There is no lack of choice for consumers these days to buy any specific product or solution. Companies challenge each other for the best offering using distinctive features or adding personalization options. With the abundance of choice also comes the need to make a good choice fast, without reviewing every option which is offered. An effortless customer journey with one-click transaction completes the purchase. For customers, you have lived up to their expectations but didn’t exceed them. The real impact is beyond the transaction, according to research* 89% of all consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.


There is no such thing as a spoiled customer
Expectations from consumers are very high when it comes to customer service. It needs to be instant, clear and tailored to their needs. The ease of switching between suppliers is an important factor that has reduced the amount of patience a customer has with a company. 65% of customers said they have switched to a different brand because of a poor experience. Customers don’t expect every question, issue or request to be solved instantly but they do expect instant interaction. They simply want to be heard and taken seriously. 
So good customer service is not only a smart choice from a reputation point of view, but also from a business point of view. But putting this proven theory into practice presents companies with a couple of challenges to overcome. 

Spikes in customer service
The buying behaviour of customers isn’t the same throughout the year. For example in retail, the ‘festive season’ in November and December, with events like Halloween, Black Friday and Christmas, means a busy time in the (online) shops. Overall, Retail sales in November and December have averaged about 19% of annual sales. With an increase in sales comes an increase in the demand for customer service. 

Staffing needs
It’s challenging for companies to serve their customers in the same manner as the rest of the year with the increase in calls. It’s also difficult for companies to recruit, hire, train and employ customer service agents for the festive season only. In most cases, there isn’t enough work to employ the trained staff for the rest of the year. This means retailers could go through a recruit-train-employ-exit cycle every year. A company could also accept that customer service decreases in quality with the rise of sales. But this would be short-sighted, because customers can switch easily to a competitor and as mentioned above, 9 out of 10 customers who had a positive customer service experience are likely to make another purchase.  

International customers, 24/7 economy
Especially in an online context, customers can come from any part of the world. If you deliver your products internationally, most likely your customers will not be located in one country. This means you’ve got to take into account differences in language, time zones, and even legislation. Building a customer service team that can cope with these additional challenges is even more tougher, when compared to serving a group of customers in one country. And still, with the increased flexibility of work, even people in the same country could have totally different patterns in activity and expectations of customer service at a given time. Excellent customer service is when you provide your customer with an answer when they ask a question, not providing them with an answer when you are available.

The paradox of personalisation and scalability
At first, personalisation and scalability don’t seem to go together well. But development in data-driven customer experience, chatbots, and AI have delivered organizations with new possibilities. By adding new layers of intelligence to customer data, customer experience can be improved without increasing the number of employees in customer service teams during spikes in the annual season. We recognize three main drivers work on personalisation and scalability at the same time when it comes to customer service;

Process automation
Clearly aligned and connected processes really improve the handling time of a customer service request. If one action automatically triggers a follow-up, response times go down. Most organizations have some form of automation in handling their customer service requests. The next step in added value  comes from connecting systems and actions, for example, actions in system A transfer to kicking of actions in system B.  

Customer data platform/lake
On average, customer data is divided over 5 separate systems. When you unite this data and build 360-degree customer profiles, you are able to use this data everywhere to maximize the CLV (customer lifetime value) per customer. Create a customer data lake which your team and tools can tap into. It can be used to have a more comprehensive view of your customers with advanced analytics or it can be used to predict customer needs or even prescribe customer service actions.

Conversational AI, Artificial intelligence powered chatbots
Online conversations between customers and companies are increasing, especially with the increased use of digital communication tools in 2020 due to covid. Nevertheless, 87% still prefer humans to chatbots for quick interactions. Consumers say humans are better at answering a variety of questions, understanding complex situations, and they can “understand me” better. With the rise of AI-driven solutions, bringing data driven intelligence based on algorithms towards chatbots is a logical next step. This means ‘traditional’ limited rule-based chatbot can be replaced with learning, more intelligent AI driven chatbots. 

Customer service as a profit center
The combination of automation, customer data, and conversational AI can dramatically improve the return on investment for a customer service organization in a company. Service agents are able to take care of far greater amounts of clients, together with these new solutions. With the strong reduction of seasonal pressure on agent staffing at service centers, the focus can switch to long-term better performance and increasing customer experience. It’s all about the big shift from customer service as a cost center to an interesting profit center with more recurring customers in the future.

Customer service case De Bijenkorf
As the leading luxury department store, de Bijenkorf is focused on high quality customer service. With automation throughout the service value chain, smart use of data, and AI (Einstein) solutions, De Bijenkorf creates  unique customer service. Read the case or hear from De Bijenkorf yourself at the event ‘Reimagining Customer experience with AI and Automation’.

*State of the connected customer. 4th edition. Salesforce Research