Already well established in banking and financial services, digital customer care—so-called e-care—is now making inroads in other industries. E-care involves the delivery of customer service via web-based user accounts, social networks, mobile phone, and the Internet rather than call centers or facilities open to the public such as retail stores or service counters. Such digital services are increasingly demanded by customers, who are already using digital platforms to research and review products, as well as broadcast their service frustrations. And it makes sense from a financial perspective, too: e-care has the potential to significantly lower the cost of customer service operations while increasing customer satisfaction.
Of course, it’s not simply a matter of adding digital options to traditional customer-service channels. E-care must be approached as a one- to two-year multistage transformation, undertaken with the same degree of planning and rigor as a major product launch or other strategic initiative. In addition, careful thought must be given to the degree of digitization desired: digital care can be fully self-serve or involve a mix of live customer-service agents; not all options need to be available on every digital platform, and e-care should not be implemented as aggressively where there is significant potential for upselling. Yet it has been found believe that the rewards of adopting e-care are worth the effort, and virtually every consumer-facing industry requiring extensive customer-relationship management—from cable operators and consumer electronics to healthcare and utilities—can benefit.
These days, ATMs, tablet computers, smartphones and store kiosks have become a battleground for companies trying to dazzle customers with instant access to friendly help. Companies such as American Express, Hertz, Activision Blizzard, E-Trade, Bank of America and Target are rolling out one-click access to help via video chat. They’re relying on an old adage about customer service: Despite technological advances, a real person, whose smiling face a customer can see, always wins.
The customer-service-by-live-video trend began last September when Amazon.com Inc. introduced the Mayday feature to its Kindle tablet. About 10 seconds after tapping the “Mayday” button on a Kindle screen, a video feed loads in a corner. It shows a tech support advisor who can’t see the user but can see what’s on the screen and hear what the user says.
Taking a systematic approach to e-care can not only reduce costs and improve service but also bring a company closer to its customers, who now actively use digital platforms to research and review products, purchase services, and communicate problems.