Looking for the latest in customer service tips and tricks, but no time to traipse all over the net searching for them? We’ve got it wrapped up with our latest customer service round-up, bringing you the best and most recent in customer service articles and commentary across the web. Enjoy!

1. The lighter side of customer service

For those who are tired of more of the same customer service tips and tricks, take a leaf out of the book of these customer service managers, as reported in the Oddee blog’s recent post, 10 Hilarious Customer Service Responses.

From the Skyscanner rep suggesting tourist activities for a customer’s 47-year stopover, to the Social Media Manager who ended up marrying one of the customers he was tweeting with; these stories will restore your faith in human nature, romance and the value of having a good old sense of humor.

We don’t, however, condone the UK coffee shop owner who called their customer stupid. That, my friends, won’t work.

We say: There’s always an opportunity to inject a little humor into your customer service interactions. Allowing your customer service staff some freedom to let their personality shine through makes it a more enjoyable experience for everyone. That’s why it’s so important to recruit a customer service team who are naturally people-oriented.

2. Rise of the Bots

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a growing number of companies are looking to funnel simple customer requests to chatbots rather than to real live customer service representatives.

As the Venturebeat blog explains, bots have come a long way since their inception in the early 2000s, when early attempts led to some rather unexpected customer service responses. With more recent advances in technology, bots are now more capable of determining what customers are looking for and responding appropriately (although the internet still abounds with stories of bots messing up: check out this recent example).

Bots receive sufficient training based on real customer service interactions, and they’re quickly becoming a viable way to deal with basic customer service interactions. Although the future of customer service looks much more automated, the more complex issues will continue to be handled by real human operators.

The MIT Technology Review recently revealed that there is research work currently underway in Silicon Valley to develop capacity within virtual assistants to read human emotion (and thus detect if rising customer frustration levels mean they should escalate the problem to a human operator).

We say: While bots may be capable of anticipating and rerouting some customer requests, automation will never take the place of human customer service representatives. The probable future for customer service will likely require a delicate balance between the two.

3. Need some customer service inspiration?

With the advent of National Customer Service Week in the US looming, Forbes has released an inspiring article by Shep Hyken with a number of actionable tips for celebrating the week like a boss (a good boss, who values customers and employees, not a bad one).

With a suggestion for each day of the week (Tuesday = Trading Places, where leaders take a turn serving customers on the front line) and many bonus tips like writing thank-you notes to customers, there should be some ideas for even the most uninspired of workplaces in this article.

We say: As Shep notes, it’s great to have a whole week each year dedicated to customer service… but in truth, great customer service should happen every day of the year! Embed customer service throughout your business strategy to make your customers feel truly special.

4. New features for delivering customer service via Twitter

Twitter might not be the first channel you necessarily flock to (ahem) when you think about customer service, but some of the new features unveiled lately might give you pause to change your mind.

As reported on the TechCrunch blog, Twitter has recently enabled functionality allowing businesses who offer customer support through its platform to promote this fact to customers. There will now be a ‘Provides Support’ notification enabled on the company’s Twitter profile, along with a display of available hours. Also, customers will be able to initiate a Direct Message dialogue with the company without a prior ‘follow’ connection.

We say: Customers of the future will increasingly make use of any social media channel possible to connect with companies to resolve customer service complaints and raise issues. Social media platforms will have to move to stay relevant by offering advanced functionality to enable this to happen efficiently.

5. The ‘I Build America’ campaign: Customer as hero

And now for a case study. HCSS, industry leader in construction systems software, recently won the Best-In-Show for their marketing campaign, ‘I Build America,’ as awarded by MarketingSherpa and its parent company, MECLABS Institute.

Rather than giving in to the temptation to just blow their own trumpet, HCSS designed a customer-as-the-hero campaign. The campaign reportedly returned them a more than 50% increase in annualized revenue over eight months… all while its brand was taking a back seat to the central message.

The main aim of the campaign was to present the positives of working in the construction industry to attract a new generation of employees into construction and to challenge stereotypes. In this way, HCSS reasoned they could indeed ‘give back’ to the industry they serve. In the process, they built not only a campaign but also a movement.

We say: For some companies, it’s all about self-promotion– and unfortunately, it tends to show. Those companies who find ways to put customer needs at the centre of their marketing campaign – and to go above and beyond this to help the customers or industries they serve in the process – will be the true winners at the end of the day.

6. Context is everything in customer purchasing decisions

Current marketing wisdom suggests that to provide excellent customer service to your customers, you need to be able to predict what your customers are going to do next… and why they are going to do it.

But understanding your customers is often a bit of a hit and miss exercise. We can build up all the demographic and psychographic profiles we want… but it still won’t always explain why Mrs. Jones bought a specific product from a certain store on a particular day.

The Harvard Business Review recently published a fascinating article on this topic titled, ‘Know Your Customers’ Jobs to Be Done’.

The article suggests that rather than looking for patterns in purchasing decisions at the aggregate level, we should look in depth at individual purchasing decisions to get some clues as to what is happening on the ground.

As the authors note, knowing what the customer hopes to accomplish through their purchasing decision, and how well our product or service performs against that job that needs to be done, gives us critical market intelligence. The critical market intelligence that will define our edge in the market or help us to see our competitors’ edge more clearly.

We say: Customer profiling can only take you so far. To fully understand customer behavior, your company needs to engage with customers on a level that will allow deep insight into your current interactions with them, while building foundations for a long relationship into the future.

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