning around this, you can implement a variety of tools to enhance your service and customer experience.
Here are some ways to get started — along with some real-world customer experience innovation examples to help you get inspired:
1. Take advantage of conversational experiences
While it’s impossible to connect with every customer in person, conversational experiences can help you develop an ongoing personal relationship virtually. Every touchpoint builds on previous conversations with the customer, giving you a better understanding of who they are, along with their needs and preferences.
This knowledge is gold. A deep understanding of your customers can help you better meet and even exceed and anticipate their expectations — opening a world of possibilities for innovative customer service.
Conversational experiences provide the chance for customers to get to know you, too. After all, conversations are a two-way street. And that helps create a more unique experience.
A few conversational tools that can help with this are live chat and chatbots where customers can communicate in real time to get personalized help through a live agent or AI bot.
One example of this is Cleo, an AI chatbot that helps users budget and manage their finances to reach their goals. Users can personalize their experience with Cleo, using the bot as a personal finance assistant that offers budgeting tips, and answers questions about upcoming bills. And Cleo’s distinctive personality puts a refreshing spin on managing your money, too.
2. Build a fully omnichannel experience
Offering support through multiple channels gives customers greater access to your business and the convenience of engaging with you on the channel they want.
But, being truly omnichannel goes further than that — it means ensuring experiences across all those channels are seamless. While your agent may be chatting with a customer for the first time, it might not be the first time the customer has engaged with your business — and a massive 72 percent of consumers expect agents to know who they are, as well as their purchase history, when they reach out to customer service.
Integrating customer support across multiple channels into one customer experience platform can help you do this. A system that provides a unified view of your data gives your agents a complete view of the customer, their communication history, and the overall journey. And it’s this that gives your agents the context needed to continue conversations from where they left off. In the end, that means faster solutions with less burden on your customers, who don’t have to provide the same background information over and over.
A number of brands have successfully adopted an omnichannel strategy. Sephora is a prime example. Customers may be familiar with their in-store beauty advisors, but Sephora has found ways to provide similar services virtually, including tutorials and consultations through video and customized recommendations using AI chatbots.
In addition, Sephora has a mobile app where customers can learn more about different products and use interactive features like Color IQ and Sephora Virtual Artist that digitize in-person experiences — finding the perfect foundation shade or getting a makeover, for example.
3. Upgrade your technology stack
Emerging technology provides innovative ways to improve customer service by blending elements of in-store and digital experiences into a new, phygital world that engages customers with more tailored experiences.
For example, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) allow companies to emulate in-store shopping experiences for customers, like trying on clothing, make-up, and glasses, or even browsing cars and furniture, from the comfort of their own homes.
Some brands, like Amazon, use optimized mobile experiences to create a phygital world and offer innovative customer service. With Amazon Go, Amazon customers can download the app on their smartphones, scan the app as they enter the store, and get straight down to shopping. Advanced in-store technology calculates the final amount and charges the customer’s Amazon account — no cash (or cashiers) required.
4. Explore innovative uses for popular technologies
With all the new technology coming out, it’s all-too-easy to overlook how much you can do with the technology we already have on hand.
For example, video can help develop personal relationships with your customers by giving your business a face. With 1 in 3 U.S. consumers using live video to chat with a business, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to provide live walkthroughs of products, and you can augment customer support with video chat technology, and cobrowsing technology, too.
There’s plenty more existing technology that can be put to good use. Live chat, for example, offers a way to connect globally with customers through multilingual support.
Knowledge bases are another resource that can benefit both your support team and customers. Businesses that use knowledge bases cater to the 69 percent of customers interested in self-service options, while being ahead of the game — only 28 percent of businesses offer one.
5. Rethink your analytics approach
Analytics are great at providing the full picture of current customer satisfaction while offering important insight into any issues that need addressing. It’s just a matter of what metrics you measure.
And that’s so important because the right customer service metrics can help with strategy and planning by identifying ways to improve your product or service for the future.
Omnichannel and conversational experiences also provide you with rich qualitative data to understand pain points straight from the source: your customers. These can help you discover ways to enhance your customer service and smooth friction points throughout the customer journey for better customer retention.
Customer service of the future
Change is the rule now, rather than the exception. But even so, with the help of some careful strategy and planning, businesses can implement new technologies, measure the impact of their efforts, iterate, rinse, and repeat to stay ahead of the game.
As trends come and go, and expectations evolve, remembering to understand your customers and their needs lies at the center of it all. After all, making your customers happy is what innovative customer service and experience is all about.