Fifteen years ago, someone attending a talk would expect a speaker to stand up and deliver 45 minutes to an hour of speech, with a few minutes for questions at the end. Attendees didn’t expect too much interactivity, relevancy or immediacy regarding their own concerns. Now, EVERYONE expects that.
Look at the very format of the popular TED talks: 8-10 minutes followed by a Q&A. Alternately, we have on-demand consumption of the talk with on-demand discussion via forums and responses.
Technology has similarly raised the bar for customer service. Customers know when they are not being treated as central. Why? They see technology that allows them to be treated as central. It is being put to use by truly customer-centric firms.
How can you give your business customers evidence you hold them at (or near) the center of your priorities?
Interactivity. Actually interact with customers who contact you. This sounds so simple a toddler could come up with it, right? Then why don’t we do it? Interaction means addressing the concerns and questions of the customer. For example, in phone response scripts: Do not present a maze of automated voice prompts that satisfy your company’s internal routing needs. Instead, present voice response options designed to help the customer navigate to who (or what) they need based on their goals and the results they want. Interaction may take the form of live chat, a.i. wizards, or other means… but… INTERACT.
Relevancy. As early as possible, present material tailored to the customer who is contacting you. Entry, entitlement and customer relationship systems should quickly identify a customer to present targeted prompts, routing or collateral. Generic “have you heard about our new product” hold messages or email headers are a thing of the arcane, non-responsive past. The customer is contacting you to resolve an issue. Give them collateral or instructions relevant to their particular products to help them resolve it.
Immediacy. Clearly spell out in advance what forms of communication can be used at which hours, relating to which problems and priorities. Then, stick to it. Don’t over-promise. If you cannot offer phone service reliably without frequent 20-30 minute hold times… don’t offer it. If you are clear about what you can offer without surcharges, believe me – business customers will let you know up front if that is satisfactory or not. It’s better to walk into a support issue from that basis than it is to walk in after the customer has waited 20 minutes three separate times today, just waiting to speak to someone. All the while, they’ve probably been badmouthing you to colleagues via other immediately gratifying technologies like Twitter or texting. But even in this case, "no phone queue" doesn't get you off the hook! During the support windows appropriate for your product or service -- display immediacy via first-level chat support, or text support, or other methods you have spelled out at the time the support contract was closed.
This advice can be boiled down to one phrase. “Don’t broadcast. Communicate!”