24 May BRIDGING THE CUSTOMER SERVICE GAP IN THE DIGITAL AGE
The Internet has changed consumers’ lives in countless ways. The way that we communicate with our friends, colleagues and customers has been in constant flux in recent history. Just think of all the relatively recent breakthroughs in communication that we owe to the Internet:
- Message boards and chatrooms
- Voice over Internet protocol (VOIP)
- Messenger services
- Social media platforms
It’s worth noting that, short of VOIP services which allow voice and video calls, all of the above innovations have served to de-personalise the way that we connect with one another. Indeed, our society is trending away from live communication.
For evidence of this, look no further than the up-and-coming millennial generation, which is comprised largely of digital natives—or people who were brought up during the age of digital technology. This demographic vastly prefers texts to voice calls, and are much less inclined to leave or check voicemail messages.
The need to actually engage with others has decreased significantly. We live in an age in which drivers can easily get directions through an on-board GPS device, eliminating the need to pull over and ask a local. Romance is now passively sparked through online services and apps like Tinder. And then there’s the ‘Let me Google that for you’ website. Its sole purpose is to shame those who have the audacity to ask you a question in an online environment when they could easily have Googled the answer themselves. The site is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but it’s certainly a sign of the times.
It’s a strange quirk of our species: we both crave and loathe social contact. According to an article published in The Telegraph, British adults now prefer texting to face-to-face conversation. According to a survey cited in the article, the average adult in the UK sends upwards of 200 texts per month. Perhaps most revealingly, more than half of those surveyed said they used text messages to communicate with family and friends at least once a day, despite the fact that a vast majority (77 per cent) said they would rather meet or speak on the phone than communicate by text.
In other words, we’re sending more texts and foregoing real human interaction even though we prefer meeting—or at least speaking—in person.
These shifts in communication have created gaps that consumers are sensitive to. From a business perspective, this presents a range of opportunities. Just consider the number of times you have personally needed to get in touch with a customer service representative, only to find yourself stuck in a spiralling descent of menu selections, transfers and automated messages. We’ve all uttered some variation on the phrase: “What is it going to take to talk to a real person?”
With that in mind, companies that go out of their way to be accessible to customers—whether they are walking into the office or simply calling in—are placing themselves in prime position to step out ahead of the competition. In an age in which human interaction is on the decline, the companies that go out of their way to more fully engage with their clients and customers are winning out.
The Difference Picking Up the Phone Can Make
Picking up the phone when your customers call is one of the simplest ways to make a profound difference in the way your company is perceived by the public. In the modern deluge of texts, online messages and social updates, voice-to-voice phone calls are taking a back seat. This has had a profound habit on the preferences of millennials.
The Wall Street Journal published an article a couple of years ago entitled ‘Bosses Say “Pick Up the Phone”’. It looked at a growing trend amongst millennial sales staff, who felt more comfortable delivering a sales pitch by e-mail rather than on the phone.
Dubbed ‘phone aversion’, this social pattern may seem unusual to older sales reps who are much more comfortable placing and receiving phone calls. However, it’s an undeniable trend that’s having a profound effect on the way that the up-and-coming business leaders communicate with their prospective customer set.
Of course, even the most phone-averse individual is still going to place a call if they are need of urgent service. Indeed, there are several situations in which placing a phone call probably makes more sense than sending an e-mail or a text:
- Enquiring about the status of a shipment that should have been delivered already
- Asking a specific shop what time they close to see if you have time to drop in
- Dealing with a product emergency
- Trying to place an enquiry when you’re not exactly sure which questions you should be asking
- Asking a question that would take much longer to type out than it would to simply ask in person
Those are a few examples, and there are countless others. That’s why it’s so important that your company make arrangements to ensure that your potential and existing customers have at least the option of calling in to speak with a real person should the opportunity present itself.
Customers are understandably frustrated when they need to speak with a real person but are systematically denied the opportunity to do so. This is an area in which outsourcing your call-answering to a third party serves to really set your company apart. Customers will notice the difference, when they see that there are consistently answered in a timely manner by someone who is equipped to help them find a solution. It’s a proven way to build brand loyalty in an age when bona fide human interaction is difficult to come by.