The summer holiday season is finally just around the corner! After a long cold winter, consumers are now yearning for that well deserved and eagerly anticipated holiday. Flights booked, accommodation paid for, everything going to plan…?
However news last week that EasyJet is to recreate a volcanic ash cloud to test out special equipment designed to avoid the disruption caused by the Icelandic eruption in 2010, abruptly reminds us of the impact unforeseen events can have on even our best laid travel plans.
Unpredictable weather conditions can also cause massive disruption, as highlighted by the recent coverage that cruise line – Voyages to Antiquity, has shelved its entire winter 2013-14 programme in Asia after its ship was battered by torrential rain, rough seas and gale force winds in the region in January and February.
Volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes – unfortunately, such events are becoming more and more frequent, leaving consumers in the most un-predictable travel situations, often in dire need of instant, 24/7 assistance from travel companies and airlines when things go wrong. This can put a huge pressure on contact centres if companies fail to offer a consistent level of customer service across other channels – having a damaging impact on the customers experience.
The rise of e-commerce has led to a huge increase in travel purchases being made online, with research from Deloitte that shows 86% of overseas and 91% of domestic travel transactions in the UK are now “digitally influenced.” That means, even if the final purchase isn’t made online, about nine in 10 travel purchases are influenced by things like websites, social media, peer reviews and smartphone or tablet apps. Consumers are using a variety of different channels to not only book their travel but also to share their experiences – able to share their travel ‘highs’ and lows’ instantly via social media and review sites.
So how do travel companies ensure they stay ahead of the curve and provide their customers with the best customer service and experience online – especially when things don’t go to plan – exactly when they most need it? read more…
With the rapid growth in the number of customer service channels available to the consumer comes the opportunity for organisations to improve their brand reach, customer experience and ultimately customer satisfaction.
According to a recent report by Forrester, adoption of online customer service channels, such as web self-service, chat with live agents and social media, is exploding.
The report highlights that consumers across all age demographics now expect relevant and seamless customer service across all channels. The conundrum facing many organisations however is how to align communication channels and ‘join-up’ often siloed customer service channels to meet consumer’s expectations for consistency. read more…
With the recent increase in business rates coming into force this month, retailers are baring the brunt of the 2.6% increase, during already austere times. Retail was reported as one of the hardest hit sectors in the first quarter of 2013 with the number of insolvencies rising 1.75%.
Major names like Jessops, HMV, Comet and Blockbuster are obvious examples of the devastating impact of spiralling high street rent and immense online competition for sales. Whilst physical high street stores are suffering, online retail is continuing to grow, but with margins being eroded by fierce competition, how can companies ensure they survive?
What makes a customer want to stay loyal to your brand and come back again?
If you follow technology industry news, there’s no getting away from smartphones at the moment. At the start of the year the market analysts at Deloitte predicted that annual smartphone sales will push through the 1bn sales barrier for the first time.
Samsung followed up with news that global sales of its flagship Galaxy S smartphones had topped 100 million since the first model came out in 2010.
Then came the annual CES gadget extravaganza in Las Vegas, where the likes of Sony announced plans to bring out innovative new models in a bid to take some of the lucrative smartphone market, valued at £93bn for 2013 alone.
So what does this mean for customer service? Will consumers – effectively armed with a PC in their pocket – spend even more time accessing service departments online rather than on the phone? And more importantly, are brands ready to accommodate them?
Well yes, and no. According to another new report by the International Customer Management Institute…
- Over 43% say their company knows mobile customer service is a priority
- Almost 62% think it’s a competitive differentiator
- And yet…..only 25% report actually having a mobile customer service strategy for 2013
Naturally we’re very interested in this issue at Synthetix. We’ve spent a lot of time and care developing a large touch-friendly interface for mobile (faqtAgent Mobile), that’s optimised for iPhone and Android devices. And of course, we want to know what the consumer demand is for this kind of solution.
That’s why we made smartphone usage a key part of our latest research (if you haven’t had a chance to take a look yet, you can download The rise of demand for multi-channel online customer service for free from our website, it’s well worth the read).
We asked a simple question: should companies make answers to all their common customer service questions available via smartphones?
The answer from 75% of our respondents – three quarters of consumers – was a resounding yes. Based on the strength of this response, and the continuing boom in smartphone sales, the message is clear. Get your online self-service organised. And make sure it’s optimised for mobile.
Download our full research report – The rise of demand for multi-channel online customer service.
Recently we released a new research report that revealed just how important multi-channel customer service is to consumers. According to our research, nine out of ten people now expect to receive consistent information over multiple customer contact channels.
Unfortunately our findings also revealed how businesses are failing to meet this expectation. We found 65% of consumers have received inconsistent information when contacting brands via multiple channels. Seven out of ten rank this kind of poor multi-channel experience as a major annoyance.
The message is clear: customers want a superior experience, however they choose to contact you. It’s also plain that the consequences of not delivering on this expectation can be drastic. We only need look at the recent demise of high street retailers like HMV and Jessops to be reminded that businesses are living on a knife edge. They must deliver what customers want on many different fronts if they are to survive.
The question is, with so many channels to deal with today, how do you make a multi-channel strategy a workable reality?
At Synthetix we’ve longed believed that a large part of the answer lies in effective Knowledge Management. By developing a centralised knowledge-base of information, you can ensure that customers get quick and consistent answers to their questions – through web self-service, from agents in contact centres or through a variety of other other channels including mobile, social media or in-store.
It seems the analysts agree. Forrester recently featured Knowledge Management in its top 15 customer service trends for 2013, even saying that “Knowledge Management Is Becoming The Jewel In The Customer Service Crown.”
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, for demand for multi-channel customer service is ever-increasing. The competition is only ever a mere click away. It’s those companies that make sure that all bases are covered – through effective Knowledge Management – that will emerge as the clear winners over the long term.
Well we didn’t get a white Christmas but we certainly got a white January, with snow sweeping the UK.
For many companies, especially in the travel and transport industries, this meant one thing: crisis mode. Flights cancelled. Services disrupted. Sites closed. We all know that serious weather disruptions can put increased pressure on your contact center resources. For some, it will stretch them to breaking point.
Are you ready?
It’s the end of the year and everyone at Synthetix is looking forward to a well-deserved festive break. 2013 is just around the corner, though, and it’s our job to listen to our clients and their customers, then figure out what the most significant development in Online Customer Service will be during the next 12 months.
And this year, it’s clearly social networking.
The survey was very revealing and though we’re already advocates for web self-service and live chat, even we were surprised at the explosive growth in consumer demand for such services. Customer Service is in flux, as organisations adapt the way they communicate in order to serve their audience better and improve customer satisfaction.
We’ll be delving into the results in more detail over a series of blog posts, but our key findings include:
- Web self-service systems, such as intelligent FAQ search, are now the number one way for consumers to source answers to their questions, relegating telephone to second place;
- Nine out of ten people expect to receive consistent information over multiple customer contact channels – and a majority have had bad experiences where they received different information depending on how they chose to contact their service provider;
- Demand for self-service options over new channels such as mobile and social networks is growing fast with 75% of consumers ready to self-serve over mobile and 57% expecting to receive customer service on Facebook;
- Seven out of ten consumers think online customer service will dominate over traditional call-centres within a decade.
We’ve put together a report containing all of the results and, as usual, it’s free. Don’t say we never give you anything!
If you work in a customer service role, I recommend you download a copy and give it a read. If you have any feedback, let us know.
We wrote last August of the effect which the eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvötn volcano had on customer service, with holiday company switchboards jammed by anxious customers querying whether their flights or holidays were cancelled.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Americas, this past week, made it appropriate to revisit this topic.
Sandy has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the east coast of the United States. Sixty million people in the US alone have been affected in some way by this unprecedented tropical storm – about 20% of the population. Aside from the tragic loss of life and the destruction of people’s homes, lesser effects have included the cancellation of over 3000 flights, shutdown of the New York City transportation system and the closure of schools. Strong winds knocked over power lines and took out cellphone towers in the hardest-hit regions, while water seeped into facilities where critical networking equipment was installed, disrupting broadband provision.
When people are losing their lives, why do we care about cellphone networks and access to the web? Because the world runs on the exchange of knowledge and never is the need for accurate, timely information more pertinent than during times like this. It’s critical that public bodies such as FEMA communicate over as many channels as they can, from the web and social media to radio and television.
Once the immediate crisis is over, people have to rebuild their lives and that’s when the ripple effects of an event like Sandy impact on everyday business, with the call-centres for utility providers, insurance companies and travel companies hit hard by a huge increase in enquiries. More and more, businesses are acknowledging the need to answer non-critical questions over every available channel, from Facebook and Twitter to mobile phones – leaving telephone lines free for specific, urgent enquiries. That’s how self-service can make a real impact not just on dry metrics like customer satisfaction, but genuinely help to put people’s minds at rest and help them get back on their feet.
Our thoughts go out to all those affected by this disaster. Synthetix has made a donation to the British Red Cross Hurricane Sandy appeal, today. You can make a donation too, by clicking here.
It’s ‘Big Energy Saving Week‘, which is all about communicating how to cut your energy bills down to size. What better time, we thought, to examine how energy providers are communicating with their customers.
From time to time, we all need to ask questions about our gas, electricity or water supplies, whether we are moving house, querying a bill or facing a domestic emergency. Most people check the web, these days, before calling customer service lines – it has quickly become the first-line customer support channel. It’s a shame, then, that so few UK energy providers have realised the potential of web self-service to preempt calls and e-mails to their contact centres and improve Customer Satisfaction.
A recent survey by Global Reviews found that energy providers deliver a poor customer experience on the web, noting that just 6% of potential customers would recommend energy supplier websites and 64% would actively discourage friends or colleagues from visiting.
The situation is completely different for the UK’s regional water utility firms. Customer complaints in this sector have dropped by 12% in England and Wales, this year. Welsh Water saw the biggest drop in complaints – down 58% and Wessex Water saw a huge 40% reduction. Both happen to be customers of Synthetix web self-service solutions, including faqtAgent, our web self-service product and liveChat, our live web-chat system. In fact, water providers have adopted self-service functionality far faster than energy providers, resulting in higher levels of consumer satisfaction.
Colin Whitby of Dwr Cymru Welsh Water has told Synthetix that our online customer service solutions have “undoubtedly been a contributing factor” in their huge complaint reduction “by providing instant and consistent answers to our customers’ questions”.
So, if you were an energy provider, how could online customer service help you to improve Customer Satisfaction metrics in your company?