By Nathan Schnell

The Lost Value of Customer Service in the Tech Era

As a healthcare data analytics company, like many software companies, we automate certain processes for efficiency and scale. But, we take a completely different, more integrated approach when it comes to customer service, one we’d like to see more of among technology companies.

Automation has its upside, for sure. It allows us to get a jump on customer service issues and helps improve the quality and speed at which we deliver our service. Routine communication to our clients can be automated, customer data can be merged across systems and business processes can be integrated.

With the many benefits of automation also come challenges and potential pitfalls, including:

  • Slow or incomplete resolution
  • Customer aggravation and stress
  • Damage to your brand

Here are some ways we believe stellar customer service in the tech-driven software era can set a technology company apart.

Human-to-Human Approach: A Key Differentiator

I’m sure we can all recall a situation where we called a support phone number only to be endlessly placed on hold, transferred multiple times and then, finally, to be dropped from the call, forcing us to call back and start all over again. Or not.

Thus, the potential downfall of customer service automation. In those situations, wouldn’t it have been nice to have the option to just speak with an actual human?

At INTELLIMED, we take the approach that while automation is vital and provides many benefits to our customers, we also know it’s important to take a human-to-human perspective as well and strive to create authentic connections with our customers.

This means providing customers with the option to talk to a real live human, when needed, and to do so easily. It means reaching out to customers proactively to see how we can assist and support them, not just in the future, but today. This means making part of our company culture and everyday thinking about how we support our customers as if they were sitting in the same room with us.

In today’s tech-driven world, where it’s hard to sustain a competitive edge on technology or price, human-to-human customer service may be the only real differentiator.

Solution-Oriented Problem Solving

Even with the most top-notch products and services, things go wrong sometimes. And, it’s often how problems are dealt with that determines whether a customer will stick with you long-term or not. We like this nine-step problem-solving formula by Brian Tracy:

  • Clearly define the problem
  • Pursue alternate paths on “facts of life” and opportunities
  • Challenge the definition from all angles
  • Iteratively question the cause of the problem
  • Identify multiple possible solutions
  • Prioritize potential solutions
  • Decide
  • Assign responsibility
  • Set a measure for the solution

Compassion, Timeliness & Efficiency
You don’t often hear tech companies talk about compassionate customer service, but we think it’s important. Isn’t it refreshing (and, increasingly rare) to encounter a compassionate customer service person? If you’ve had such an experience, I bet you remember it – and the product or service – and would give that company your business again.

But it’s not enough to merely solve a problem with compassion, the challenge must be resolved efficiently and quickly. Even for situations where there is not necessarily a problem, providing efficient and timely customer service for customer questions and requests will set your company apart.

One important note about providing customer service that is efficient and timely is that it requires training and then empowering your customer service team to deal with customer issues; whereby, there is a direct link between employee empowerment and long-term customer relationships. A great book on this approach is The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence.

Understanding Customers’ Needs
Regular communication with customers helps us understand their needs so we can make updates to our data analytics software and business processes to better serves customers. Good communication also helps us manage possible risks and avoid potential problems.

Some possible ways to collect customer input include:

  • User groups
  • Online surveys
  • Phone interviews
  • Customer focus groups

Once updates and enhancements are made to software based on customer input, we can then communicate those updates to our customers, letting them know their needs were heard and addressed. 

Ongoing Product Support
Once a software sale is made, there is typically an initial customer training. Unfortunately, training and support often end there. Providing ongoing, 24/7 training support resources can help customers learn how to use the software and reap maximum benefits from it.

Ideas for ways to provide support include:

  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document
  • Online training in the form of pre-recorded webinars and web pages with step-by-step instructions
  • Monthly email with tips on how to most effectively use the software
  • Routine client check-in calls
  • And, of course, the option to call a support line and speak with a human being

Account History and Knowledge
Unfortunately, account management turnover does occur. What often doesn’t occur is a smooth transition of an account from one sales representative to another. A sign of good customer service in software sales is a sales rep that has a strong knowledge of a customer’s account history. We’ve learned that relationships often trump pricing – when a customer feels their sales rep has a good handle on their account and is a human to them rather than a number, that goes a long way in account retention.

Your Thoughts?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to provide stellar customer service in the age of software and automation.

Nathan Schnell serves on INTELLIMED’s leadership team as vice president of service delivery, where he focuses on providing stellar customer service to clients, expanding products and market growth.