Matt Wilbanks understands what it’s like to try to retain customers who never reach out when there’s a problem. As CEO and co-founder of HelpSocial, a leading integration platform for customer care and social media, he believes that companies can not only prevent customer churn but also connect with new customer segments by adapting to the changing communication preferences of their customer base.
Digitally savvy customers spend a good amount of their time on social networking sites, so it’s natural for them to go there first for help with technical issues. “We have found that, if you can reach out quickly and offer help, it will improve customer retention as well as your company’s reputation for providing excellent customer care,” he says.
While social customer care practices the in early days of Twitter and Facebook mostly consisted of marketing teams directing complaints to other support channels, Wilbanks believes that companies can provide the same level of support on social networks as they do with live chat or email—and it’s often much faster and more convenient for consumers.
“If it’s a situation that involves personally identifiable information or sensitive information, then you would want to guide the consumer to a secure channel,” he says. “But unless the circumstance requires it, you shouldn’t force them into another channel. If they reach out to you through social media, that is their preferred channel. If you try to move them to email or to pick up the phone, you’re adding a step to the journey at a time when they’re probably not very happy with you. If possible, try to respond and resolve the issue in the same channel—wherever it is most convenient for the customer.”
Care About the Process, Not the Channel
Yoel Knoll agrees that offering a convenient service option is key. “Users today want to choose the channel in which they do business. They also want to choose the time of day. We have to give them the ability to stop and continue later and pickup where they stopped.” Knoll is VP of marketing for CallVU, which provides a mobile digital engagement platform that blends rich digital and interactive media with the voice channel.
“Companies are investing millions in e-commerce websites, applications and in digitizing their point of sales, but they’re not tying all of these channels together,” he adds. “If you start the journey on an app and then you call an agent, you want to continue the same journey, but you cannot. You have to start all over again.”
In a recent CallVU survey of U.S. bank customers, most participants reported that they typically contact their bank by phone. Respondents were asked a followup question: When you call your bank, where do you find the phone number? Seventy-three percent (73%) said that they first go to the bank’s website to look up the number, and then they place the call.
“They were already in a digital channel,” Knoll says. “They were on a website that most likely has e-commerce capabilities to allow them to complete their tasks through self-service, yet they opted out and called the contact center, which is the most expensive resource that companies have in their customer service arsenal.”
According to CallVU, there are three primary reasons why customers opt out of a digital interaction and turn to live support: (1) Out of habit; (2) because digital channels are typically passive, meaning the knowledge and applications are there, but it’s up to the customer to take action; or (3) due to the lack of an omnichannel experience. Customers know that if they can’t complete their task, they’re going to have to start over when they call, so they don’t bother.
“One of our solutions is to replace the phone number on the website with a ‘Start Call Now’ button. When the customer clicks on it, an app-like menu pops up on their phone and walks the customer through the self-service process,” Knoll explains. The Visual IVR provides an interactive digital journey that engages the customer and enhances the experience.
Knoll says that, once in the visual IVR, around 30% of callers choose to remain in the digital channel and self-serve rather than speak to an agent. But for those who opt for an agent, handle time is shorter because the information they’ve input transfers with them to the live agent.
In February, CallVU released Conversational IVR, the newest addition to its Digital Engagement Platform, which leverages artificial intelligence to allow callers to use natural language to get the service they want without having to navigate long and complicated audio service menus.