Article Author: Shaheen Haque, Territory Manager, Middle East & Turkey at Interactive Intelligence
The internet is fast changing the purchasing behaviours of consumers in the Middle East. Familiarity with technology, widely available high-speed internet services and growing trust in online services has led to a boom in online shopping. Figures show that roughly 33% of MENA consumers now make online purchases and industry analysts expect e-commerce in the region to reach an estimated $15 billion in 20151. Even retail chains with established physical stores are looking to engage their customers through online channels giving them the ability to browse, select and purchase products of their choice from the convenience of their homes.
To achieve the difficult task of building customer loyalty when the primary means of interaction is no longer a physical location, companies must look at new ways to engage with customers. While the initial transaction may happen through a web portal, a consumer should be able to quickly resolve any issues by contacting the call centre and receive a high level of service. The customer experience process can range from ordering a product on the website to calling for a refund.
Building Loyalty through Customer Service Excellence
The types of channels that e-commerce organizations, or for that matter all companies offer their customers have been changing over the past decade. While phone interactions remain the dominant method of issue resolution, industry research indicates that the adoption of email, chat, and web interactions are now available in some form in over 90% of contact centres. However, the level of service being offered on these other channels varies widely across the contact centre landscape.
If organizations hope to build a market differentiating multi-channel customer service model, they must bring together processes, people, technology, culture, and information. In order to build such a service ecosystem, companies need to focus their efforts in certain areas. By applying some, if not all, of the suggestions listed below, companies can optimise the customer service experience.
Have a “data filter” for all channels
Social media is one of the key marketing tools employed by online retailers. At the same time, if it is not implemented as a two-way communication platform it can adversely affect brand image. This requirement is forcing companies to provide social customer service in the call centre. The problem with this is that, in order to have a multi-channel engagement, companies need to have a “data filter” strategy. Social media noise needs to be filtered by a distinct set of criteria - from influencers to sentiment, and from trends to categorization of conversations. The increase of social conversations needs to be supplemented with workflow and business process so that conversations are managed with different channel options. However, not all Twitter or Facebook conversations need to end up in the call centre - doing so could significantly increase the cost of operation. Therefore, the “data filter” needs to happen not just with social media but also with all the other channels.
Improve website traffic and page views
Callback, co-browsing, chat, and email are key factors to increasing the number of page views on the company website and conversion rates. Companies must be mindful that the functionality needs to be interwoven with any site analytics and/or marketing automation tools being used, especially with its social media efforts.
Use mobile applications
The personal computer is no longer the king to access the Internet. Tablets and smartphones are taking over, meaning the multichannel strategy must include the integration of mobile applications. There are two types of mobile applications to consider: 1) applications that can lower the cost of customer service, such as being able to “Face Time” with the consumer to help troubleshoot the problem, and 2) applications that provide content and transactions so the consumer doesn't need to call the call centre. One added value to both scenarios is to provide a way for the consumer to chat, call, or email directly from the application.
Use technology that is agile in the cloud or on-premise
The market is in constant change and companies should be able to adapt quickly to the market in any geography. Flexibility and agility to provide service such as collections, sales, support, and BPO via any type of call center is key. It means that organizations need to deploy any type of call centre technology quickly in the cloud or on-premise, in any geography, for any channel and for any customer segment.
Implement unified communications
Being able to combine voice, data, instant messaging, queues, emails, processes, workforce management, routing, and quality control is key to managing the customer relationship based on common analytics and reports. This gives companies the advantage of fast deployments and helps in providing one source of reporting on a single platform.
Go beyond CTI and IVR, integrate the CRM application
Typically CTI and IVR processes are the most common way to integrate CRM or ERP systems with the call centre. But companies need to be more effective in providing CRM data to the call center agent. They need to incorporate customer metrics, surveys, and a 360-degree view of the customer and business logic. The more customer data the agent has, the better equipped they are to assist the consumer.
Finally, as e-commerce outfits start evaluating the need to add other channels, they must ensure they also address the core communications platform already in place. A common mistake is trying to add other service channels into an infrastructure that was never designed to efficiently handle them. In the end, a customer experience strategy is all about the culture of the company. However, companies must lead by using technology to deliver a differentiator in the market.