The future of customer service lies in sales
The more people organise and consume online, the greater the demand for digital services. The rise of omnichannel, where customers are served via multiple channels, is also blurring the boundaries of the original functions of channels. People no longer go to a physical shop just to buy something, but also, for example, to return a purchase they ordered online. Also, nowadays consumers not only complain via the telephone customer service, but can also place an order with them.
And the latter is interesting. Because in that way the customer service department develops from a cost centre into a department that makes money. You could say that the future of sales lies within service. Or the other way around, that the future of service will include sales. Either way, the two will increasingly converge in the future. In this blog, we will elaborate on this.
From reactive to proactive for optimal customer experience
We are all familiar with the classic image of the customer who only gets in touch when they have a complaint or a question, and the customer service agent who only takes action at that point. In recent years, this has gradually changed, mainly because organisations have realised that customer service is the department where you can cultivate loyal customers. Now, service teams are working towards proactively providing support and identifying a problem before the customer even comes forward.
The first steps towards this have already been taken and new technologies should accelerate it further. We are aiming for ‘the internet of things’, where different devices and connections are connected to each other, to play a major role in this. After all, how easy would it be if your fridge placed an order with the supermarket when the milk ran out, by itself? But also customer service departments can then automatically receive a signal that it is time to schedule an appointment with the customer for maintenance of a device even before it is due for repair.
Breaking through departmental silos
If you want to transform your customer service from a cost centre into a profit centre, you need to work together more. Silos must be broken down. This not only applies to the cooperation between colleagues in different departments, but also to learning certain skills, such as ‘social selling’ for customer service employees. Ultimately, the entire organisation will have to be set up differently.
A good example of this is the implementation of chatbot Anna by ABN AMRO. At the Social Service Congress 2021, Wendy Meijerink, team lead conversation design of the bank, talked about the considerations they took into account when integrating this chatbot into the organisation. Traditionally, such a chatbot team would fall under development, but at ABN AMRO, a conscious decision was made to place the chatbot in the customer contact centre. Wendy explains: “Not only does the contact centre have the most in-depth knowledge about customers, making the best optimisations possible, but this also ensures immediate acceptance of the chatbot as a new colleague alongside the customer contact staff.”
At ABN AMRO, developers and customer service professionals therefore work together to create the best chatbot, which in turn has to help the customer as well as possible when they have a question.
Conversational commerce: buying through messaging channels
One of the ways in which customer service goes directly from cost centre to profit centre is through conversational commerce. If we ask our CTO, Alex Slatman for his opinion this is going to be very big. He tells us:
“With conversational commerce, consumers make purchases via one-to-one channels. Not only does it fulfil the need for personal contact at the moment the consumer demands it, it will also contribute to an optimal customer experience. I therefore expect organisations to see commercial opportunities in conversational commerce on a large scale in the near future.
The commercial opportunities are almost limitless. Now people still shop in a store or in an online shop. In the future, all you have to do online is indicate which shoes you want, find out where they are the cheapest, and buy them from a customer service representative via WhatsApp. Consuming in this way will then offer an effortless personal shopping experience. The technology for this is already geared up for this, by the way. Consumers will mainly have to get used to the fact that they will also be making payments via messaging channels. However, with the embrace of Tikkie and other payment request apps, their confidence will quickly grow.
Customer service agents become salespeople and vice versa
Satisfied customers stay. Organisations should therefore think carefully about how their customer service can provide added value and an optimal experience for their customers. The same applies to sales departments. Their goal is no longer just to indiscriminately sell products to customers, but to provide solutions to customer challenges. The delivery service of a supermarket does not simply sell a carton of milk, but a slice of convenience. After all, customers no longer have to go and get their own groceries, thus saving them valuable time.
So we see that in the near future, customers will continue to be served at their beck and call and be immersed in the best customer experience. Organisations will go to great lengths to build personal relationships. Although this will require different efforts, the commercial opportunities will be enormous. Customers, once accustomed to this convenience, will become loyal and keep coming back.
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