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Five tips for customer service success

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It costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one happy, so it makes sense for organisations to keep there customer services department running smoothy. JIM FREEZE of Aspect Software provides five tips for customer service success.

Most of us will have been at the receiving end of bad customer service, and it is normally something that you do not forget too quickly. However, it may not purely be the contact centre’s fault; according to research we did earlier this year, our expectations of the quality of customer service (everything from speed to going above and beyond the call of duty) have risen in the past three years, and this trend is likely to continue.

Offering customers a positive experience can prove pivotal to an organisation’s reputation, yet today many companies are still more focused on finding more customers than they are in keeping their current ones happy. This is a flawed process; the fact of the matter is that this is a well-known adage even among the layman – it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than keep a current one. This makes it even more imperative that the experience you offer your customers is as good as it can possibly be. So to help you achieve this, here are some important issues that all business leaders, large and small, need to know in order to plan for a tiptop customer experience.

1. Bad customer service is something you never forget

Thanks to people being so interconnected today, consumers have the capability to make or break a brand through sharing their experiences to a huge audience via social media. The Aspect survey found that 55 per cent of consumers stopped doing business with at least one company during the past year because of a poor customer experience.

The danger with negative customer service being vented through social media is that everyone has access to it – even the mainstream media, and if they pick up on poor service, it could be disastrous for your brand. However, offering good customer service through this channel can have the reverse effect, creating a positive brand perception that is shared the world over.

2. It’s not just customers who can benefit

Good customer service works both ways; it benefits the customer and in turn, benefits your business. Customers feel very strongly about the service they receive and stated in our study that they would pay more money to a business if it ensured they received a positive experience. We also found that more than three quarters (76 per cent) of consumers think that customer service is a “true test” of how much a company values its customers.

For years customer service departments have been considered a hindrance to a company’s budget and not as a necessity to invest in to help expansion. It is important to have customers who are happy, so that they remain customers (and for longer), and you are able to grow as a business.

3. Always add a personal touch

Customers don’t want to be told how they must interact with your company; they want to be able to contact you in a method of their choosing. We live in a digital age where consumers simply do not want to have to chat to a business over the phone, they want to be able to use social media, text, or the internet to engage with you, and businesses need to provide these solutions.

Personalisation provides an opportunity for businesses to build customer loyalty, customers will inherently be more satisfied if they don’t have to put in a lot of leg work to get their questions answered, and allowing them to control how they contact you will do this.

4. Customer interactions benefits your business as well

It is important to remember that offering customers a personalised experience also has its benefits for your organisation. By harvesting and analysing customer data – such as a purchase history, their habits when they visit your website online, or what kind of marketing communication they respond to – your contact centre and marketing departments have the capability to gain critical information on what your customers want, and what attracts them to your company. This provides an opportunity for you to use this data and understand how best to promote your brand.

5. The customer journey is an information goldmine

Marketing teams are missing out on a huge opportunity if they do not use customer service as a platform for future campaigns. If you follow your customers’ experiences across all touch points, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information you’ll acquire.

Understanding consumers’ journeys can give insight into how their experience affects their loyalty to you and their future business with you. So, pick up the phone and call, tweet or text your customer service professionals. You’ll be surprised what you learn.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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