SOCAP International

Trends in Customer Service and Support

In this Forbes.com interview, Matthew D’Uva, president and CEO of SOCAP, lays out members’ challenges and opportunities, and how the organization is addressing both.

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This article by Micah Solomon originally appeared in Forbes.com. The preface was background for those unfamiliar with SOCAP and what it does. This would be a good article to share with colleagues who aren’t members.

If you’re a customer service, customer support or customer care professional, it’s probably time to discover SOCAP International, to my knowledge the longest-running national (U.S.) organization that serves customer service
professionals. 

SOCAP is a membership organization that strives to help those involved in customer care with continuing education and with pinpointing and resolving issues that concern them and, by extension, are of concern to the customers of all stripes who are served by them. (In SOCAP’s own words, they are “committed to promoting customer care and customer engagement as a competitive advantage in business.” Amen to that.)

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., SOCAP’s members come from brands across the country, representing everything from hospitality to the automotive industry (for whom they do an annual automotive-specific summit in addition to the general-interest conferences they run nationwide and for specific geographically limited chapters), to e-commerce to aviation. 

I recently interviewed Matthew D’Uva, the president and CEO of SOCAP, on some of the association’s and industry’s recently observed trends, issues and concerns.

Micah Solomon: What are a few of the trends you’re seeing in customer service, customer support, customer care and the customer experience?

Matthew D’Uva: One key trend we are seeing at SOCAP is that companies are mapping the entire customer journey and addressing and responding to consumers’ needs at each stage, with an emphasis on integrated customer care in the purchasing stage of the journey. That integrated approach to purchasing involves the use of “omni-channel” to increase engagement with consumers and provide more paths toward
purchase . [Micah’s impertinent interruption: please
see my article here: http://bit.ly/micahmm on Meghan Millennial explaining omnichannel.] 

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Omni channel means creating a seamless customer experience through multiple interfaces, including apps, retail websites, social media, live chat and similar functions on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers as well as more traditional
channels such as telephone, mail-order and brick-and mortar stores. 

Today’s consumer is using any and all of these means to engage when and where they want to, and they want an integrated experience so that, just to name one example, they can use the same rewards card whether they shop online, via catalog or in a store.

In part because of the emergence of omni-channel, SOCAP has developed a tool to help companies manage the entire customer care process. SOCAP’s Customer Engagement Framework can help companies with customer care departments to assess their performance in the continuous improvement journey, including omni-channel. In supporting the customer journey, companies need to evaluate themselves, and the framework accomplishes this by examining performance based on four key categories: strategy, process, people and technology.

Micah: What are some concerns you’re hearing from customer service professionals today?

Matthew: The No. 1 concern we are hearing from our members is the need for consistent service among all the various engagement channels; while phone is
the predominant channel, successful companies need to be proficient in all channels and be prepared for new channels to come.

Another concern we are hearing is the need for a consistent way to evaluate performance on customer engagement through the entire customer journey. The SOCAP Framework addresses this concern by allowing companies to score themselves to see how they are performing, at the lowest level, a customer care function is only “transactional.” At progressively higher levels, it becomes “standardized,” “optimized,” and, finally, a “strategic asset.” According to SOCAP’s initial research with 50 companies, the plurality (35%) fall into the optimized category,
which is characterized by having a strategic plan, well-defined processes and
procedures, and highly visible contact channels, including social media.

The third concern we hear frequently from our members is the need to integrate customer care with other parts of the business. Companies want to create an ethos of customer service that permeates the culture, so that functions ranging from accounting to security are closely aligned with customer care.

Micah: I am interested in the increased importance of customer service in SaaS/subscription-based business models. Any thoughts on that?

Matthew: SaaS is an example of how service is becoming a key differentiator in the customer journey. An SaaS model shows how compact this journey can be and, once again, reinforces the fact that effective customer care is vital for companies that want to be competitive in the marketplace.

Micah: What should I have asked you?

Matthew: One important question is: How is mobile going to change the way companies use omni-channel? We believe that mobile will be a game changer in terms of how consumers make purchase decisions and the ways that companies will need to
engage with them. Mobile offers a new opportunity for companies to leverage customer care to better connect with consumers, improve their interactions and build greater engagement.



Solomon_headshotMicah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience
speaker and best-selling business author, most recently of “High-Tech,
High-Touch Customer Service.” He has spoke an two national SOCAP events. This article (http://bit.ly/ForbesSOCAP) is reprinted with permission of the author, Micah Solomon at www.micahsolomon.com.