By Lisa Halim, General Manager, Dynamics, Microsoft Asia Pacific
As we embrace an increasingly customer-centric society, we’re seeing customer interaction and conversations extend beyond the sole responsibility of customer service representatives. What I mean by this is that the power to impress and engage customers is going through the ranks of other company employees. My recent online shopping experience for daily groceries was a testament to a positive customer experience. By using an amazing system of intelligence and analytics which recognized my buying behavior, line workers were able to use these insights and take the opportunity to resolve an issue of a missing item. It was all done so quickly and I was impressed!
This is both a challenge and an opportunity. Rising customer expectations have put the pressure on organizations to be on their toes in keeping up with heighted demands. But forward-thinking, customer centric companies are taking a lead by using smart technologies to empower their line staff in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. Their goal: Superior customer engagement.
Digitalization in customer service means having the ability to build better, stronger relationships with customers by harnessing the power of data that provides a complete view of the customer. While this is not new, it also means drawing actionable intelligence and predictive insights that deliver personalization in a timely fashion — even when you have thousands of customers. And that’s where the opportunity lies.
To achieve this sort of customer engagement, customer-service pioneers have been looking at the widest range of recent and emerging technologies. Some are more important than others, but I feel the key ones are Internet of Things powered by cloud-based services; smart machines and sensors; computer vision; digital agents; bots; and language and speech recognition. I remember walking into an airline lounge in Taiwan recently and a friendly robot both greeted and bowed to welcome me and I thought, ‘Wow, the future is indeed here!’
However, acquiring and distributing data is quite a different proposition when empowering line workers. To really make a difference, they need the right data, in the right format, at the right time, on any device. And only when they are absolutely confident in the way they use customer data can they go on to create a new wave of deeply contextual and personalized experiences. This is the really the epitome of customer service today.
Amway shows the way
I enjoy reading success stories from companies that got it right. The first company demonstrates how the act of empowering line workers can transform a company’s ability to powerfully engage with its customers. Amway has been selling health, beauty and homecare products for over 60 years, but through a highly-decentralized business model. In essence, private individuals set themselves up as Amway retailers, so the company is built on independent entrepreneurs. Most of these people are highly mobile as they need to work on-the-go. So how do you enhance customer engagement for a highly independent and mobile workforce?
What Amway first did was not unusual. They created a customer relationship management (CRM) system that acts as a central repository for Amway customer data. But by putting their CRM in the cloud, Amway transformed the way that data was harnessed. And with all this data easily accessible via apps on smartphones and laptops, Amway entrepreneurs had everything they needed to know about their customers right in front of them, and if and when the customer wanted to be engaged. In other words, Amway had empowered line-workers by transforming each individual’s ability to shape customer conversations.
Line-of-sight customer connections
The second example is a business services technology company in Indonesia, PT Duta Kalingga Pratama, which provides automatic identification data capture tools typically used by manufacturing and logistics companies to keep track of components within a supply chain. With the company’s business customers requiring a lot of customer support and personalized service, PT Duta Kalingga Pratama placed customer service as a key priority.
But here’s the catch: PT Duta’s employees are technical specialists, with operational teams typically office bound. In order to free up these teams in line with the company’s push for flexible working and customer centricity, it had one simple rule: To make sure that every employee could connect with the customer, anytime and anywhere.
The game-changer was Skype for Business. With this audio-visual collaboration tool, employees could connect directly with their customers virtually at the touch of a button. Because they can share desktops, they see exactly what their customers are looking at, while talking them through the problem or issue they are experiencing and providing the right solution. This sharing capability goes far beyond the sheer convenience of technology. It deepens and personalizes customer engagement at a new level and dramatically increases the likelihood of first-time resolutions as well.
Power to the workers
We’re entering an incredibly exciting era of customer service. Essentially, the responsibility of orchestrating customer conversation and engagement is being shared amongst almost every employee like never before. This could be a challenge of familiarization, but also a fantastic opportunity for individual line workers to shine and to elevate themselves in the organization. It is an evolution that we are seeing across various sectors – hospitality, retail, transport, even entertainment – and if companies can truly enter their customers’ world in real time, what we are seeing is the building of great partnerships and new relationships. This is definitely an opportunity to take on in 2017: To empower not just your employees but your customers.