As companies cut costs and cling to the bottom line, some of the most significant collateral damage has been to the customer service organization. Connection with customers has been sacrificed for quick and impersonal exchanges with outsourced agents.
If considering only financials, outsourcing often emerges at the top choice for cost-effectiveness – in the short term. However, outsourcing creates and widens the gap between company and consumer, rather than building a bridge to engage and foster long-term loyalty.
Creating positive relationships with customers must become a paramount goal for businesses, as the balance of power between the two has shifted radically to favor consumers. There are three principal reasons for this shift:
- New ways to engage. Long gone are the days when the primary avenue to resolve misunderstandings or hear feedback was person-to-person. Today, customers can take advantage of a plethora of new channels. In addition to interfacing with organizations in-person or the phone, they leverage e-mail, text, social media, and live chat, just to name a few. Customers are in the driver’s seat and choose when, how, and how much to interact, making loyalty all that more crucial.
- Increased access to information. Thanks to the internet, information has been democratized. Outside of a computer and a web connection, nothing is required to access the increasingly immense amount of knowledge available online. This means that consumers possess a wealth of information and become experts in their own right – customer service professionals need to have a deep and true understanding of their business for effective conversations that lead to successful retention and recruitment.
- Social media—one person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem. Social media makes it not only possible, but probable that a single individual negative customer experience can have wide-reaching effects. In fact, in a Sprout Social survey, 80% of respondents reported that social media helps uncover instances of businesses treating people unfairly and 65% noted its power to amplify issues. With a global audience at the customer’s fingertips, one negative interaction can make or break a business.
As the reach and influence of the consumer continues to widen, businesses have no choice but to evolve and adapt to accommodate for this shift in power.
A great way to begin is by “insourcing,” customer service activities back in-house. By bringing service closer to the company, the company will be closer to the customer. The chance for misunderstandings or mistakes lessens and the chance to make positive impressions increases greatly.
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Insourcing is practical for a number of reasons:
- Quality over quantity. Rather than focusing on the sheer volume of conversations that an organization has with customers, businesses can focus on making every interaction valuable.
- Better ambassadors. In-house customer service employees have a loyalty to the company and an insider know-how that outsourced employees cannot provide.
- Inter-organizational rapport. Customer service representatives are the eyes and ears of a business, hearing directly from customers about what is working and what isn’t. Being a part of the same organization as product development, marketing and sales teams means it is simple to share the information they acquire through these conversations.
Customer service is no longer the back-of-house, behind-the-scenes function of a business that it may have been in the past. It must be reined into the core of business and treated as the make-or-break factor that it is. Knowing this, insourcing maintains its position as an efficient and effective approach to redefining and enhancing customer service.
While the old adage, “the customer is always right,” may contain questionable logic to some, the more pertinent sentiment for today’s social climate should be “the customer is always heard.” If they are not heard and effectively responded to by the company, they will share their experience with a much larger public. Organizations must evolve to meet this unprecedented and unique power of the consumer by keeping customer service close to home. There is no better time to initiate this important shift than now.
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