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When demand peaks, it sounds like good news – but making the sale and losing a customer is not the way to build a business, and the way customers seek support is changing in a challenging way.

From Black Friday in the US to global sales in January, the holidays are a frantic period for consumer brands. Many rely on a strong holiday period to make up a significant proportion of their annual sales.

That also means that many new products are finding their way into new hands. In some cases, there will be problems with the product – or problems with the new owner’s understanding of how to use it.

Calls to action

The best interaction with a customer service agent is often the one that never happens. According to research, 75% of customers prefer extensive and accessible documentation to human assistance, and 71% see valuing their time as the most important benefit customer service can offer. “Call deflection” – providing the right answer through automated email, social media or the web – does not just save money and time, but also increases customer satisfaction.

Working with MindTouch, and talking with customer service experts, I have developed a clear picture of modern customers. They make buying decisions – positive or negative – based on customer service. 89% of customers who switched to a competitor reported that they did so after a poor customer service experience.

On the other hand, excellent customer experience is something consumers will pay for. An efficient and effective customer service operation is not just a cost – it is a route to future sales.

To open up that route, businesses first need to make self-help as helpful as possible. Semantic and contextual analysis – relating terms and how they are combined in previous searches – can help to shorten the path from problem to solution. But if and when self-help fails, their service agents need to be able to access and provide knowledge as quickly as possible.

Turning problems to profit

When I cannot make a product work, my first instinct is to open a search engine and consult the wisdom of the web.

I usually look up and try a few different solutions before I reach out to customer service, be it via email, phone, chat, or by posting a question on Facebook or Twitter. The service agent who works on my ticket should know, if I have made contact through the product’s site, which knowledge base articles I have already looked at. He or she should also be able to see other articles, ranked and reshuffled dynamically according to how useful others have found them.

All that information – along with previous interactions with the same person and other vital information such as order/invoice/warranty data – needs to be accessible immediately to the agent in order to resolve my particular issue at hand quickly and with minimal effort for me.

With 88% of all organizations delivering a multi-channel service experience, the differentiating factor will now be in the quality of those interactions. Achieving this –delivering customer service consistently and at high level of quality – is the way to turn a holiday sale into a lifelong relationship.

If you would like to learn more on how to engage customers like never before with service excellence, watch this video, take a look at our website or follow us on Twitter @sapcrm and @SAPSocialOD.

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