Customer service and support: the impact of social and communities

Integrating communities into customer support can reduce costs up to 50%, Gartner says. However, it’s essential for customer service organisations to harmonize customer service processes via human interactions, self-service and peer-to-peer community networks, the company adds.

A more personal and individual customer service is increasingly important. Gartner expects that by 2015, the marketing budget allocated to customer retention and increasing customer loyalty through customer service will more than double.

Customer service is gaining attention in a world where the empowered and connected customer rules. A personal and individual customer service approach often requires the possibility of human interactions. Technology is essential, but the human dimension remains key for many people.

The social and mobile future of customer service and support

At the same time, social technologies and collaboration tools, coupled with integrated customer data, enable new forms of customer service through, among others, peer-to-peer customer support and community-building. Another evolution, Gartner sees, is customer service via mobile devices.

CRM customer service and support is evolving and a narrower  collaboration between marketing and customer service teams seems to be an important factor in some of these evolutions.

By involving communities in support and service, organisations are able to deflect calls and save costs between 10 and 50%. However, a balanced mix, that depends on customer preferences within a specific industry segment, a geographic market and even on the individual business, is essential.

Gartner expects that three industries will realize the biggest successes with communities in solving customer support issues: B2B software, consumer electronics and telecommunications service providers.

Involving communities does not equal shifting to communities for customer support

Organisations must take care though. Simply shifting customer support to communities can seriously decrease customer satisfaction if not properly done and not taking into account the individual business context.

Gartner says, “this will happen when the organisation thinks that if it creates community self-help sites, customers will come”. It continues: “Similarly, these deployments tend to be plagued by the perception that peer-to-peer communities require no administration or moderation. Enterprises should recognize and plan for the administration and moderation required to maintain a customer support community, but be ready for the community to fail.”

Among the other evolutions in the customer service and support domain, Gartner identifies virtual assistants and new delivery models such as cloud computing and the yet mentioned mobile channels for extending and receiving customer service processes and applications.

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