Brian Solis, the person Salesforce calls a global innovation evangelist, hit the proverbial nail on the head with regards to the state of today’s customer service when he said, “Social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”

COVID-19 placed an exclamation point on customer service as consumers flooded digital platforms in search of products and services. If they ran into issues or had a question or had a need for more information, the first place many turned to was customer service. How they were treated under these stressful times affected their future relationship with the brand.

Earlier articles pointed out that studies show many consumers who went online to browse and shop would continue to do so in the future. Here’s some tips on elevating customer service to nurture and retain these new visitors.

Keep It Personal

Personalization, both through AI and in-person customer service centers, is paramount. Personalization and customer data platform company Evergage’s survey found that 61% of companies attributed personalization to increasing the quality of their customer experience. A Gartner research study last year reported that brands could lose more than a third of their customers because of unsatisfactory customer service.

Many brands gather good data on their customers but fail to share it with other departments like customer service. Collaboration is important to steward these consumers. So, too, is proper training in using customer names and showing empathy about their concerns or issues.

AI

Observers expect use of AI to accelerate, especially with pressure to impose staff and budget cuts because of the pandemic. Many experts foresee that AI will be used to handle initial queries that relate to most frequently asked questions and concerns. They anticipate that real people would be called in for more complex situations requiring a “hands-on” approach.

Speech Analytics

Utilize cloud-based analytics that distinguish keywords and phrases. This can lead to identifying key customer issues, need for price changes, understanding buyer behavior, and the main reasons for customer churn. Webchat is here to stay, according to a study performed by Hanover Research in 2019.

Webchat Support

That same Hanover report showed that 80% of companies surveyed had experienced increases in inbound chat questions before the pandemic. There’s no doubt the numbers escalated during COVID-19, so support for web chat is not an option any longer.

Contact Center

Research of companies last year by Enterprise Connect showed that almost 75% recognized the importance of contact centers and would be investing in them this year. This is good news for consumers, but it also stresses the importance of collaboration among all departments connected with the consumer journey.

The same study discovered that 63% of respondents already supported agents working remotely. This was an asset during the pandemic and will remain so in the future. The study added that 40% expected to increase their number of customer service reps this year. The remote work ability is also viewed as a plus, as brands replace retiring boomers with Gen Zers who relish work / life balance.

Digital Transformation

To many, the contact center is the heart of digital transformation, as more consumers rely on online platforms to search for and purchase goods. Brands that invest in the right technology will be better suited to handle, manage and analyze their consumers’ needs.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.