Customer service only comes from the top

Customer expectations are rising, but companies are failing to meet them. That’s what the folks at Zendesk are reporting with their latest global customer survey, The omnichannel customer service gap.

In short, customers want a speedy and seamless service experience whether they contact a company by phone, social media, email, chat, or in store. Only 7% are extremely satisfied that brands are providing consistent and integrated service, however; and only half rate the speed of response or resolution as good or excellent. A clear majority of customers in all countries surveyed believe that brands pay more attention to generating sales across channels than to providing integrated customer service.

More than a cost center

Zendesk VP of marketing J.D. Peterson sees this difference as reflective of the traditional business culture that favors sales as a profit center, while customer service is only considered a cost center. But he also sees that changing, with more viewing service as an opportunity to deepen customer relationships and increase sales, and he believes the rise of social media is contributing to that change.

Providing a fully integrated experience for customers across channels—where customer interaction is consistently fast, friendly, and satisfactory, and previous interactions are immediately recognized—is still the exception rather than the rule. Zendesk provides a multichannel service platform that theoretically enables such consistent ‘omnichannel’ support.

Technology ahead of the corporate culture

J.D. still sees only a minority of businesses with online and brick-and-mortar stores fully integrating their multichannel capabilities with their in-store service, although that practice is clearly rising. Likewise, first-tier social media service support is still often handled by the marketing department, where listening platforms were first brought into organizations, rather than by the service department. Just under a quarter of Zendesk customers have enabled the firm’s direct/native Facebook/Twitter integrations, although some have accomplished the same by integrating third-party tools (e.g., Hootsuite, SproutSocial) through Zendesk’s applications platform.

Only from the top

J.D. says that when he sees a high level of integrated customer service, without exception, the CEO or another C-level executive is driving the firm to a customer-focused culture. A good first step toward meeting customer’s rising expectations is the implementation of a multichannel service capability. But to approach the level of integration and consistency that customers are coming to expect, a firm needs to be organized around the customer experience. That vision and commitment must come from the top.

Related Gigaom research:

Sector RoadMap: Social customer service in 2013

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