Customer service means different things to different people. Consumers engage with businesses via browser, smartphone, social media, and other digital touchpoints that are usually not associated with business-to-business (B2B) commerce, but that trend is shifting due to a phenomenon called the consumerization of IT. Now, no matter what the nature of the business and the interaction, each party expects the experience to be seamless and smooth, just as consumers expect from service organizations.
According to a recent article in ZDNet, in fact, 80 percent of B2B buyers expect real-time engagement from their partners and suppliers. That kind of engagement raises the stakes for every interaction that businesses have with their customers.
Regardless of what types of products or services a company offers, if customers have a poor experience, they will be more inclined to seek a better interaction with a competitor.
Think about how frustrating it is to be placed on hold for an inordinate amount of time, or to wait weeks beyond a scheduled delivery date for a product to arrive, or to struggle to find information on a web site. These issues create friction where the process should be smooth. Any consumer can relate to these types of aggravations, but they apply to business customers, as well.
These types of events can lead customers to abandon a supplier and move to another that is more reliable and easier to work with. In fact, research has shown that when buyers leave a provider because of poor service, they stay away from the original brand for a period of years.
Many factors come into play in terms of delivering high levels of customer service and experience, and network infrastructures are among the most vital. In fact, networks might just be the key to reducing or eliminating friction and optimizing customer experiences.
Common causes of friction in business and customer interactions include: the inability to access a company's web site or find the right information on the site; slow response times for transactions and interactions; difficulty reaching the right person or resources for updates; poor data security; and delays in the shipment of products and delivery of services.
The ramifications of friction for a company can be significant. They might include reduced revenue from customer churn, declining loyalty, decreases in employee productivity, security breaches, and others. And as more customers demand frictionless experiences, companies will feel greater pressure to reduce friction.
The friction challenge is also becoming more complex for organizations that operate in an increasingly global, mobile, and cloud-connected marketplace. Adding multiple service providers and customer endpoints to the mix increases the risk of friction dramatically.
This is especially true with the emergence of the Internet of Things and Edge computing, where a company may be managing hundreds or thousands of connected objects. Any hiccup in connectivity can have cascading effects, from errors in back-end processing to delays in service delivery.
The first thing organizations need to do is identify those areas of their operations where friction is occurring. Then they need to take steps to address these problem areas, and having the right network foundation in place is a major part of the effort.
A business's network infrastructure is pivotal to making sure that various servers, applications, databases, and supply chain ecosystem are connected in such a way that makes it easy for customers to reach people for help, search for and purchase products, make payments, and track their order's progress.
One important network element for reducing friction is high bandwidth, which is vital for supporting feature-rich applications, media streaming, and data-intensive interactions. As the numbers of users and devices, plus the rate of data traffic, increase, the need for dynamically scalable bandwidth becomes paramount.
Another element of addressing friction is to implement a software-defined (SD) and carrier-integrated networking solution, which can help deliver optimized services at every endpoint. A software-defined networking (SDN) platform that includes a Software-Defined Wide-Area Network (SD-WAN) can provide visibility and insights into network performance and capacity enterprise-wide, and this allows companies to scale bandwidth and optimize traffic as needed, driving improved processes and customer service.
Comcast Business offers SD technologies as well as other solutions to help companies deliver frictionless experiences to customers and partners:
Flexible, high-speed networks that enable rapid deployment and management of modernized back-end applications
Connectivity that links business locations, drives collaboration, and ensures integration of physical and digital resources
Scalability facilitated by an advanced, gigabit-speed network to support large datasets and computation-heavy workloads
Built-in security that keeps sensitive data safe as it travels between business entities and the cloud.
To learn more about Comcast Business services, please visit business.comcast.com/enterprise.