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The consumer revolution is in full swing, and customers dictate not only the channels they use to communicate with brands but also the quality of service that will convince them to stay loyal, according to Mark Brown, managing director of contact centres and loyalty for Arvato UK 

The company warns that, as brands continue to shift contact centre channels toward a more effective and relevant multichannel approach, rather than seeing this as simply serving customer demands, companies must also consider how best to use self-service options to benefit from cost efficiencies. Balancing the ongoing consumer power shift with an increasingly tight budget will be the key challenge for the near term. This article is copyright 2011 TheWiseMarketer.com).

With a sluggish economy and weak consumer confidence ahead, customer satisfaction will be the 2012 battleground for the biggest brands, with each fighting to retain their market share. Those that overlook areas such as contact centres – which remain a key interface between brands and their customers – will see consumers voting with their feet.

Harnessing social power 

The evolution and rapid acceptance of consumers communicating and transacting with brands via mobile and social media channels will play an increasingly important role in the shape of contact centres. A major challenge will be maintaining an individual approach across social channels.

73% of consumers rank friendly, helpful staff as most important element of the contact centre experience, and 41% of consumers view a personal approach as the most important. Brands have to not only ensure that their capabilities stretch far further than just voice calls but also that their level of personalisation and passion for customer service remain just as strong across multiple channels, including social media. This could be adding an element of engagement using Twitter, or implementing a more intelligent use of video chat to immediately quash any negative comments on social networks – making the impersonal more personal.

The rise of mobile customer communications 

Location-based functionality will become increasingly important as people turn to their phones, rather than their laptops to interact with brands. Payment and billing transactions, the ability to redeem vouchers or coupons or collect and redeem bonus points all need to be smartphone-enabled, to ensure customers can access what they need through their chosen medium.

Naturally, there's a need to handle inbound requests via social media in a way that makes sense to customers, but the best call centres are going beyond this reactive approach. They are proactively thinking about how to use social media to create an online community of ambassadors that protect and support the brand, ultimately driving loyalty and sales.

The fight for loyalty 

Customer loyalty and customer retention will remain the key priorities. Companies can start to develop loyalty by setting up dedicated analytical and account teams that understand each customer's history, requirements and previous engagement with the brand.

This approach helps to identify customers' problems before they escalate and cause defections, as well as creating new opportunities to add value, either by up-selling with relevant products or offering promotions that match each customer's profile.

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