These days we’re surrounded by new technology. It has a huge influence on communications, transport and the way we go about everyday activities – for instance, the way we work, or shop. It also affects the relationship between companies and their customers. Customer service takes on a whole new meaning because consumers are no longer passive recipients but play an active role in communications and, increasingly, in the process of creating products.
Customers create the products
The days when products were developed behind closed doors and only revealed to customers in their final form are now long gone. Today’s consumers play an ongoing role in the development of new products. And not just when it comes to testing prototypes but also early on in the development of a product – for example at the planning stage. It’s the customers themselves who define the functions they expect from a system being newly developed, or which in their view constitute an “ideal service”.
A good example is crowdfunding where consumers support projects that they themselves want to use, participating in the creation of a product right from the design stage up to the moment when the end product of their collaborative input is made available to them. This is also the way that modern, open and dynamically growing companies operate; customer service takes the form of an ongoing exchange of information – a two-way communication during which the needs and expectations of consumers are explored.
Customers are sellers and brand ambassadors
Traditional advertisements that are scarcely credible and purely out to sell are a thing of the past. The claims of a good-looking TV personality or catchy billboard slogans are no longer convincing for switched-on consumers. Customers of today are unwilling to blindly accept everything offered by producers. Instead, they actively search for the products they want, compare available options and also check out reviews. They use information available on the Internet and act on the advice of friends and acquaintances. So what is the role of customer service in these cases? An absolutely crucial one.
Regular and appropriately tailored communication helps build a long lasting, positive relationship with customers. Everything starts with simple emotions – if people like a company they are inclined to trust it. They will be keen to buy its products and when pleased with the results will share their positive impressions with others. In this way a company acquires a following of loyal customers who at the same time act as ambassadors for the brand. They talk about it, review it and recommend it.
On the subject of the evolving nature of customer service, it’s also worth noting that the distance between companies and customers is changing. Mutual relations are now significantly closer than before, and communications are two-way. Consumers these days actually expect to have an opportunity to voice their opinions. They’re conscious of how important these are – not only for producers but also for new consumers. They know the huge importance of every voiced opinion, whether good or bad. That’s why it’s important to make getting in contact with a company easy. When they buy its products they want fast and open communication.
They look for ways of getting in contact and, at the same time, convincing reasons to stay with a particular brand. A contact form on a website which gives a response at best several hours later fails to meet such expectations. In fact, it does quite the reverse – having to wait leads to frustration and damages relationships. The answer is fast, active forms of communication such as live chats or helplines, with consultants always available to respond to customers. It’s also worth noting that in customer service, it’s increasingly common to find “Customer satisfaction specialists” – because, today, it’s no longer enough to have customers; they have to be satisfied ones.
What is generally recognised as “high quality customer service” has dramatically changed over recent years. Relationships have evolved and become closer and more direct. The concept of a mass approach has almost ceased to exist – nowadays every customer expects to be treated individually. It’s vital to keep pace with these changes and meet the expectations of today’s customers, and this can only be done using modern tools.
Monika Kasperczyk is a global marketing manager in Versum.com . Versum is an intuitive system for managing hair&beauty salons. It helps save time, efficiently organise workload, store all vital information and successfully develop business.