Tailor Customer Service Delivery Methods or Lose ‘Em

Kachina Shaw

The thing about customer service is that it’s supposed to revolve around the customer’s needs, not the service provider’s preferences. Customers these days are eager to prove their loyalty to companies that remember that simple fact. And it’s not always about the content of the service request, either. Evolutions in the way customers of tech products and services want to be supported are creating risks and opportunities for those provider companies.

IT Business Edge’s Carl Weinschenk recently reported on key customer service changes in the newest J.D. Power customer service rankings for U.S. wireless service providers. Support users reported that they used customer service chat more often–42 percent, up 6 percent from 2011–and 17 percent have used YouTube to solve a service problem, for instance.

J.D. Power’s summary shows the impact just one key channel of customer service provision can have on overall customer satisfaction:

Within the online channel, the chat feature has become the leading contact source, as 42 percent of full-service customers indicate using a live online chat feature vs. email (23%) or other social media forum (16%). Additionally, online satisfaction is highest among customers who use the chat feature (784), compared with among those using other forums to find information (756), indicating the importance of personalized service and knowledgeable representatives.

With the U.S. tech support market set to grow to $8.25 billion by 2017, according to a new report from Parks Associates, service providers that successfully simplify, tailor and automate their tech support will reduce churn and increase customer satisfaction.

In the report, “The Future of Support: Intelligence Managing Technology” (registration required for download), the rapidly increasing demand for self-help channels in customer service and support among consumers is a shift that service providers can’t ignore. Users are looking for customer service to improve as quickly as the many devices they now use–they are willing to do some of the work themselves, but they want a more satisfactory experience overall. This shift holds the promise of cost savings and increased revenues for providers sensitive to the demand. But it holds the risk of customer flight for providers who fall behind–consumers are more than twice as likely to abandon a mobile or broadband service provider, for example, if they become dissatisfied with customer service, Parks' research has found. Parks sees particular opportunity for OEMs, retailers and digital service providers, noting that the latter are particularly “well situated to capitalize on consumers’ growing support needs.”

The seamless experience that customers want requires of providers, according to Parks:

Scalability: The scope of issues presented and the variety of devices and products supported will become more complicated over time, but the customer service experience must not.

Systems Integration: Not only do providers want to avoid forcing customers into issue escalation, they should also understand that this integration leads to better support of company goals, including new revenue streams.

Holistic Approaches: By definition, this touches on other requirements listed here and in the longer list in the report, but also addresses the question of whether the provider is prepared to successfully deal with all potential customer service needs, rather than losing that business to other providers. Are you turning away business by not fielding requests that are “out of scope?”

This last point is well-covered: In addition to tightening up automated support, and adding chat and other channels, if they are currently missing, the report addresses the potential revenue increases for digital service providers and others through strategic positioning as the initial or preferred touch point for customers.

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