Applications of ICT in Customer Service
The real key to the application of ICT to Customer Service is in the use of customerdatabases.
Customer databases are electronic repositories of all manner of customer information including:
- Contact information - name, address, telephone, email address etc.
- Security information to help confirm identity
- Buying history; products bought, times, days of week etc
- Payment information
- Policy renewal dates
… and so on
Whenever a customer logs on, makes a telephone call or presents a loyalty card for swiping, the customer service representative - or even the form’s website - has a wealth of information available to offer products and services that the customer is likely to be interested in.
Every time the customer makes a purchase or has an interaction with the business, more information can be added. When data is gathered at the ‘checkout’, this is done through EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) – usually based on barcode scanners.
As these databases are electronic and centralised, it is no longer necessary to hold customer data in a local branch. This is the key to a move to on-line banking and to call centres, including offshore call centres, and the data can be accessed anywhere.
Modern customer databases are relationship centred, that is to say that the key is the customer himself or herself. If a member of the customer service staff makes a query about the customer, they would expect to be able to see all the related accounts and/or orders.
In the early days of customer databases, information was usually held according to individual products or account numbers. Data was primarily used for accounting purposes and had limited use for customer service, marketing, sales etc.
Electronic customer service
Customer databases allow many organisations to offer customer service through new channels, such as telephone and on-line, via the Internet. Although some customers bemoan the loss of personal contact, many organisations find that massive cost savings can be made and in many cases, service hours can be extended – sometimes 24 hours a day.
Some new organisations have been able to build their entire operations through electronic customer service – good examples include: Direct Line, Amazon, eBay, Dell, and Esure.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM systems attempt to bring all of the above – and more - together in one system customer-centric system.
For example, a business like Amazon uses CRM to do things like:
- Email customers with recommended purchases
- Recognise the customer as soon as he/she logs in
- Present customer-targeted web pages, promoting items likely to be of interest
- Be ready to accept orders without having to re-enter all the payment details
- Offer promotions and incentives
- Manage loyalty programmes
- Manage prices – not all customers have the same pricing
- Contact customers for feedback and surveys
Although CRM systems have tended to be the preserve of major companies, systems are becoming available that are affordable by smaller businesses.
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