Thanks to the explosion of information online, customers are more knowledgeable – and more demanding – than ever. Here’s how to make sure that “hyper-informed customers” also remain loyal, satisfied ones.
At the dizzying rate information accumulates online, we see a staggering rise of what I call “hyper-informed customers” – those who diligently scour social media, blogs, review sites and more to know virtually all there is to know about our products and services.
This explosion of online information has made consumers more knowledgeable than ever about complex subjects ranging from health to finances to legislation to technical product details. This “democratization of information” presents a big challenge for organizations. The medical field has felt the effects of hyper-informed customers for years. Patients routinely show up at doctors’ offices requesting a prescription for a malady they’ve self-diagnosed with the help of a search engine.
The ranks of these customers are growing, and they have more ways than ever to interact with our organizations: in person, by phone, email, chat, social media, you name it. The digitization of the consumer journey has placed the customer in complete control of the journey. Unlike the past, they now decide how, when and at what level to interact with us.
And, when customers resort to a phone conversation, these days, the situation is no doubt highly personal, critically important and likely complicated. Today, many complex conversations that were once conducted in person – like meetings with a banker, doctor or lawyer – are now done over the phone.
In this case, when the customer picks up a phone to reach us, it is with the intent to talk to another human being — one who can empathize with their situation, sure, but more importantly one who can solve their problem.
Are We Ready?
The question is, are our organizations and employees prepared to take advantage of this critical customer interaction? Do we have what it takes to delight our hyper-informed customers and leave them with an outstanding opinion of our organization?
The questions are worth contemplating – and acting upon.
It is our responsibility to put our employees in a position to deliver outstanding service to these increasingly knowledgeable customers. To do that, we must transform our employees from mere customer service professional to expert problem solver, educator and company evangelist.
It may sound like a difficult task, but it really isn’t. Here are the four keys to making it happen:
- Know the New Rules. To start, we need to understand that the old measures of customer service – a cheerful greeting, friendly service, on-hold times, call times and volumes, and a wrap-up upsell pitch – no longer apply. Informed answers and expert advice are what matter most to today’s increasingly knowledgeable customers.
- Provide the Training. We need to institute training programs so that our customer service employees have an encyclopedic understanding of our products and services. A mere general knowledge, augmented by product manuals or online knowledgebases, isn’t enough to satisfy a customer who has spent hours scouring the internet. Fortunately, this knowledge is readily accessible and can easily be gleaned from the marketing, sales, engineering and product development professionals within our organizations.
- Do the Research. Equally important, we need to know what the online world is saying about our products and services and how we stack up to the competition. Then we need to share this information with our service professionals so they can be prepared to speak positively about our products while countering any false or negative information.
- Establish the Right Environment. Finally, we need to provide an environment that fosters the concentration, communication and, if necessary, collaboration, our service professionals need to succeed. That means providing great leadership and the right equipment – computers, databases, noise canceling headsets and more – so they can concentrate intently and converse clearly and concisely.
Our organizations can’t afford to overlook any customer, least of all the ones who’ve invested considerable time researching our products and services. By understanding today’s “hyper-informed customers” and adjusting our customer service processes accordingly, we can ensure that they remain loyal, satisfied ones.