TMC (News - Alert) this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding and retooling our customer effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Duke Chung (News - Alert), chairman and co-founder of Parature, which offers a Software-as-a-Service product suite that supports more than 40 million end users worldwide in diverse industries including government, higher education, gaming, retail, interactive media and software and technology.
We’re celebrating the 30-year anniversary of TMC’s Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
Chung: Online customer service has been the ultimate game changer. As customers, we have gone from patiently standing in line and very personal face-to-face and voice-to-voice interactions to an online world where everyone perceives they’re at the front of the line, and they have a level of anonymity and detachment that allows them to be bolder and more demanding of an organization’s customer service department.Online customer service changed businesses, too, demanding that brands invest in technology and develop an entirely new service strategy around multiple channels.
In the past decade?
Chung: The evolution of content has been an important development and to this day remains a huge customer service differentiator as more and more people move away from asking for help to finding the answers to their own customer service questions. Businesses and organizations have had to become customer service content publishers, consistently creating, editing, managing and publishing content that transcends their website and online knowledgebase and streams to serve the customer on social media channels, search engines, mobile browsers, YouTube (News - Alert), multimedia platforms and more.
In the recent past?
Chung: The emergence of social media as a customer service channel has altered customer service expectations and brand-customer relationships forever. The social customer now wields a great power over brands, very publicly demanding service and expecting an immediate reply. Social media has forced even the biggest brands to become more transparent, more honest, more responsive and more human.
How else is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Chung: Social networking has also created great expectations for brands. Brands will need to respond faster than ever before as issues will emerge without warning via the 24/7 news cycle of social media, and brands will need to be able to provide a quick response. This expectation of fast responses by brands will carry over from social media and affect response time expectations across all channels.
Proactive content and targeted marketing will transform the way brands market to customers and businesses will need to invest in quality content that walks a fine line between being promotional and being helpful and informative.
Social networking is also enabling customers and brand advocates to become an extension of a brand’s support organization by answering customer service questions posed by other customers or by offering positive brand experiences and reviews. Finally, the convergence of mobile and social networking will create more location-based customer service opportunities.
How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Chung: Mobile, like social media, will make customer service and engagement a 24/7 expectation, and with easy access to smartphones and tablets and through agile channeling, contact centers will evolve into a mobile, on-call workforce. The standard 9-to-5 Monday-Friday contact center with agents dutifully positioned in front of their computer monitor will be no more as reps address support issues and view a customer’s entire service history from their smartphone or iPad while enjoying a Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks.
What other key trends are you seeing as it relates to how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Chung: Real-time customer intelligence, agile channeling and live chat’s resurgence are some of the trends we’re seeing in customer support and engagement, in addition to the growth of social media for customer service. Watch for live chat to have a more prominent role as a preferred channel, as consumers still craving that personalized, high-touch service turn to chat so they can stay online, multitask, avoid hold times, and use the brief-burst language they’ve become accustomed to through texting.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.
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Edited by Brooke Neuman