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4 Questions to Ask When Appealing to Millennial Customers

April 10, 2017

Millennials may access customer service in new ways, but many of their priorities remain the same as previous generations.

Millennials may access customer service in new ways, but many of their priorities remain the same as previous generations.

Millennials are taking over the world—literally. As of April 2016, Millennials have edged out Baby Boomers as the largest generation in America. That means Millennials are a driving force behind modern evolutions in customer experience.

The largest, most diverse, most educated generation of Americans to date have incredible spending power. Their familiarity with and reliance on technology defines the Millennial experience and means major changes for businesses and brands looking to court their loyalty.

So how can you become a favorite among Millennial customers?

Millennials still want reliability, friendliness, responsiveness, and quality – they just want even more of it than previous generations were satisfied to have.

No generation before has seen such a rapid progression and diversification of technology. While older Millennials still remember the dial-up days, the younger set are coming of age in a time of ubiquitous and instant availability of favorite resources and channels. Millennials see technology as a lifestyle, not a toolbox.  

If you’re looking to strengthen your appeal to Millennials, your business should embrace a similar mindset. Your business already uses technology to communicate quickly and efficiently. The next step is to embrace the wide variety of apps, devices, and networks that make your brand easy to access and share. The following questions are a good way to gauge if your business is ready to attract Millennial consumers.

IS IT FAST?

Millennials know what they want, and they want it now. Influenced by their always-available, multi-tasking, multi-device lifestyles, their attention span is rather short. Millennials have little patience for clumsy user interfaces or apps that struggle to load. They don’t want to wait for answers! They make decisions quickly and will gravitate to businesses that help them accelerate their progress.

IS IT SOCIAL?

Millennials are always connected to the Internet and therefore, always connected to each other. Businesses quickly realized that the key to engaging Millennial markets is to connect via social media.

Millennials begrudgingly accept the presence of brands and businesses in their social networks, but they expect businesses to behave socially. Personal interactions with businesses make them feel heard and valued.

Rather than picking up a phone, Millennials favor direct Tweets, Yelp reviews, and Facebook posts to describe their experience with a business. An active social media presence demonstrates your business’ willingness to personally connect with customers and keeps your brand fresh in someone’s news feed. 

IS IT MEANINGFUL?

Millennials maintain a heightened awareness of social issues and causes. They’re not interested in money for the sake of money—they want their dollar to mean something when they spend it. Consequently, businesses that include an element of social justice in their work are more likely to successfully engage Millennials.

IS IT AUTONOMOUS?

Millennials are self-starters. They want to feel empowered by their business interactions. Many customer experience disruptions come from Millennials as they initiated their own startups to fill niches not served by the existing market. They’re not content to say: “This is the way things have always been done.” 

This generation saw the birth of “crowdsourcing and online reviews as a significant influencer on purchasing decisions. Conversely, Millennials also value the availability of self-service options, especially those that get them to their destination faster by cutting out the middleman. They’re not opposed to picking up the phone or having a face-to-face customer service interaction, but it’s usually not their first choice. In fact, they may snub a business that doesn’t give them enough opportunity to help themselves.  

Brands Millennials Love

Venmo and other P2P (person to person) payment apps are a recent example of the way Millennials prefer to handle their finances. Venmo provides a slick, no-hassle interface, connects users directly to social networks, and is completely autonomous. Venmo has also partnered with GiveDirectly to make it easier than ever for users to donate to their favorite charity. 

TOMS Shoes is another good example of a brand that successfully engages Millennial markets. Their “One for One” campaign elevated an ordinary purchase of new shoes to an act of goodwill. TOMS also has a strong social media presence. They encourage customers to share stories and make them feel like they’re a part of the TOMS mission to improve the lives of others. 

 

These new insights into Millennial habits in combination with your own Voice of the Customer research will create a customer experience tailored to Millennial demands. In Part Two of this series, we review the areas of the experience to prioritize and provide examples of specific actions to take and offerings to consider when engaging this desirable demographic.

Email Analytics: Dig Deeper to Uncover Customer Insights

December 7, 2016

email analytics reporting tells you more than just opens and clicks.The line between customer experience management (CEM or CXM) and traditional marketing responsibilities has been blurred, and email is a great example. Email campaigns need not be just about generating business or converting sales. They’re also a useful platform for building and continuing customer relationships. Email analytics tell you a lot about how customers are receiving and reacting to your messages.

Email analytics 101: The basic measures of the success of an email marketing campaign include Opens, Clicks, Bounces, and Unsubscribes. Email marketing software records these types of reader behavior within a customer relationship management (CRM) database. The level of detail of the data collected will vary from provider to provider – for example, what device or operating system your readers are using. From within that CRM tool, you can generate reports and track trends in each rate over time. That said…

Email analytics tell you more about your customers than their email reading habits.

You just have to know where to look.

What links are customers clicking on?

What topics, subjects, or messages are getting the most attention? Where are they positioned within your template design? How were they presented – as text, as images or icons (e.g. a button)? These small but significant factors can all have an impact on engagement.

With this information, you can: tailor the content and/or design of future campaigns to best match your customers’ interests and visual preferences.

Who are your most frequent openers and clickers?

Are they current customers, or prospects? How did they get on your list? Did they sign up voluntarily, or were they added automatically through another process? Pay attention to infrequent engagement, too – whose name is new since last time you sent a campaign? And who never opens or clicks – do they belong on this list, or is their information out of date?

With this information, you can: follow up with more personalized messages targeted at your most engaged subscribers, and make adjustments to your list-building strategy, including cleaning outdated or inactive subscribers.

When are your customers reading and engaging?

Typically, open and click engagement rates spike in the first few hours after a campaign is delivered. Some internet users still jump at every incoming notification or try to keep their inboxes clear of unread messages. But if you are varying your delivery times (as you should be), you may see that timing makes a difference. Review the timestamps on opens and clicks to see when your readers are most likely to open, and whether they click through immediately, or come back to the message later.

With this information, you can: optimize the timing of your regular campaigns for when users are most likely to engage. You may even be surprised by what you find; it may seem counterintuitive to send emails on a Sunday night, but if the analytics support it, go for it!

Was there a sudden spike in a given metric?

Outliers – campaigns that defy your typical averages or medians – are worth your attention. A spike in Opens could indicate that you hit the sweet spot with your subject line. Spikes in Clicks can reveal a hot topic or an effective graphic. A bump in Bounces is a red flag that your list needs some cleaning up, while high Unsubscribes warn that something you did got under your customers’ skin.

With this information, you can: optimize future subject lines and inside content in favor of the tactics that produced the spike – unless you’re talking Unsubscribes – and clean your list so that the next delivery only goes to valid subscribers.

PRO TIP: Some email marketing providers ask Unsubscribers to indicate the reason they’re opting out before their contact information is deactivated. Use this information!

Have you tried an A/B split test?

A split test is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of different email techniques. This involves splitting your list into two (or more) groups, each of which gets a different version of the same message.

With this information, you can: learn which variables – subject lines, template design, inside content, special offers – get your subscribers’ attention, and apply that learning to future campaigns.

PRO TIP: This works best with very large lists; if you have fewer than 500 contacts, it’s harder to get statistically significant results.

Where did customers go after clicking through?

Click-throughs might be the most valuable action a customer can take from an email, but that’s just the start. Ideally, the content they landed on will keep them engaged for a while. After a campaign is delivered, check your website analytics and follow the trail of breadcrumbs. (Again, your mileage will vary depending on the sophistication of your website analytic tools.)  

With this information, you can: make improvements to the landing spots linked to from your emails to pull customers further down the funnel or encourage them to take a desired action.

Bottom line: Email marketing is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor.

There’s a time and a place for automation in your customer communications. But if you are running email campaigns, why not use the email analytics they produce to learn more about your customers?

Data is at the core of CSP’s services, practices, and philosophy. We can’t emphasize this enough: analytics are only as powerful as what you do with them. In this age of Big Data, knowing how to use the infinite information at your fingertips makes all the difference.


You may also want to read:

8 Do’s and Don’ts for Engaging with Customers on Social Media

August 2, 2016

Customer service via social media has been a growing trend as more and more businesses realize the power of these platforms. But conducting yourself as a business on social media is far from self-explanatory. Here, we review eight tips for engaging with your customers on social media. 

If you’re a business with a social media presence, you want and expect customers to engage with you online. Nearly three-fourths of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2015, and that number is expected to grow. Figures like that are telling; social media presents a significant opportunity for interacting with your customers. You can gain meaningful information when they react to what you publish. But, whether you intended it or not, customers also often treat social media profiles as alternative customer service channels.

The twist is, unlike phone calls or visits to your location, customer service interactions on social media can be very public — all eyes are watching. And because certain industries like finance are highly regulated, addressing these comments publicly can be challenging.

Following these do’s and don’ts for using social media to resolve customer inquiries will help you provide excellent social care while building a stronger commitment to your brand.

Infographic Engaging with Customers on Social Media

DO Employ These Strategies When Using Social Media to Resolve Customer Inquiries
  • Do go where your customers are on social media. For many organizations, the heaviest hitters are Facebook and Twitter. But sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn rank higher for certain industries. Make sure you’re concentrating your efforts on the right channel so your engagements are mutually beneficial for you and your customer.
  • Do have a social media policy and ensure the right employees are trained on it. Your policy should outline how your organization will interact over social media, and what employees can and cannot post. Ensure your legal or compliance department weighs in so the policy meets the necessary industry regulations.
  • Do regularly review engagement analytics. Pay close attention to how people respond to your content via comments, shares, and video watch time. Study what’s working well, and what’s not. Understand the issues being raised and use that information to help you identify priorities, plan staffing accordingly, and arrange appropriate resources.
  • Do maintain the same high standards of customer care on social media that you do on other customer service channels. Respond quickly (studies show many social media users expect a response the same day) and clearly. Avoid ambiguous answers. Once a problem is resolved, thank the customer for reaching out.
DON’T Run Into These Social Media Customer Service Pitfalls
  • Don’t run afoul of regulations. Certain industries like banking, where customer accounts contain highly sensitive information, have strict rules for how they communicate with customers online and how information is transmitted when operating digitally.
  • Don’t neglect comments. This leads to high rates of user dissatisfaction. A study by Conversocial showed that 88% of respondents would be less likely to buy from a brand whose social media site contained unanswered customer complaints.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. Ensure your customer addressing you online receives the same resolution for the same question as the customer calling over the phone.
  • Don’t let issues linger too long. If a posted comment leads to a lot of back-and-forth or requires that personal data be shared, take it offline onto another channel, whether that be direct message, live chat, email, or a phone call. The ultimate goal for both you and the customer is a resolution.

Managing social media customer inquiries successfully requires teamwork across a number of disciplines, including marketing, compliance, IT, and customer service. According to Bain & Company, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.” When you consider those figures, it pays to create a cohesive plan for managing your social media comments.


RELATED: How Loyal Are Your Customers?

Customers who engage with companies over social media, reports Bain & Company, “demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies, granting them an average 33 points higher Net Promoter Score℠, a common measure of customer loyalty.” Read 4 Things a Net Promoter Score Can Do for Your Business.

New Challenges in CRM: The Complete Digital Banking Experience

April 27, 2016

It’s Tuesday. Lunchtime. You’re headed to your favorite local sandwich joint. You sit down, don’t even have to glance at the menu. You’re all ready to place your order when your waitress walks up and says, “Hi, I’d love to serve you, but we’re out of food right now. No drinks either. Please try again later.” She turns away with a “bummer!” look on her face.

error messageObviously that type of service wouldn’t fly in the restaurant industry. Nor does it in the digital banking world. Gone are the days when your website can display a pop-up politely announcing, “Sorry, we’re having technical difficulties. Please try again later.” Customers have come to expect more in these times of Amazon same-day shipping and eerily relevant Google ads.

Consumers are increasingly becoming accustomed to the immediacy, ease, and reliability of online experiences. And they’re becoming less forgiving when corporations don’t measure up to their expectations. In today’s world, banks must be aware of serving up a great digital customer experience, much as your favorite sandwich place must serve up a great lunch every day of the week.

What makes up a great digital experience?

Digital customer experience goes beyond having an easy-to-navigate website and the ability to check balances online. Your customers may expect any of the following types of tech-encounters now or in the near future:

  • mobile banking digital appMobile apps to check balances and make money transfers, with GPS technology to show the nearest branch and ATM locations, along with up-to-the-minute lending rates
  • Real-time remote check deposits using scan-and-upload technology
  • Digital wallet, offering the opportunity to pay using a smartphone
  • Text-to-ATM withdrawals
Ham and cheese, toasted

Your waitress knows you always come in on Tuesdays. And you always order the ham and cheese with a side of slaw. You don’t even have to ask anymore. And she always remembers to toast your sandwich for you. Isn’t that nice?

Banking customers want that same nice, toasty feeling when they’re online or on-the-go. Whether sitting at their desktop, on the couch with their tablet, or out and about with their cell, consumers like things quick, easy, and convenient. Customer-centric services that predict what people want, cater to their individual needs, and meet their expectations will help you attract and retain customers.

68 percent of Millennials believe that in just five years, the way we access our money will be totally different.

Setting goals for digital customer experience and measuring satisfaction aids banks in providing value; offering quick, easy, and effective solutions; and advising before a customer even makes an ask. That’s critical at a time when Millennials are becoming key decision-makers. A survey from a division of Viacom Media showed that 68% of Millennials believe in just five years, the way we access our money will be totally different, and one in three are open to switching banks in the next 90 days.

Analyze the entire digital experience

A good or bad experience with any of your digital touch points has the potential to make or break the customer experience. It’s critical to look at the full digital experience and not just one element of it. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the digital definition and customer expectations.

CSP is passionate about improving the customer experience on all fronts. We strive to adapt to whatever technology throws our way. That’s how we help you continue building customer loyalty and retention. Contact us today with your questions about customer experience management for digital banking.

What Baby Boomer & Millennial Banking Customers Have in Common

July 30, 2015

Though born decades apart and into very different circumstances, Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964) and Millennial (born 1980-2000) customers show a surprising amount of overlap in their preferences and priorities for the customer experience at their banks.

Baby Boomers are Aging Youthfully

baby-boomer-motorcycle-442244_640

Baby Boomers came of age during the wild 1960s and 70s, and while they might not be able to rock’n’roll all night and party every day anymore, they’re not ready to resign to their rocking chairs just yet.

Here you can begin to see some of the commonalities between Boomers and Millennials. Both generations entered adulthood against the backdrop of oversea war, economic depression, and social unrest. The 2008 recession hit their wallets hard: Boomers watched their retirement funds wither, and Millennials worry if they’ll earn enough to pay off their immense student loans. To varying degrees, both groups know the value of doing more with less and balancing their desire to make purchases against the risks of running out.

It’s Not Just About Retirement

Sure, retirement is a pressing issue for Boomers exiting the workforce and preparing for a new phase of life, but it’s not the only thing they’re doing with their money.

Despite the setbacks of the recession, Baby Boomers earn about 47% of all income in the United States, totaling $4 trillion. [Source] With their adult children leaving home and establishing their own families, instead of settling in, Boomers are active and adventurous. They want to be able to keep up with their grandkids and are using their spending power to catch up with all the dreams they may have put off during their parenting years.

That might mean new car purchases, home renovations or relocations, or even starting a business – all things they’ll be looking to their banks to help them finance and navigate. These products aren’t just the territory of young adults getting established.

As we’ve reported previously, Millennials, too, are entrepreneurial adventurers who tend to value experiences over material goods. So while they may be renting a while longer before they purchase a house and putting off traditional milestones like marriage and child-rearing, they see that as freeing up capital to pursue their dreams while they still have youth on their side.

They’ve also absorbed their parents’ concerns about funding their retirements and, according to the Transamerica Retirement Survey, 74% of Millennials have begun saving for retirement a full 13 years earlier in life than Baby Boomers.

This knowledge should lead banks to carefully consider how and to whom they are promoting their small business, retirement, and home equity products and services.

Linked In with Technology

A major slice of shared territory between these two generations can be found online, and in particular, on mobile.

Millennials and Boomers alike are early adopters of new tech products and are comfortable navigating the world through the lens of their smartphone or tablet. 71% of Boomers bank online at least once per week, and their use of mobile is expected grow exponentially over the next few years.

So by prioritizing a streamlined, personalized, and mobile-optimized experience, banks can satisfy both sets of customers.

Where they differ, though, is in their concern about the security of their financial information. Millennials, who have largely grown up with tech, tend to be more trusting; Boomers are willing to adapt and learn, but remain suspicious about the trustworthiness of devices, networks, and data banks.

61% of Boomers believe the risk of their financial data being compromised will rise within the next three years, compared to 45% of Millennials. [Source] Adults who are not already using online banking options are even more suspicious and unlikely to be converted, no matter how slick the user experience. Nothing will send customers of any age on the hunt for a new bank like finding that their personal information is at risk, for which they unforgivingly hold the institution responsible.

With data breaches making headlines on a regular basis, banks who want to promote their online and mobile services must communicate a strong message of security, not just convenience.

Want to know more about the demands of different demographics within your target market? CSP can deliver all the intelligence you need and offer solutions to meet your specific goals. Contact us today with your questions and concerns.

4 Ways to Engage the Millennial Banking Customer

June 17, 2015

millennial customer engagement

Millennials want businesses to meet them where they are, and that includes their financial institutions. So how does a bank go about satisfying this demanding demographic?

In Part One of this series, we got into Millennials’ heads to see the world through their own lenses. Knowing what they value and prioritize can help you shape the customer experience to meet their ever-evolving expectations.

Appeal to their impatience.

Speed of service, whether online or human-to-human, is a must.

If a customer needs to get in touch with you to ask a question or resolve a problem, he’d rather open up a web chat or send a Tweet than be put on hold with a call center or wait for a response from the Contact Us form on your website. And if he does Tweet you a question, he expects you to answer it as promptly as he expects a friend to reply to his text.

He doesn’t want to be beholden to “business hours,” either – in his world, answers are always a click away, day or night. If 24/7 customer service is not something you can promise, at the very least, he should have the option to find his own answers through the resources you make available to him online, like FAQ pages, blogs and articles, or forums.

He’ll also appreciate a degree of automation to processes that would otherwise be tedious or require multiple steps and the intervention of a human employee. Take, for instance, mobile check deposit, or peer-to-peer payment, two innovations that streamline simple financial interactions into a matter of clicks, no middleman required.

Give them control.

Automation and self-service aren’t just about getting from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible; they allow customers to self-determine their customer journey and customize it to meet their own unique needs, rather than be lumped in with the generalized population of your customer base.

Personalization is important to this highly individualistic customer. Jane Q. Millennial doesn’t just want the Fifth Third experience, she wants Jane’s Fifth Third experience. Each channel she uses, digital or human, should greet her by name and anticipate her needs before she even has to state them.

Millennials personify the omnichannel customer experience. Take advantage of the Voice of the Customer insights and transactional data you’ve collected on them to craft personalized and intuitive experiences.

Participate, and invite participation.

Tap into the Millennial customer’s social side by engaging with him, not just broadcasting to him. We won’t claim that it’s easy, but you’ll have to reconcile traditional customer service language and behavior with his native tongue. Show personality in your communications, demonstrate social values that align with his own, and he’ll find you more approachable than the out-of-the box Customer Service Rep™.

Give him opportunities to engage with you beyond the standard problem/solution model of service. Social media is an excellent platform for conducting (completely non-scientific) surveys or hosting contests. You can blend information and entertainment with things like “Did You Know?” trivia or “Caption This” contests for funny images. The prize might be as simple as public recognition of the winner’s cleverness, but that’s still more than he was likely expecting to get when he logged on today.

Be their entrepreneurial ally.

In the past, banks might have targeted the 18 to 35 demographic with messaging around financing their homes, cars, and children’s college educations. But Millennials are famously delaying typical young-adult milestones like marriage and home ownership in favor of pursuing their dreams, creating the perfect opportunity for financial institutions to step in as allies, coaches, and incubators. Make them aware of both consumer and business products.

Consider hosting workshops for start-ups or the self-employed; offering sponsorships, grant opportunities, or other competitive rewards; or coaching them on career advancement or salary negotiation via your blog (you are blogging, right?). Seek out the places in your community where these young entrepreneurs are gathering, like TED Talks, networking groups, and even street fairs, and make sure you have a visible presence there. Think about it: how cool could it be to have a reputation as THE bank that young self-starters turn to?

While we’re on the topic of business products, consider this: Even if your business customers aren’t run by Millennials, they’re certainly employing them. The person responsible for managing banking interactions at any given business, start-up or established, might be a 28-year-old man or woman, who expects your B2B experience to be as modern, flexible, and streamlined as your consumer-facing experience.

 

So, how does your customer experience measure up against the Millennial mindset? By this point of reading, you’re either patting yourself on the back for a job well done, or you have new insights into potential areas of improvement and innovation.

CSP is passionate about improving the customer experience for customers of all ages. Read about our solutions and services, and contact us when you’re ready to take the next step.

5 Reasons Why Banks Should Blog

April 22, 2015

It seems like everybody and his brother has a blog these days, including businesses. Some industries are more suited to blogging than others, and financial services is one of those industries. Some banks are already on this bandwagon, but for those who still need some persuading, let us tell you about some of the benefits you might be missing out on.

5 reasons why banks should blog

  1. You have experts in-house. Use them.

    Finances, whether personal or business, are hardly self-explanatory. Put your staff’s specialized knowledge and years of experience to work by asking them to contribute content on their particular area of expertise. From basic how-to’s and definitions to explanations of more complicated concepts, your team can contribute directly to your customers’ financial literacy.

  2. Reinforce your value to your customers.

    Every little thing you do to go above and beyond standard service wins you points with your customers. Publishing a blog transforms your bank from a vendor to a valuable resource. It shows your customers you care about their financial well-being, not just your own bottom line. It also gives them a venue to ask you questions – just be careful not to leave those questions sitting unanswered in the comments section.

  3. social media iconsKeep your social media pipeline full.

    It’s not enough to simply have a social media presence; if you expect your customers to subscribe and stay engaged with you on that channel, you want to feed them a steady stream of fresh, original, valuable content. Blog posts can be used and re-used to keep that pipeline full and balance out any promotional messaging you’re sending out.

  4. Improve your search engine ranking and site traffic.

    It used to be the case that the only reason any brand started a blog was to stuff it with keywords and attract traffic from search engines. While SEO has evolved beyond keywords since then, Google and other search powerhouses are biased towards websites that are loaded with quality content. Your site is more likely to show up in the results for a search on “home mortgage refinancing” if you’ve published several articles on the topic.

  5. Cross-promote your products and services.

    Never miss an opportunity to cross-sell. As you’re writing about any given topic, inline links can point your customers to other pages on your site without distracting from the matter at hand. Online users are used to this kind of linking in news articles, Wikipedia pages, and Tweets, and because it comes across as intuitively relevant, they find it harder to ignore than an intrusive display ad or obvious sales message.

Data-Driven Content Planning

Data isn’t just for setting goals and measuring progress. You can learn a lot about what your customers value and need from both your transactional and Voice of the Customer data. That knowledge feeds directly into your brainstorming if you get it out of the ‘data silo’ trap and integrate it into your content strategy.

faces and dataWhat products are your customers using most, and what more could they stand to learn about them? Which ones could use some more time in the spotlight, to increase awareness? What are some frequently asked questions about your branch, your bank, or finances in general?  What areas of expertise do you want your institution to be known for? All of these questions are great starting points for a brainstorming session.

Of course, your blog can also be a suitable venue for company news, press releases, and letters from the president, but in terms of value to the customer, informative and entertaining content carries the most weight, and is the most likely to be forwarded and shared.

Getting Started Blogging

The two essential ingredients to successful blogging: a plan, and people ready to stick to it.

editorial calendar deadlineA blog need not be complicated, and you don’t have to go from 0 to 60 posts a month (!) immediately. But blogs don’t just happen on their own without some planning – topic brainstorming and research, an editorial calendar, and possible production of other multimedia (like infographics or videos).

You also need staff who have both the time and the talent to follow through, both on the production side and the publication & promotion side. If you find yourself short-handed in that department, you could hire freelancers or content-specialized agencies, but remember that no one knows your customers or your business quite like the people who are there every day. (See point No. 1 above.)

Bottom line: Blogging contributes to a well-rounded, holistic customer experience. It positions you as a thought leader, differentiates you from your competitors, and provides additional opportunities for customer engagement. This makes it a natural fit for a bank’s digital strategy.

Customer Expectations Drive Trends in Online Service & Support

April 8, 2015

These days, many of the touchpoints between customers and businesses happen not in person, not on the phone, but in the cloud. Never have customers had so many choices, nor businesses so many options, for communication and service.

Companies have had to step up their investment in digital customer service solutions to meet consumer demand for these choices. Here are some of the ways businesses have ventured into virtual customer service:

Support Via Web Chat

web chat customer service supportCompanies including Verizon, Home Depot, IKEA, and Bank of America have implemented chat support into their own websites and mobile apps.

In some cases, these chat lines are manned by an artificial intelligence. IKEA’s “Ask Anna” service is automated. On screen, Anna is represented by the image of a headset-wearing woman who even blinks and moves as she patiently awaits a question. The program looks for keywords and phrases in that question to deliver a prewritten response. In some ways, it’s like a slightly more interactive search engine.

Most online chat services are “live,” connecting customers to a human rep much the same way they would if they called the customer service line by phone. Customers might favor this option if they are not in a position to make a phone call or don’t want to sit and listen to menu options and hold music.

They also might need help navigating the company’s site, which is easier when a rep can just send a link to the desired page instead of directing over the phone, “Look in the upper left of your screen, select from that drop-down menu – no, the other one, below that – now log in with your password…”

Social Customer Service

Offsite, a social-savvy customer might still skip calling your 1-800 number in favor of a mention on Twitter or a direct message to your Page on Facebook. Whether or not chat support is something your company is interested in providing, these customers expect a response. The same is true of comment boxes on blogs, articles, or products.

Some companies set up separate Twitter handles just for fielding customer support, like @ExpressHelp for fashion retailer Express, or @AskADT for home security provider ADT. While there’s no guarantee that all requests will go to the appropriate channel, this tactic can keep customer complaints and issues out of the public eye by deviating them from the main account and its larger audience.

Virtual Assistance

Chat and social channels are ideal for short, simple requests. For more complex or personalized needs, virtual customer service is the next level up.

Frontier Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has introduced a virtual teller to their branch, eliminating the traditional teller line and the idea of “banker’s hours.” Customers talk to a remote teller via webcam, who can handle withdrawals and deposits, while other staff are freed up for the more involved tasks of banking.

A virtual stylist will meet you via webcam and talk to you for an hour about your pressing wardrobe questions, like how to dress for an interview out of what’s already in your closet. “E-Doctors” offered by both healthcare providers and insurers can help a patient get non-emergency medical attention without needing to make an appointment, take time off work, or leave the house.

As technology like Facetime and Skype has become common and accepted among consumers, they’ve warmed to the idea of some customer service also happening by video. It’s the 21st century, after all – we may not have hoverboards, but videophone is one dream of the future that we have made real.

 

The right mix of digital customer service solutions will be unique to each business. Introducing new things like virtual tellers or an automated chat line shouldn’t just be done for its own sake and not based on customer demand. Feedback from a Voice of the Customer program can give you key insights into the channels that are driving customer satisfaction, and those that might be turning them away.

For more information about CSP’s customer experience strategies and the programs we build to support them, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles

Mobile is the Land of Opportunity for Banks

November 24, 2014

eMarketer (@eMarketer) recently hosted an informative webinar on the outlook for the financial services industry in 2015 and beyond, based on data collected this year.

The projections point strongly in the direction of mobile banking and payment options gaining broader favor and driving demand. While the Millennial generation has motivated much of the digital advances of the last decade, adoption is projected to increase among the 55-64 and 65+ demographics in the coming years as they become more familiar and comfortable with the new wave of mobile technology.

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Mobile share is only expected to grow in the coming years.

Trends in the mobile technology industry have a distinct ripple effect on financial institutions and consumer expectations. At the beginning of the Millennium it seemed like every new device was smaller than the last; the public’s imagination was captured by the mindblowing amount of information, space and capabilities that we could now fit on something smaller than our thumbs.

But the early part of this decade has seen a demonstrated shift to larger screen sizes and lighter devices. The iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Note, Kindle series and the new category of “phablet” would indicate that the tech industry and consumers might be moving towards a happy medium of size and functionality.

The good news for banks getting into the app game is that a larger screen poses fewer limits on what you can do with that app. Cross-device compatibility is still a thorn in your side in such a fragmented marketplace, but if the eMarketer projections are any indication, sharpening the mobile experience should be a priority and worth the investment.

What’s important to keep in mind is that mobile may be the land of opportunity right now, but we’re still in an omnichannel world, and one channel can’t be emphasized at the expense of others without hurting the customer experience.

Some other interesting takeaways from the eMarketer webinar:

  • Security and privacy concerns, including one’s device getting lost or stolen, remain primary inhibitors to greater mobile banking usage.
  • Between now and 2018, consumers will start making larger purchases on mobile devices (compared to lower-priced purchases like lunch or taxi fare that are gaining traction right now).
  • Proximity payments and near field communication (NFC) are drawing a lot of attention from innovators like Apple and Google, as well as major national retailers.
  • Mobile ad spending will outpace desktop spending in 2016. Financial service advertisers are dedicating more budget to video, which has proved to be an effective engagement tool on digital platforms.

And we especially liked this one, from Vinoo Vijay, CMO at TD Bank:

Our most effective marketing channel is the actual moment when the customer experiences us in our store or on our website. We put a lot of emphasis into the experience that the customer has because, at the end of the day, that experience is far more powerful than anything we can say.

Thanks to Bryan Yeager (@bryanyeager) at eMarketer for leading the webinar. We look forward to helping our financial services clients navigate the evolving customer experience of the next several years.

Online-Only Banks Forcing Traditional Institutions to Upgrade Their Customer Experience

November 12, 2014

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There’s plenty of debate out there among financial services professionals about the fate of the traditional brick-and-mortar branch.

What’s clear is that in the meantime, a new species of bank has been gaining ground and turning heads: the online-only bank.

While consumers are justifiably wary of cybersecurity concerns, the promise made by these services is twofold.

On the Dollars and Cents side, they lure consumers with low- or no-fee banking, perks they can afford due to the lower cost of running an online bank.

And on the Customer Experience side, one word sums it up: convenience. The anywhere, anytime availability of these banks, and the fact that most of them are designed specifically with mobile in mind, is attractive.

Even these digital banks realize the value of a human touch, so many of them also promise the availability of customer service personnel to help as needed.

Today’s consumers have grown accustomed to managing much of their life online, and to being able to get online at a moment’s notice. The fact that these banks don’t tie them down to a particular location or region is another plus.

This emerging competition should be a strong nudge to traditional banks to evaluate the promises they’re making to their customers and what is being done to fulfill those promises.

It’s also yet another incentive to put the spotlight on your digital and mobile services and user experience. Using Voice of the Customer data and insights, you can zero in on the key drivers of satisfaction and make the necessary improvements to meet that goal.

A robust VoC program is your best asset in customer experience management. As we enter 2015, now is a good time to ask: Are you getting everything you need from yours? Contact CSP today to find out what you could be missing.