Customer Service In The Digital Age - By Roy Atkinson


Roy Atkinson makes any short list of leading service and support industry influencers. His specialty is exploring the connection between customer service and technology, with extensive experience in the IT and technology industries. Roy took a few minutes to update us on his latest thoughts on how best to serve customers in today’s digital economy.

Q: In seeking to enhance engagement and customer service, should companies implement online customer forums or detailed pre-recorded IVR prompts to help agents gather caller information prior to a live conversation?

A: Online customer forums can be very helpful. Often, customers know things about your product or service that even your best internal people may not know – simply because the customer gives the product their own context and for how it will address their need. What many organizations forget, however, is that online forums need to be moderated gently and carefully—not exercising too much control, but making sure that misinformation, inaccurate information, or even disinformation isn’t being published to customers. Forums are not a “set it and forget it” method of support.

Gathering customer information via IVR or other input is helpful (“Say or type your account number…”), but only if it is then presented to the agent or representative. Too often, customers put this information into the system and are immediately asked to repeat it when the agent gets on the line. The same is true of systems that recognize phone numbers. (“I see that the number you’re calling from matches your account…”) Repeating information you should already have is exceedingly annoying to customers.

As far as a personal experience, that varies with your particular business and the customer experience you want to provide. If I am paying for a five-star hotel, I expect five-star, personal service. If I’m dealing with an online merchant, I expect something else entirely, although some online sellers have made themselves famous by providing live, personal service. What is your brand promise? If it’s personal service, give that. If it’s fast service using the latest technology, give that.

Q.What advice do you give to service providers seeking to elevate their overall customer experience?

A: Use the best solutions you can find to provide the type of service your customers expect based on your brand promise. This should reflect your customer experience efforts since you want to provide a consistent experience across every touchpoint with the customer—that’s what makes customer experience work: Set an expectation, and then meet or exceed it.

Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the customer service and technical support industries.  He has extensive hands-on and phone-in-ear experience in customer service and technical support as well as in consulting.  Roy has been featured in The Economist, Social Media Today, Computerworld, and many others. He has contributed to books on Customer Service, Social Media, and IT Change Management.

Follow Roy on Twitter @RoyAtkinson