Customer service in the digital era

By Barry Urquart

Customer service excellence is a moving target, particularly in the current digital era.

The rate of change for all things in life and business is accelerating. So too are customer expectations. Achieving and maintaining customer satisfaction requires discipline, focus and a commitment to four key service fundamentals.

1. Communicate through digital channels

The digital world has contributed to the 'now' consumer. These are the people you service who require immediate and comprehensive access to information, products and services. Queues and 'priority lines' are now obsolete.

It's imperative that all businesses, regardless of size, embrace new concepts like omni-channel and multi-channel communications. These approaches use multiple methods for selling and marketing including digital devices like computers and phones, as well as bricks-and-mortar stores and telephone sales.

According to a recent survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 40 per cent of all businesses have their own internet presence. For those that don't, revenue is not only lost to online competitors - some bricks-and-mortar businesses are becoming redundant.

Homepages are effectively contemporary shopfronts. Social media stimulates interest, awareness, brand recognition and demand, and encourages sustainable relationships through its two-way communication.

You may not be able to speak to each and every one of your customers on a daily basis, but you can create connections via social networks. Use your blog to educate and inspire. Show your fun side on Facebook. Interact with industry experts on Quora. Keep up to date on customer feedback through Twitter. Communicate your creative vision with Pinterest.

Social media can be time consuming, but it's also an efficient and valuable way to connect to thousands of customers all at once.

2. Measure punctuality

Wait-time and downtime are intolerable to digital consumers and are key contributors to loss of business. The implied and explicit promises of speed with 4G and the National Broadband Network highlight the importance, relevance and potential competitive advantage of punctuality.

Customer satisfaction today is measured in modules of time. Ten minutes is a virtual lifetime in our digital world. Therefore, you should quantify, promote and uncompromisingly adhere to service standards.

3. Be transparent and consistent

The digital world is global and ensures that your business, its products, services and people can be and are measured against universal standards. Local is no longer geographic; it is just one click away. Therefore all things are accountable, transparent and comparable to your competition.

Customers submit significantly more complaints about service inconsistencies than about service standards. No-gap service ideals seek ongoing customer feedback to ensure there are no gaps between what clients expect and what they experience.

4. Remember it's always ongoing

Service excellence is an ideal. It is also a constant that knows no limitations. 24/7 is a challenging reality.

Success with service in the digital era is enjoyed by those who remove the 'extra' from the promise of extra-ordinary service. Extra will become the ordinary for your business when you promise, deliver and promote communication, punctuality, consistency and continuity.

To continually excite, incite and delight customers, do make contact with them at the conclusion of a transaction and express the sentiment of gratitude with a two-word phrase: 'thank you'.

It is part of the service.


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