Does reliance on technology encourage bad customer service? This may seem like a strange question coming from a digital communications professional but time and time again we see businesses that are either too reliant on technology or haven’t grasped how technology can help their business at all. It tends to be a one extreme to the other scenario. The key factor that is common to all of these businesses, whichever end of the spectrum they are at, is that they haven’t properly considered how technology directly helps or hinders their overall customer service from a communications and engagement point of view.

As obvious as it sounds customers are actual real life people with feelings and emotions that very much influence their buying decisions but somewhere along the line they become a name on a database, a twitter list or a statistic on a spreadsheet. Good customer service is what makes a business successful and is the reason why customers will return time and time again and technology can never ever replace this. It can however enhance it and/or damage it in equal measures.

Social media – customer service friend or foe? 

The digital revolution has meant that businesses are under a huge amount of pressure to keep ahead, often seeking advice on areas such as social media without really understanding how and where it fits within their overall customer service approach.

We often get asked for advice from businesses who are looking to set up social media accounts for their business for the first time and get a surprised look when we ask if they have considered the fact that those profiles, whether it’s a Facebook page, a blog or a Twitter account could be used by their customers as a real time, customer service channel. This is then often followed up with trepidation that it’s going to “open up a can of worms”. But the problem here is not the technology, it’s the lack of confidence in the customer service and the worry that the social media activity is going to shine a great big light on it.

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Man vs technology 

When I see businesses advertising for an in-house digital marketing or communications role, I always think about the first briefing that person will receive. I’d bet that they are shown how to access the social media accounts, how to send content out to the company database and how the CRM system works before they are told “this is how we treat our customers” and “this is why they come back to us”. And herein lies the problem with technology – when the human element disappears, the customer experience goes with it.

Getting the balance right 

So what’s the answer? Should businesses go back to the old days when they knew their customers by their first name? What if you have thousands? Well businesses can still apply this very personalised approach to customer service, whether you have 10 customers or 10 million and technology does in fact make it a lot easier, if it is used in the right way to listen to, understand, respond to and engage with customers.

3 tips for using technology to deliver great customer service:

1. Gather customer insight: Social media and other technology can be used as a research tool to gather invaluable information about your target audiences to inform the way you communicate with them, making your customer service more responsive and effective. What is it that they are really interested in? What kind of language do they use about things relating to your products/services? What is likely to annoy/delight them? Using specialist tools and techniques we carry out online research for clients that cuts through all the noise to identify insights that are can inform the way they do business.

2. Find and define your unique voice: A customer’s experience of calling a call centre is usually very generic, no matter what the business. Online customer service can’t be like this. Social media users expect a personal approach that feels genuine to the brand. Social media is about dialogue and relationships and the only way to stand out from competitors and be memorable is to have a clearly defined tone of voice and personality. We often get new clients asking us to set up social media channels that are exactly the same as one of their competitors – and this is like choosing the same automated voice message on your telephone line. You can learn an awful lot by monitoring the online activity of your competitors but you have your own approach to how you interact with your audiences that is authentic to the customer experience. We work with clients to develop brand communications guides which give them the foundations for how they talk to their customers/audiences online and off.

3. Make your website and social media content customer friendly: Your website is your online shop window but it is not just for selling, nor are your social media accounts. Before visitors/followers/fans can be converted into happy, loyal customers they need to be told a story and taken on a journey that reassures and engages them, anticipating and answering their questions in their language, asking for their feedback, and giving them the opportunity to find out more “straight from the horse’s mouth” if necessary. Clients rely on our PR and communications expertise to be their online content creators, copywriting websites and blogs and running social media campaigns.

When considering using a new technology to promote your business it’s useful to use this as an opportunity to review your ‘real world’ customer service and make sure the technology doesn’t catch you out. If you know there is a niggle that your customers often have or a common barrier to them making the decision to buy from you, then address it in the real world first, as the chances are it will be highlighted by your customers online anyway. This isn’t something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace as a means of making your reputation/business more efficient, profitable, adaptable and sustainable over the long term. If you need help with using technology to improve you customer service, get in touch. We can also advise on capturing customer data, managing customer databases and personalised, customer-responsive email marketing.

If you need help with using technology to improve you customer service, get in touch. We can also advise on capturing customer data, managing customer databases and personalised, customer-responsive email marketing.