They can track down a customer service email address in three seconds flat.
If they can’t find what they’re looking for on your website, they’ll bounce faster than your cookie can catch.
They’ll tweet you a screenshot the moment they find a bug that’s preventing them from being able to use your app as promised.
No, they’re not some kind of crawling software or automated program.
They’re today’s consumers.
And you had better get used to them unless you want to become yesterday’s news.
The consumer we’re trying to convert hasn’t been around for centuries. So why are we trying to woo them with top-of-mind marketing tactics that go back that far?
Our audience is no longer captive. They don’t have to tune in at six for the news or huddle around the radio for entertainment.
Though, sometimes they probably wish things were that simple.
Now, consumers are bombarded by marketing everywhere they turn. I’m sure you’re familiar with the popular anecdote that claims the typical person sees hundreds of ads every single day. It’s probably much closer to reality than fiction for most of us.
Times are changing. Buying the “right” brand, driving the “right” car, and moving into the “right” neighborhood to keep up with the Joneses has gone out of style.
Even the loudest top-of-mind marketing megaphones can’t reverberate beyond the unsubscribing, ad-blocking, privacy-protecting software with which today’s consumers are arming themselves.
What does still make waves is a stellar experience.
Unfortunately for consumers, that’s far too rare.
But fortunately for us, it should be pretty easy to improve upon what we — and our competitors — are doing when it comes to providing excellent customer service.
The economics of loyalty
According to Lee Resources, 80 percent of companies claim to provide superior customer service.
Only 8 percent of people agree.
That stings. And it doesn’t end there.
NewVoiceMedia found that 91 percent of consumers take action after a bad customer service experience.
For over half of them, that means walking away from the company for good.
Nearly as many said they don’t hesitate to share negative opinions and experiences on social media.
Consumers are willing to spend over $500 just to get away from a company with bad customer service.
Can you image what they’d be willing to do for good service?
85 percent of consumers said they’d pay more than the standard asking price if it just meant they’d get better customer service. Some of them up to 25 percent more.
All that’s well and good, but how can we be sure that upping our customer service game is actually going to pay off once our competitors have chased their customers over to us?
One word: Retention
The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reports that it’s up to 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain one.
Frederick Reichheld (who came up with the net promoter score) found that increasing customer retention rates by just 5 percent has the power to increase profits anywhere from 25 to 95 percent.
When customer retention equals return and the top reasons for turnover are poor treatment and failure to resolve an issue quickly; providing great customer service practically feels like printing money.
While the solution isn’t quite that simple, it’s definitely more legal.
We work in a world where competitors pop up overnight courtesy of a WiFi connection and a funded Kickstarter. That means ramping up customer volume, not service, often takes precedence when we’re trying to keep the wolves at bay.
Great customer service is there precisely when and where it’s needed, unlike most customer service agents.
Great customer service feels customized to fit your exact needs — a feat that proves time consuming for even the best agents.
Great customer service doesn’t get burned out answering a high volume of very similar requests at all hours of the day and night. Good luck finding a single human, much less one skilled at customer service, to sign up for thatjob.
Great customer service can’t be scaled efficiently or affordably.
Unless, like me, you believe there’s a way to supplement human agents to provide exemplary customer service around the clock.
Don’t replace your entire customer service team; empower them with chatbots
Now, a squad of chatbots is not going to solve your customer service and retention woes overnight.
Even I concede that chatbots aren’t able to deliver the level of service that takes a customer’s experience from average to amazing. But a capable customer service agent with a digital sidekick? Now that’s another story.
Automate time-sucking requests
Can you think of something more fun than answering the same exact question several times every hour?
Yeah. Literally anything.
That’s how your (human) customer service agents feel, too. But bots? If they could love anything, this would be it.
For those simple, repetitive queries about shipping updates and hours of operation, consider a bot to supply automated responses.
Bots free up your customer service agents so they can spend more time getting to the bottom of important challenges.
Make fractured messaging platforms work for you
In 2016, Twilio found that nearly 90 percent of consumers want to use digital messaging to communicate with businesses. Yet only half of businesses are equipped to meet this demand.
The average consumer uses a smartphone as their primary messaging device, has three messaging apps on their home screen, and uses three different messaging apps on a weekly basis.
What does this mean for you? Your customers are messaging, they’re mobile, and the might start anywhere but your website when seeking a solution to a problem with your product or service.
On the flip side, it also means they’re open to receiving messages about complimentary products and reminders about sales right in the middle of their work day.
Messaging apps are welcomed the same way telemarketing was once reviled.
If you aren’t taking the opportunity to provide your customers great service and timely updates right when and where their eyeballs are already looking; you can bet there’s a competitor who will.
Take advantage of insane engagement demands
85 percent of consumers don’t just want to get blasted with info from brands — they want to engage with them via messaging.
When the standard landing page conversion rate is 2.35 percent and the average email open rate 20 percent, that’s huge.
As flattering as it is that customers actually want to connect with you, the instantaneous response people have come to expect from messaging apps poses a problem for customer service teams. But not for chatbots.
At 4 p.m. when a customer can’t access webinar, they don’t care what timezone your customer service agents are in. They need a solution.
When your customer is planning their day around whether their package is going to arrive in time for a birthday party that afternoon, they want to be able to check its status at 8 a.m. on a Sunday.
Having access to a chatbot that is able to handle “webinar” and “shipping” queries well outside of standard business hours might just be the thing that pushes someone to become your loyal brand ambassador.
Even if a consumer is only filling out a form or submitting a feature request, confirmation or help delivered by a chatbot is a nice way to acknowledge their effort — and maybe even collect a little extra information that can boost your marketing segmentation.
Provide powerful customer service every single time
So far we’ve discussed how chatbots can cleverly distribute easy updates and solve simple issues.
But what about those complex challenges that are the whole reason you cultivated your team of skilled customer service agents in the first place?
Chatbots play a supporting role in empowering your agents to provide powerful customer service when it matters most.
Although most of today’s chatbots can’t stray far from a script, they can keep customers a helluva lot more engaged than staticky hold music.
Once Natural Language Processing identifies language in a chat, forum, or social media page that indicates an issue should be escalated to a human agent; the chatbot can proceed to set up a seamless handoff.
There’s no reason a bot can’t collect basic information such as the gist of a consumer’s request as well as an order number, customer ID, or other identifying information that can be used to locate them in your database.
While it doesn’t seem like much, this qualifying step prevents wasting a customer’s time while they wait for an agent to become available, stores their information so they don’t have to keep repeating it, and helps ensure the most qualified agent responds on the first try.
Considering that being passed from agent to agent and not being able to speak to a person are some of the leading reasons customers switch companies, bots play a large role in facilitate this win in the customer service experience.
If your bot has AI capabilities and you’re able to give it access to deep data, it might just be able to learn enough from these transactions to eventually respond to complex requests without the help of a human.
In fact, we’re testing that hypothesis right now with our chatbot, GrowthBot. We’re feeding it tons of sales and marketing data while simultaneously training it to get more and more skilled at recognizing the information growth professionals need to get work done.
Big players like Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google are investing billions in digital assistants. And for once, chatbots make it so you don’t have to have the same kind of Benjamins to compete.
Accenture Interactive has seen effective design and implementation empower companies to use chatbots to resolve 80 percent of sessions which would have typically been handled by human customer service agents.
When your customer service agents are empowered by technology to go after the big, business-changing challenges; you’ll see retention soar as customers recommend your services and keep coming back for more.
Sure, you’ve got about a 20 percent chance to sell something to a new prospect.
But when it comes to an existing customer you can triple your chances of a sale — at least.