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Think Customer Service Work is Just About Picking Up the Phone? Think Again.

- Jun 21, 2013

Guest Post By| Ashley Verril

Customer service employment used to be really basic. In almost every role, you could expect to respond to customer questions and resolve their issues. In more recent years, the channels for these conversations have expanded from just the phone to things like social media and live chat. This shift has started to diversify the kinds of opportunities in the support department to far beyond the typical “customer service representative.”

In this article, I’ll discuss four skills I see becoming increasingly important as customers move further and further from one-on-one phone communication.

Content Analysis and Marketing

Self-service is among the channels increasing most in popularity among customers. These online forums, FAQs and other public knowledge bases enable customers to solve their own issues, without ever needing to get on the phone with an agent. But it takes a lot more effort than just flipping a switch.

In order for these channels to really work, companies need to provide every possible answer that customers might look for, including new ones that emerge constantly as new products or services are released. This requires someone to constantly monitor page views and click throughs to see which topics are generating the most discussion and might deserve a new article, or more expanded answer.

Additionally, these forums can be used effectively to upsell customers, or inspire loyalty and retention. This takes someone with a marketing eye to look for such opportunities.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) Optimization

Another important factor in the success of self-service channels is ensuring that customers can find the answers they need quickly and easily, no matter how the question is asked. This requires sophisticated algorithms that can process natural language to find the answer (otherwise you risk creating a ton of content that’s never found).

While most companies will deploy off-the-shelf or open-source NLP technology, they might need an NLP Developer will need to make substantial configurations to apply it to their company’s specific use cases and content.

Social Media and Community Management

Customers are increasingly using social media as a means for support. If they send an angry tweet to a company, they expect an answer. Companies will need more social savvy to both find these conversations (using sometimes complicated keyword identifiers with social listening software), and to respond appropriately.

The person managing this process would also need a marketing mindset as many of these positive interactions present opportunities to spread word of mouth. If a customer responds with a huge thank you on Twitter, and an “I love your brand!” that’s a great opportunity for marketing to re-tweet that message.

Mobile App Product Management

The day is fast approaching when most customer-company interactions will happen on a mobile device. Unfortunately, traditional Web browsing with a tiny smartphone or tablet can be frustrating. So more and more companies are creating customer service specific mobile apps (banks have been doing this for some time).

As more customers use these applications, companies will need people to ensure they are providing the most optimal experience. If analytics showed one feature is used more than another, for example, they might try featuring it more prominently on the app home screen. Or maybe they’d work with the NLP Developer to refine speech recognition for that function.

These are just a few skills I see becoming more important. These changes mean new and changing opportunities for a variety of candidates. So if you think customer service is just about picking up the phone, think again.

Ashley Verrill is an analyst for Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. Currently, her research focuses on various topics related to CRM software, sales, customer service and marketing strategy.  Follow Ashley on twitter @CustomerServInv

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