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Do you remember the first time you got to use chat to address an issue with a company you do business with? I was ecstatic that knowing I no longer had to wait on hold for hours with our electric company to talk to someone about an issue that could be resolved in a few seconds. The system was fast and the entire interaction took just a couple minutes. In other words, I was a happy camper even though the issue, as it turned out, was on my end. Sure I was out of a few dollars and I have no idea where their call center was, but the communication was quick and efficient.
Now that chat has become a commonly accepted method for customer service team and the volume of users is substantially higher, the waiting times can be somewhat longer. Despite the occasional delay, it’s still my preferred method for communicating with vendors and suppliers. But I’m open to new options.
That’s why a discussion at the CompTIA Canadian IT Business Community meeting in Toronto peaked my interest. I was participating in a round table session titled “Are customer expectations changing?” where channel professionals were sharing past experiences and brainstorming ideas when innovation was brought into the conversation. A long-time MSP asked if anyone had leveraged social media to communicate issues to their customer service or help desk teams. In particular, he was attempting to engage millennials using the tools they were most familiar with, including Snapchat. “If you ask anyone between 15 and 25, they know what it is and how to use it. Our challenge is finding ways to use the same tools they do or we may lose them as customers.”
While the group acknowledged that many of their buyers are not Millennials, they understand they may be soon. And they know members of the latest generation often influence their companies’ technology usage and future purchases. That’s why channel firms have to start exploring the differences in their customer (and employee) demographics today. Chances are, their adversaries are already investing time and resources to find a competitive advantage. What are Millennials communication preferences and which technologies are they using to do it? From a customer service perspective, how else do they differ from Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers?
A good way to find out is by sitting in on a CompTIA Future Leaders Community meeting or by joining the group’s Facebook page. Both are great forums for gathering best practices for communicating with, working with and inspiring Millennials. The kicker is they are channel-focused, so members understand the unique issues and the operations of IT services companies.
Another option is talking to your end user customers under the age of 30. Pose questions related to their customer service and help desk needs, and how they prefer to communicate. Make that part of a larger, ongoing dialogue to get better connected to that audience. Ask them to describe a typical workday and how they interact with computer systems, applications and co-workers. What are their career aspirations and how could technology help them accomplish those goals? The best way to find out is from those you are already working with. The other benefit is it will give you more insight to your clients’ overall business needs. That information can help your team to develop the types of solutions those customer value most ̶ and significantly grow your revenue as a result.
Communications of the Future
What ways can you improve customer service and help desk interaction today? Many VARs and MSPs currently use phone and email as their primary communication methods with end users. Some have added chat capabilities, either by purchasing their own tools or by leveraging larger third-party help desk providers.
Social media is another growing trend for customer service interaction. Company Twitter and Facebook accounts are often monitored for complaints and issue messages, more a reactive than interactive conversation. Customers and prospects often post problems or share their grievances online, so many organizations assign a person (in some cases, a team) to resolve them quickly. That is often done through private messaging or very positive public responses. Taking the high road typically results in a positive follow up or at least removal of the original post.
That’s why VARs and MSPs have to monitor their social media feeds closely. Assign two or more employees to each social media account and ensure someone on the customer service team is available at all times to respond to posts and inquiries. Some businesses also include a sales or marketing team member to field prospect questions.
Getting back to our roundtable discussion, I found a few companies that are already experimenting with Snapchat as a customer service option. On example is iOgrapher, a retailer that specializes in camera and phone cases, lenses and other video accessories. As would be expected with any company that relies heavily on internet sales and support, their team interacts frequently with their clients. Snapchat allows customers to send images and video, as well as detailed explanations of issues they encounter. iOgrapher employees can send similar types of responses outlining the available solution options and the entire interaction can be completed in just a few minutes. It’s an efficient (and engaging) way to help customers resolve problems quickly. Check out the story in Social Media Week for more details.
What other communications platforms can channel firms expect to be using in the next 3-5 years? Instagram has potential, as do other image-dependent social media options such as Ello and Hyper. Of course, mobile apps are another great opportunity and who knows what entertainment and gaming consoles might offer in the way of future communications. The options are virtually endless.
Brian Sherman is Chief Content Officer at GetChanneled, a channel business development and marketing firm. He served previously as chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@getchanneled.com