In this month's feature of Website Magazine we will explore the customer service decisions fellow Web professionals are making and the technology used to carry out those decisions to completion.
Smartphone users can request a private car in seconds (Lyft), get the quickest route to their destinations (Waze) and invest automatically (Stash), yet they are often required to sit on hold when calling large, well-funded brands. When an on-demand generation is placed on hold, what do they do? They vent on Twitter. When doing so, they embarrass the company and tie up two service channels (call lines and social media).
Twitter is not the only social network customers are turning to for service, of course. Facebook is becoming quite a leader in this regard, innovating faster than anyone in this space (see Stat Watch on page 9 of this issue).
One area of innovation is the use of "bots" within Facebook Messenger. While Facebook boasts that bots only take 10 minutes to develop (read, "Developing Your Own Bot"), brands need to be hyper-aware of all possible use-cases. For example, if a company allows the ability to schedule an appointment via an automated system within Facebook Messenger, it will likely want to call or text to confirm.
A person may not have the same personal responsibility to cancel or reschedule since they never talked to a "real" person. If the company was to start experiencing too many no-shows from this system, the loss of revenue (reserving a spot for someone who did not show) may have to outweigh user convenience (of them being able to book an appointment themselves).
Plus, when it comes to social media in general for BigCommerce, the e-commerce platform does not get many incoming messages although the networks are monitored consistently and messages are channeled to the right internal contacts.
Where BigCommerce service requests are very active is within live chat - its second biggest "live" contact channel behind voice (60 percent voice, 30 percent chat). The live chat option is not only available to website visitors but also merchants within the product.
It will not be enough to just provide live chat in the near future, but it must also take into account the context of the interaction. The greeting that the live chat operator (bot or otherwise) uses, for instance, can annoy end-users if they are greeted as a first-time visitor (when they are not), are greeted with a promotion (when they want to track an order), etc.
"Right now, when you open a chat box, you have to tell us who you are," said Vaillancourt. "By the end of the year, we'll know exactly who you are [to the betterment of in-product support]. Anyone who isn't doing what we're doing right now in this industry is going to fall way behind."
Every customer is different and every approach to the service choices they make will need to be adjusted based on context. To a certain degree, retail is setting this expectation with its push toward personalization (where content and products are presented based on known attributes and history) and omnichannel (where all touchpoints work together and share data to ensure each channel flows into the next for superior customer experience).
Thinking several steps ahead of them can help consumers enjoy this custom experience - an experience that does not give them a reason to pick up the phone or fire off a negative Tweet. Proactively thinking about what is next for a customer is the definitive merger of customer experience and customer service.
"B2B buyers want to be fully in control of their buying experience, preferring to gather information on their own instead interacting with a salesperson," said Craig Zawada, chief visionary officer at PROS, a cloud commerce company. "They also expect a transparent, personalized and omnichannel experience - similar to when buying a shirt online - whether they're working with a direct salesperson, a partner channel, or self-serving via a website or mobile."
There are some products and services that will require more after-the-sale support than others. Price alone is not always the best indicator of support levels either. Much of the support for BigCommerce merchants, for example, is customized based on who the customer is. If, for example, a large retailer is not getting the traffic to their site that they expect, they can reach out to their personal account manager to bring in an SEO expert. Smaller retailers have the same questions but at a different scale, and they may be directed toward BigCommerce's community, which houses robust discussion groups.
It has little to do with the price they are paying, says Vaillancourt, but more about BigCommerce being smart enough to know the different conversations its unique customer base may need to have. And, in many cases, it is not a conversation customers want to have at all - opting for self-service options instead.
BigCommerce recently turned on a single sign-on feature that allows its customers to go into the communities section from the products area with one click. There was a 500 percent week over week increase in sign-ons when that feature was "turned on." Now, it is one click into the communities and one click back according to the company.
Once in the communities, merchants have access to their peers including their competitors (who are surprisingly quite transparent about struggles and successes within these groups) to gather unique insights that will help them help themselves. Interestingly, only 1 in 4 that go into the community looking for answers go into the tech support section after.
It is data like this that can help BigCommerce, and others should take note, create narratives to understand what customers are looking for "in order to update assets to make the right information available contextually and sooner."
Customers' expectations for the experiences they are provided, the channels available to discuss those experiences and how companies customize messaging based on what they already know are ever-growing. The good news is that brands large and small can win - and win big - by knowing where customers are, allowing them to get access to customer service there, and provide a service that caters to who they are and what they want at that moment.