The rise of social media and increased levels of competition across multiple industries has led to a seismic shift in traditional customer service in Australia. Three years ago, the end result was everything. KPIs were set against Net Promoter Score, customer survey results and average handling times. Now, customer experience is king and having a profound impact on the type of candidates businesses are looking to hire.

So, what’s changed?

It used to be that businesses had first and second (sometimes third) levels of support for customers, which enabled customer service teams to get the average handling time down by transferring calls to other departments, but the resulting level of service was often poor. In the here and now, customers aren’t prepared to be passed around and if, for whatever reason, the CS person is not able to solve the problem immediately, then the customer has to feel like they’ve been listened too, their business valued and, ultimately, had a positive experience almost regardless of the outcome.

It is so much easier now for businesses to be held accountable if they have delivered a poor level of service – any company with a heavy consumer focus is feeling the heat on this. The modern customer is equipped with multiple channels to vent their disappointment, and as some of the world’s biggest companies have learned to their detriment, social chatter can be extremely damaging. And it’s not just that the negative feedback reaches a fast and sizeable audience, it’s the impact on future purchase decisions of that feedback that really hurts.

Against this backdrop, businesses are looking for candidates who are solution orientated – prepared to resolve an issue as best they can without passing on responsibility. They need to be proactive and forwarded-thinking, as opposed to reactive and one dimensional.

Who is leading the charge?

As might be expected, it is service-orientated businesses who have led the charge with this change of approach. With the likes of Telstra and Foxtel, they have listened to the broader feedback and focused on re-engaging local talent to get connectivity back to a standard the customer wants.

In order for CS officers and consultants to provide solutions and a positive customer experience, they need systems that allow them to see the whole customer journey and experience in one view. That means a system that links the various involvements of sales, credit and CS teams, so no details get overlooked or hidden. Regardless of whether the business is in a B2B or B2C environment, the demand to deliver great service is just the same. 

When you throw into the mix the greater competitor landscape, with more consumer options and purchasing information than ever before, it’s not hard to understand why the customer experience is so important. If you take mobile providers as an example, there are several key players in Australia, all offering a similar level of coverage, data, calls and texts etc. Vodafone are aggressively trying to woo customers back after big losses in 2013 and Telstra know that the minute they drop in their level of customer service, they’ll face a fight to keep customers.

For the big ticket items, the landscape is pretty similar – consumers are spoilt for choice and if they don’t find good service they’ll take their business to any number of alternatives.

What’s next?

From customer service being seen as an afterthought by companies, it is now being seen as the first part of the retention and value add process. The moment a customer has a problem they call the CS team and they have to appease the issue and provide options or the business will suffer the consequences. This is an evolving shift being felt across the B2B and B2C landscape. Some businesses are putting the right level and quality of resource into this and those that have are starting to reap the appropriate rewards.

Page Personnel Customer Service specializes in recruiting CS professionals on a permanent, temporary and contract basis across a wide range of industries. Check out our latest customer service jobs.

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