If you cannot answer this question, chances are you are losing them and do not know it. To know more about your customer you have to spend time analyzing your customer information. Items such as demographics, behavioral trends (paying late, calls into your contact center, use of on-line tools), method of contact (home phone, cell phone in the car, work phone, On-line) as well as complaints and suggestions. Researching and understanding this information helps an organization understand how their customers prefer to interact and help determine additional services that your customers are interested in receiving.
Companies who have segmented their customers are finding that the entire customer landscape has changed. Baby boomers are retiring and new generations who have been working with new technology since pre-school are becoming heavy consumers. While we don’t like it, the age groups of our customers introduce new ways of interaction that we need to consider. Overall, the older generation still prefers to speak with someone on the phone, while the younger generation likes to have choices – being able to interact on-line, via text message or even IVR. Additionally, our customers want to be able to place orders, research products and take care of problems when they are thinking about them - late at night, early in the morning or the middle of the day while they are stuck in traffic.
I spoke at a conference recently of a large sales force (over 8,000 in attendance). I asked the audience in both sessions to find out who preferred to speak to a customer service person on the phone and in both sessions I was shocked that there were only a few hands that went up. Most everyone wanted e-mail or text messaging. The demographics of the audience was from mid 20's up into retirement.
The idea of imposing ‘hours of operations’ on our customers is becoming an exercise in futility. Our customers contact us when it is convenient for them, not us. This expectation is leading many to offer self-service options via IVR on the phone or on-line to provide support outside of ‘normal business hours’. The simplest example is allowing e-mail requests – the most complex is full functionality available on-line or through IVR’s and Voice Applications. On-line services are growing due to the proliferation of broadband (400 million broadband users expected by 2009). The breakdown of your customers may warrant offering your products and customer services through multiple channels (Phone, IVR, Fax, Web, Text, real person).