The Future of Customer Support

By Samuel Greengard

According to a just-released report from consulting firm PwC, “customer service has emerged as the next critical differentiator.” While there’s a bit of a “duh” factor to this statement, it’s wise to follow the bouncing ball. Customer service has always been important, but emerging digital technology is ratcheting up the stakes to a whole new dimension.

Consumerization, mobile apps and tools, always-on connectivity, and a maturation of the Internet and digital channels are not only leveling the playing field between businesses and consumers, they’re also changing the boundaries. As PwC points out in its “The new digital ecosystem reality: Innovation’s next frontier is in customer service report, customers have come to expect more than “episodic and event-driven” customer service with the onus on the customer to initiate and maintain contact. The next generation of customer service will be proactive, integrated and omnipresent, PwC predicts.

Some companies—including Apple, Virgin America and Zappos—have ratcheted up expectations by creating a customer service experience that actually delights customers. This leaves a growing wave of customers asking, “Why can’t I get that superior experience every time, from every brand?” according to PwC authors Rachel Berg and Joe Lo.

As Berg and Lo note, “This attitude puts organizations—including B2B companies—in a position where managing their own customer satisfaction scores is not enough; they must also view themselves against the best that customers see across all brands, consumer and B2B alike.” While many organizations are turning to analytics, it’s not enough. The task requires a broader and different view.

Within this emerging digital order, CIOs and other business and IT leaders must focus on a couple of key strategic issues. First, it’s critical to align sales, support and other functions across channels. Second, the focus should be on ways to provide great service while minimizing customer time and touch points. Too often, organizations do not view a problem in the broader perspective of a customer. They look at it as an internal efficiency issue, according to Berg and Lo.

Build a Support Framework

The PwC report recommends that organizations build a support framework that revolves around several tools and technologies. Among them are remote diagnostics, identity-driven solutions that enable contextual services and actions, service-based e-commerce, social care, a service marketplace where customers can make choices about how to interact, crowdsourcing solutions, and co-creation, which allows customers to define their own experience.

The upshot? Empower customers and customer service staff and, in the end, everyone wins.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “A Key to Innovation,” click here.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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