Are you doing everything you can to ensure your customer experience is as smooth as possible?
Consider whether you are offering your customers the right options in order to help them solve problems and to retain their loyalty. If you’re unsure, using a customer service partner who already has the knowledge of the ideal customer service strategy could be the right path for you.
But for now, let’s cover the different kinds of customer service available and take a look at which options are most effective to give your customers what they want and need.
Forms of customer service available
There are various forms of customer service that are all critical in achieving the best customer experience possible. The majority of businesses split their customer service function into four categories — Levels 0-3.
- Level 0: Self-serve and automated functions. These include providing FAQ pages, chatbots, password resets and onboarding documents for complex products. Implementing these will help you preempt problems, resolve issues efficiently and reduce the costs of unsatisfied customers.
- Level 1: Front-line support. This is where more moderately skilled customer service agents are positioned to resolve the common problems that your customers have.
- Level 2: Problem-solving. Senior agents are key here to give customers detailed responses and to fix more complex issues brought to your customer service teams.
- Level 3: Technical support. This is the most complex level of customer service — where trained specialists should be. They will solve the intricate issues and partner with engineering teams to help refine a product.
Dividing customer service options like this enables you to respond to customer queries directly and accurately. As a bonus, you’ll make a clear path for ticket escalation and an unrestricted channel to share information through.
Choosing which type of customer service to use
There are a few musts that no business can afford to overlook when it comes to positive customer service experiences. By focusing on what customers expect and your own specific business outcomes, you’re on the right track to securing customer satisfaction.
1. Online and phone services
It’s a no-brainer that you offer these options, with the majority of consumers expecting an online portal for customer service. More than 40% of all customers want phone, live online chat and email support. These should be the foundation of your customer service strategy.
2. 24/7 access
Often, the most convenient times to access customer service is outside of customer working hours. Accommodate this by offering customers the service they need in the evening and at weekends.
3. Quick response times
90% of customers say that an immediate response of 10 minutes or less from customer support teams is “very important” for a satisfactory experience. It’s key to avoid keeping customers waiting or they may shop elsewhere.
4. Access to knowledgeable agents
Arguably, the most off-putting customer service experience is speaking to an agent that doesn’t have the right knowledge base or who isn’t even human. Interactive voice response is the number one reason customers don’t like calling customer service. Being able to offer customers communication with well-informed and personable representatives is fundamental.
5. Language options
Accommodating language barriers is non-negotiable if you’re a business benefiting from international clientele. After all, how will your customers be able to interact with your representatives and your brand if they can’t understand you?
What do customers prefer?
There’s a difference when it comes to what customers need and what they want but both are just as important. Generally, based on research by TalkDesk, the average hierarchy of preferred customer communication is as follows:
- Phone: 36% of customers
- Live chat: 33% of customers
- Email: 25% of customers
- Online support portal: 5% of customers
- Social media: 2% of customers
What’s important to note is that different demographics like age hugely affect customer preference, especially when it comes to channels of communication. While it’s important to understand what customers generally want, you must focus on what your specific customer likes and what they’re looking for:
- Younger customers: Higher value is placed on customer service via social media and online channels with 52% of millennials preferring live chat. They also appreciate quick response times and 58% expect to be able to engage with a brand whenever they choose. Focus on pleasing millennials because they’ll spend 21% more with a brand who excels at customer service.
- Older customers: With less of the older generation using smartphones, phone calls are preferred among this demographic. Providing knowledgeable service agents is key, with 40% of consumers over 55 believing that informed representatives are the most important customer service factor.
The most successful approach to customer service is a varied one, but a multi-channelled method isn’t enough anymore. Brands looking to secure a seamless customer service solution need to upgrade to an omnichannel approach.
Why is an omnichannel approach critical?
Customers need and want an omnichannel approach from your brand. It’s critical to driving better relationships between you and your customers at support level.
Increase in chatbots, live chat and email responses require omnichannel support. It relays customer information to agents at every stage of support, which means customers don’t have to repeat themselves to every representative they speak to.
Pro-tip: Aim to automate as much as you can while also keeping it personal and easy for customers to transition to human-driven channels. Offering omnichannel support alongside your phone support will help you reap the benefits of customer satisfaction.
Consider your capabilities
Choosing which form of customer service suits your business best is critical. Whatever you choose, though, be prepared to scale and ensure that you have flexibility. This will give you the capacity to expand without breaking. A big part of this involves how you implement.
Will your customer service be in-house or outsourced, or even a mix of both? Let’s take a look at the options.
In-house vs outsourcing
- In-house: Choosing in-house gives you complete control and transparency over your operation. While that’s great for some, it means that all the responsibility and resource is also yours. If you’re a brand who sells fewer higher-margin products and who already has a successful in-house customer service team, this might be the option for you.
- Outsourcing: Partnering with an external customer service provider brings financial savings, flexibility and accessible expert input. It can provide benefits that are either hard or impossible to achieve in-house. These include on-demand specialist advice, lower costs spent training and guaranteed 24/7 customer support.
- Both: A hybrid approach means you get the benefits of a more traditional call centre as well as those of a distributed operation. That being said, the advantages of an outsourced system do outweigh the more traditional approach when it comes to flexibility, service quality and scalability.
Pro-tip: Outsourcing your customer service can lead to different outcomes depending on your price point. For more guidance on understanding costs, check out our article, ‘Customer service outsourcing pricing guide for 2021’.
There are also some key things to bear in mind when choosing the right outsourced option for you.
Onshore vs offshore
Offshoring is when a company moves their customer service process to another country, most often to take advantage of cheaper labour markets in call centres. For that reason, it’s often the more tempting option — but the least rewarding.
Not being able to understand a customer service agent is ranked the most frustrating part of a customer service phone call experience. By choosing an offshore service, you are hugely increasing your chances of that and you risk losing the 51% of customers who won’t do business with you again after a negative experience.
The better option is to invest in quality — a customer service outsourcing provider who offers UK-based representatives. This partnership will cut costs as well as achieve better communication with customers.
Call centre vs contact centre
A call centre is limited to making inbound and outbound calls to customers, whereas contact centres offer more elaborate communication capabilities that make omnichannel approaches attainable.
In a contact centre, representatives are given the essential tools and training they need to make calls, execute live-chat, and provide email and technical support. A contact centre also provides access to a wider range of trained specialists. It’s a clear win for a contact centre partnership over a call centre one.
Key-takeaways: When forming a customer service strategy, remember that the best options are to:
- Stick with your in-house operation only if it’s really working.
- Outsource for expertise and improved customer care.
- Opt for an onshore investment.
- Favour a contact centre over a call centre.
Choose the right customer service strategy for you
Customer service is a lot more than just problem-solving. It’s about providing your customers with a critically good experience and improving overall customer satisfaction.
Your company will achieve customer loyalty and more by aligning with a customer service outsourcing provider (like Odondo) who will flexibly partner you with knowledgeable, UK-based agents. More than that, your representatives will be selected to match the specific demographics of your customers — a chance to perform even better customer service outcomes and infinitely grow your brand.
Bobby spent 11 years as an Investment Banker before going on to co-found his own e-commerce start-up, where Customer Service was one of the core functions that fell under his remit.
He has spent the past 9 years in and around the start-up space, most recently co-founding Odondo with the aim of reimagining the delivery of Customer Service. Bobby has pursued a very traditional career path for someone who ultimately aspires to be a hardcore gangsta rapper.