Customer Service Heroes: The Best of 2014
Long lines are a buzzkill. They can discourage even the most enthusiastic shopper to abandon a purchase. Not surprisingly, the same goes for digital. In fact, it has been proven: In Forrester’s 2013 report, 71 percent of consumers said that valuing their time should be top-of-mind for any company. Arduous, time-consuming buying journeys are a deal breaker.
While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of companies are not getting it right when it comes to valuing their customers’ time. However, a few companies did go above and beyond—coming up with innovative campaigns and technologies that surprised and delighted their customers.
First, let’s talk about the companies setting the bar for how to connect with customers in 2014.
In the digital era, consumers have unprecedented power to give feedback and offer brand reviews. As a result, we are now seeing “... the highest level of emotional consumer expectations for products and services in two decades,” according to the Brand Keys 2014 Customer Loyalty Index.
Brand Keys listed the top brands meeting expectations. A few ranking high on the list include Apple, L’Oreal, Kindle, and American Express among others.
Here at LivePerson, a few brands stood out to us this year—differentiating themselves through creative customer engagement. Below are our top four favorite companies for customer service in 2014.
In his annual letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos said, “Nothing gives us more pleasure at Amazon than ‘reinventing normal.’”
That’s exactly what Amazon did this year with the release of the Mayday Button, a 24/7 video chat support on the Kindle Fire. Amazon delivered on customer demand for a more human experience—one that’s face-to-face in real time.
The response from Mayday customers speaks for itself. According to Bezos, Mayday Tech Advisors have been proposed to 35 times, and have been serenaded by customers on 648 occasions. Can you think of more obvious signs of consumer appreciation?
During 2014, Chief Marketer called Backcountry, “live customer engagement rock stars.” The reason? Backcountry’s sales team, known as “gearheads,” are experts in all things outdoors. They embody the culture of the company, so it’s no wonder that Backcountry wanted to find a way to connect its gearheads directly to digital shoppers.
By using live, intelligent chat, Backcountry proactively connects online consumers to the right expert. With LiveEngage, the company saw a 50 percent increase in average order value. William Kenney from Backcountry said “We’re able to get the right customer to the right gearhead every time.”
This one probably doesn’t surprise you. Zappos is a customer service powerhouse. According to Forbes, “Zappos will—and has—spent up to 10 hours on a single, perhaps technically pointless, call with a customer.” It’s a basic rule observed: you get a real human every time you call.
In July of this past year, Zappos took their digital experience to the next level with a new digital service called Ask Zappos. Consumers can simply send photos via digital channels, and Ask Zappos will locate the product. With one app, Zappos narrowed the gap between digital and in-store shopping.
Starbucks gets it. The coffee powerhouse observes behaviors of the digital-first consumer, and follows up with meaningful programs and services.
One of the best examples showcasing Starbucks' consumer-centric culture is the company’s mobile innovation. The mobile app mixes loyalty rewards with a quick and convenient payment option. In October 2014, Forbes reported that, “11 percent of [Starbucks] sales volume comes through its own mobile wallet.”
But, it doesn't stop there. Starbucks is now testing pre-ordering via mobile devices, as well as food delivery. According to Geekwire, “… Schultz is dead serious about Starbucks’ role in trying to become the dominant player in mobile commerce.” Digital marketers have sharpened their focus on mobile in 2015, and Starbucks is already ahead of the game.
According to Temkin’s 2014 Customer Service Ratings, TV, Internet and health plan providers tend to lag in good customer service practices. We’d agree that there’s room for improvement in these industries. Yet for some companies, it’s more obvious than others.
Below, we’ve listed the top three customer service lessons from 2014.
1. Anything can be used against you.
This year, one service call went viral when a rep went to annoying lengths to attempt to keep a customer who was intent on canceling—giving him the runaround for more than 15 minutes. What the rep didn’t know at the time is that customer recorded the conversation. The recording of the call has already received nearly six million plays.
Lesson learned: In the age of digital, time is money. Don’t give your consumers the runaround. Most consumer engagements are sharable—for better or worse. It truly is the age of the empowered customer.
2. Exceptional customer service starts with engaged and happy employees.
Unfortunately, one major retailer became notorious for bad customer service in 2014, and it started when a manager published an anonymous exposé on the horrendous working conditions.
Lesson learned: Customer service starts with the people behind the brand, especially those on the frontlines of customer service. Training and nurturing employees is key to a healthy company culture, which is then reflected in consumer engagements.
3. Respect the new social contract.
In the digital era, consumers are very clear on when and how they want to be contacted by your brand. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will notice if your brand is annoying opted-out customers. In 2014, the FCC charged one telcom provider $7.5 million for placing calls and sending texts to consumers who had already opted out. According to the FCC, it was the largest Do-Not-Call settlement the organization had ever reached—and for the brand, it was slap on the wrist that went viral.
Lesson learned: Respect how and when your customers want to communicate with your brand. Unsolicited communications are intrusive and unwanted and will drive your customers to the competition.
What’s ahead for customer service in 2015?
This year, it’s all about leveraging intelligence to facilitate seamless customer journeys, and applying human-to-human connection when necessary. The inconvenience and frustration from dialing a brand’s 800 number is accelerating the decline of voice, and ushering a new era focused on brand messaging. Research from Forrester found that, “… web self-service was the most widely used communication channel for customer service, surpassing use of the voice channel for the first time.”
The biggest convenience factor, however, will be mobile customer service—both online and within custom apps. Mobile marketing is no longer a choice; it’s a requirement. VentureBeat recently called mobile “the first screen in consumer’s lives.”
So, how can you keep up (and exceed expectations) in 2015? Below are three tips to become a customer service standout.
1. Reassess your use of technology.
What tools contribute to your customer service experience? Ensure you’re offering intelligent support to your digital-first consumer, on every screen.
2. Host a company-wide customer engagement 101 training session for all front-line employees.
Define standards and hold employees to those principles. Kickstart your customer service with a live session or offer free online tutorials.
3. Bring real-time service to your mobile app or website.
A big benefit of online shopping: there are no lines. So, don't make your customer wait. You can integrate real-time customer service with personalized messages through chat.
What examples of awesome and awful customer service did you witness in 2014? We want to hear your stories.