9 Ways to improve digital customer service and satisfaction

Chris Tranquill, Chief of Strategy

Advances in technology and changes in consumer preferences have radically changed how brands provide customer service. Specifically, there’s been a digital transformation that was already on the rise but accelerated rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ZDNet, 87% of service professionals said customers used digital channels more during the pandemic. Additionally, in the same survey customers predicted that 60% of all service interactions through 2021 will take place online, up from 42% in 2019. The rising popularity of digital customer service has led to a digital transformation, with 81% of service leaders noting they’re accelerating digital initiatives.

If your brand hasn’t begun a digital transformation, it’s time to start now. However, beyond providing digital customer service it’s also important for brands to identify areas for improvement in order to consistently deliver high customer satisfaction. Whether your brand is currently going through a digital transformation or you’re looking for ways to improve your current service offerings, check out these digital customer service tips.

Why customer service is more important than ever

Customer service has always been important, but in the modern economy consumers have so many choices that service has become a core factor when deciding who to buy from. In a survey of 200 brands and 1,000 customers, we found that 68% of customers will spend more money with a brand that understands and treats them like an individual. The same survey also found that 83% of customers cited good customer service as their most important criterion when deciding what to buy. Good customer service can set your brand apart from competitors leading to higher sales and brand loyalty.

Good customer service

With regards to a brand's digital contact center, a survey by McKinsey and Company found that brands who transition to digital customer service can reduce costs by 30% while increasing customer satisfaction by 19%. For reference, customers who utilized traditional channels for the entirety of their customer service journey had a satisfaction rate of 57% while customers who had a digital only customer service journey reported a satisfaction rate of 76%. When comparing customer satisfaction across interaction paths (starting on digital/traditional and moving to digital/traditional), traditional only had the lowest overall satisfaction rate which further indicates the need for brands to offer digital customer service in some capacity.

How to improve customer service and satisfaction in your digital contact center

Simply offering digital customer service is no longer enough to differentiate yourself from competitors. With everyone making a digital transformation, brands need to consistently look for ways to improve their customer service in order to maintain high satisfaction. Take a look at the following customer service tips and make sure your brand is following these practices to deliver excellent digital customer service.

Identify important customer service metrics and set goals

The customer service you provide can and should be measured through customer experience metrics that allow your brand to set goals and monitor progress over time. Before you start making changes to your customer service offerings, your first step should be to identify which customer service metrics should be measured and then set attainable goals with room for steady improvements.

Some of the most commonly used customer service metrics include:

  • Response time: How long does it take for a service agent to respond to a customer. Measure the time it takes for the first response and subsequent interactions.

  • Handle time: How long does it take for a service inquiry to be resolved. Measure the total time for all inquiries across a service team, and an average time for each interaction to be resolved.

  • Resolution rate: Of all the inquiries that come in, how many are actually resolved. This should be separated by agent, team, and inquiry type.

  • Sentiment: How do customers feel and why do they feel that way, which can be automatically determined through text classification when using AI and ML.

  • Customer satisfaction: How satisfied are customers with your brand at specific interaction points. This refers to a series of metrics including CSAT, NPS, and CES.

  • Churn rate: The rate at which customers leave or stop purchasing over a specific period of time.

  • Cost per resolution: How much does it cost your brand to resolve an inquiry on average. This is based on several factors including the total time spent responding to inquiries, number of resolutions, and cost of employing a service team to handle those inquiries.

Use a CX Insights platform to understand consumer behaviors across channels

Instead of making improvements to customer service based on speculation of what could be better, brands are better served making these decisions according to actual data regarding the customer experience. Collecting and utilizing customer experience data is a struggle for brands because it’s often spread across different channels, which may get siloed. Even when a brand identifies a point of friction, it can be hard to connect the dots to determine the causes and scale of the business impact.

Collecting data through surveys can help, but in a study we conducted, only 35% of consumers said they’d been asked to rate their overall experience with a brand. The reason is because brands prefer to send short surveys about a single interaction, as consumers are 12-16% more likely to respond to simple and specific surveys compared to surveys about the brand’s CX in general. However, 76% of consumers said brands should care about their overall experience and not just their feedback about a single interaction or purchase. While surveys can be useful for collecting feedback, there are more efficient ways to get insights on your brand’s customer experience.

A CX Insights platform seamlessly integrates with all of your customer communication channels to provide a single view of all customer conversations and comments regarding your brand. The result is a comprehensive, but easy to understand view of your customer experience that allows brands to visualize data from all channels down to individual interactions. Essentially, a CX Insights platform helps to unify the customer voice across channels to provide actionable insights that help brands improve customer service and satisfaction.

DoorDash is a great example of this in action. The #1 on-demand delivery service faced issues about misunderstandings with their contactless delivery which hurt their CSAT scores and market share. By using CX Insights, DoorDash was able to identify the mismatch between the expectation and delivery which enabled them to fix the gap in communication.

See how Orvis did it

Give customers online self service solutions

One of the best ways to improve customer service in your digital contact center is by providing self service solutions for customers to get support without actually having to talk with an agent. We found that 81% of customers will attempt to resolve an inquiry on their own before reaching out to a service representative.

As such, it’s important for your brand to provide self service solutions including FAQ pages, how to guides, and online communities that enable consumers to search for answers on your website. These self service solutions are known as knowledge bases, but brands can also utilize AI-powered chatbots that enable customers to seek help from a bot who finds information from knowledge base resources or pre-written responses.

Your brand should create self service resources for common inquiries so agents don’t waste time answering the same request again and again. In the McKinsey and Company report mentioned earlier, one company found there were 2,000 reasons for customers to contact their call center, but just 60 problems (3%) accounted for 65% of the total volume and 55% of their overall costs. Out of those 60 issues, only 15 had a solution available online which means the brand could significantly reduce volume for these requests by implementing self service solutions for the other 45 common issues.

Create a clear escalation pathway

At some point agents are likely to get an inquiry they can’t resolve on their own. When that happens, it’s important to have a clearly defined escalation pathway that puts the customer in front of the right person as fast as possible. Customers will get frustrated if they are bounced around from person to person, so it’s important for agents to gather enough information to determine who will be able to resolve their issue. Beyond pointing customers to individuals based on their roles and unique knowledge, the escalation pathway should also identify how to route exceptionally upset or angry customers. Even if the initial agent may be able to provide the help they are looking for, sometimes bringing in a higher level manager can show the customer the brand values them.

Escalations shouldn’t be reserved for upset customers. Brands may also benefit from escalating people based on previous interactions with your company, their quantity of member reward points, number of followers, or other factors your brand deems important when deciding who is a VIP.

Listen with human empathy & AI tools

When interacting with customers, it’s important for brands to gauge customer sentiment and provide an appropriate response. If not handled correctly, an auto-reply can come off as insincere and show a lack of empathy for the customer’s concern.

Luckily, advances in AI and ML have led to the creation of tools that can tag phrases to indicate customer sentiment and intent. This enables AI chatbots to provide a more personalized and empathetic response, or it can help determine when a customer needs to be priority routed to a live agent. During interactions with a live agent, the same AI tools can provide suggested responses to help the agent respond with true empathy for stressful, complex, and poor outcome inquiries.

Respond with positive language

Word choice is important when interacting with customers, and both agents and resources should use positive language. Negative phrasing states what cannot be done, often with the use of negative words and in some cases a subtle tone of blame. On the other hand, positive language highlights what can be done using positive words and may include alternatives if the ideal outcome cannot be reached.

For example, a response like “Don’t hit that button.” involves negative language that tells the customer what not to do and puts blame on them. Using positive language, an agent could respond with “The ___ button is the best option, but you can also select ____ or ____ for additional information.” This gives the customer a solution with alternatives. Positive phrases like “Great question! and “I’d love to help you with that” also help your brand seem authentic and personal. This type of messaging lets customers know you genuinely care about them resulting in higher customer satisfaction.

Provide clear, concise answers

Customers may not want to read through a wall of text when seeking help, so brands should make sure their resources and agents provide answers in a clear and concise manner. There should be enough information to resolve the customer inquiry, but not enough to overwhelm them. Another customer service tip is for agents to ask customers if they have any additional questions after resolving their original inquiry. This practice ensures the interaction ends after the customer has been satisfied, not when the inquiry has been resolved.

Enable seamless channel switching

Over time, the number of channels in which customers want to interact with brands has increased with no signs of slowing down. We found that over the next two years 73% of brands expect the number of inbound channels to increase, with 53% believing the same for outbound channels. Our research also revealed that 62% of customers want to be able to engage with brands across multiple digital channels, and 77% of consumers want brands’ internal teams to communicate and collaborate with each other so they don’t have to repeat themselves.

While this may seem obvious, 77% of brands said they struggled to create a cohesive journey across channels and devices. As brands expand customer service offerings to new channels, they need to ensure channel switching is seamless so customers interact based on their preferences. This is exactly why a fully digital contact center, with multiple options for the customer to choose from, is so important. For example, a consumer may start an issue over email, but should be able to follow up through text or social media based on what they prefer.

Simplify agent workflows to improve response times

When it comes to digital customer service, speed is one of the most important factors that affects overall satisfaction. We found that 79% of consumers want to receive a fast response, and on social media over a third of customers expect a response within 30 minutes. One of the best way to ensure you can quickly respond to customers is by empowering your service agents with tools that improve their workflows.

An agent who has to switch between multiple platforms to view interactions from one customer across several channels may require a lot of time to catch up before providing the first response. To improve agent efficiency through better workflows, brands should utilize an omnichannel platform that provides information from all previous interactions in a single easy-to-use dashboard.

Khoros can connect all of your channels in your digital contact center and use AI powered workflow to improve agent efficiency, response times, and customer satisfaction. To learn more about how the Khoros platform can help you deliver world-class digital customer service, schedule a demo today!

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