It’s no secret.  Poor customer service can cost your company — big time. According to Accenture, 52% of consumers have switched brands in the past year due to poor service.  So it’s not hard to see that if you don’t provide good customer service, half of your existing customers are easy pickings for your competitors. And that can end up costing businesses an estimated $1.6 trillion. Ouch.

Add to that the fact that today’s more connected, demanding customers feel that instant gratification just takes too long, it’s easy to see why customer service has moved from a cost center to a key business driver. And that’s why it’s critical to rethink the way we look at how customer service is done.

Good enough is no longer enough.

Today’s contact centers are still primarily centered around phone interactions, and are considered separate cost centers, not connected to any other part of the company.

Consequently, agents don’t have the tools they need to deliver the service customers expect. So customers find the staff at the call center to be unhelpful, are constantly redirected to multiple agents, and simply can’t get the answers they need. And the cardinal sin, they’re put on hold too long. This triage-approach is fundamentally in conflict with the way customers want to communicate with companies today.

How to change your contact center into a growth engine.

Customer loyalty is key to promoting and growing a company’s brand. Unfortunately, company leaders still believe that great service costs more. In fact, it actually costs less to provide answers and prevent problems that prompt customers to leave. And it’s six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. So even small upgrade investments in service now can pay big dividends later.

Here are four ways to create more loyal customers and transform your contact center from a cost center to a growth engine.

1. Start a conversation on any channel.

Customers are used to connecting via online, social, chat, and mobile two-way messaging, and they expect the same from your company. They want no-hassle, instant service on the channels they use most. Traditional omni-channel solutions that work separately just won’t cut it. Agents must be able to work on any channel from one platform, so that no matter how a customer connects with them, they can start a conversation and find the answers they need without transferring customers to someone else — or making them wait on hold.

2. Get your entire team on the same page.

Customers want to deal with knowledgeable people. And when service is connected to data across your company, agents can work from a knowledge base that includes a customer’s previous purchase history and other important data that enables agents to not only answer questions, but anticipate customers’  needs. No more asking customers to repeat their contact information again and again. Now your service team can start building customer loyalty with the first “hello.”

3. Keep it personal.  

Even though digital-savvy customers expect self-service availability from companies, Accenture reports that 83% of U.S. customers prefer dealing with human beings. Again, it comes back to a satisfying customer experience — not just methods of interaction. It’s time to throw away the scripted service answers and make it easy for consumers to move from digital to human interactions seamlessly, whenever they run into trouble.

4. Become clairvoyant.

Predicting a customer’s needs sounds unbelievable? It’s not. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an important element to look for in a service platform. It gives support agents real power to increase customer satisfaction because AI “learns” a customer’s preferences   so agents can anticipate questions and streamline the service processes. And companies can even personalize special offers like 25% off an item based on a customer’s previous purchases. For customers, that’s magic.   

The bottom line

Now more than ever, building a strong brand based on loyal customers depends on delivering a great customer service experience. Customers are willing to spend a premium for amazing service (just think about people spending $99 for Amazon Prime to get overnight delivery). And there’s no one part of your company, from sales, to marketing, to service that can do it alone.