There’s a great ad out right now for an online insurance company. The tagline is “Technology when you want it, people when you don’t.” I like this tagline, because it captures the conundrum most folks face when they need customer service: people or technology? This company’s answer is: both.
And, really, “both” should be the answer for all businesses. Technology should enable people to provide excellent customer service, regardless of company size or industry. But all too often technology replaces people or is implemented in a way that creates more work for customers.
This marriage of technology and people is especially important for small businesses, which often face customer service challenges that larger companies don’t. Following are three ways tech can help your customer service efforts.
1. The right info at the right time. Customer relationship management (CRM) systems help people deliver superior customer service by providing relevant customer information in real time. They give customer service representatives the information they need to diagnose and solve problems.
“Anytime you can make your customer feel that you know about their issues and are in tune with what’s going on, it makes them know that their business is valued,” says Nancy Sattler, Principal Owner, Sattler Insurance Agency.
Sattler provides a variety of commercial and personal insurance products. Located in Lewiston, Idaho, the agency specializes in property and liability coverage for recreational outfitters and provides coverage in 38 states.
Sattler has seen great improvement in the efficiency of its customer service, and the CRM system also provides a means to capture new customer information for future sales. “For example, during a phone conversation we might discuss discounts for packaging some of a client’s policies together,” says Sattler.
2. 24/7 availability. In this slow economy many small businesses have cut back on staff, which can result in missed phone calls from prospects, increased time to return calls, and frustrated customers.
Andy Murphy, of Dunster House, a leading DIY log cabin retailer in the U.K., knows this all too well. “With our old phone system, our receptionists couldn’t tell if someone was engaged and customers would get bounced back time and time again which was frustrating for both parties.”
Unified communications, however, can help fix these problems. Features like call grouping and hot desking ensure that customers reach a company representative no matter where they are--in the office, at home, or on the road.
3. Face-to-face communications. Video Conferencing may not be first on a small business’ wish list, but this technology can not only improve internal communications, it can greatly enhance customer service as well.
By using video conferencing, you can provide support to customers more quickly and improve your success rate in resolving customer issues. Some video conferencing solutions, such as Cisco WebEx, let you remotely control customers’ desktops, reducing the frustrating back and forth of walking through a solution verbally over the phone. This not only takes up less of your customer’s time but also makes your employees more productive and allows them to help even more customers.
The combination of people plus the right technology can help your small business deliver excellent customer service. Do you think your business is too small for these suggestions? Take a look at how Larry’s Foreign and Domestic Auto Repair in San Jose CA (5 employees) is using a CRM application integrated with their phones to improve service.
Have any stories of how technology has helped improve your customer service? Send them over!