Failing to provide satisfactory customer service is becoming an increasingly costly mistake for businesses. A mistake so costly, in fact, that British businesses are believed to be losing up to a staggering £234 billion a year as a result.
Customers are becoming more informed, more demanding, evermore critical, and are realising the power they yield. This, paired with an increased confidence, means they are more readily-able and more likely to use their greatest weapon, their buying power, to punish companies failing to deliver what they want. This is supported by research we conducted which found that almost a third of consumers are willing to move their custom if they receive an unsatisfactory service. People are also likely to pay bills late or not pay them at all in protest at poor service – with almost half (48%) of consumers saying they had deliberately withheld or defaulted on a payment in the past for this reason.
The pressure is building on businesses to ensure they have a customer service strategy in place in order to meet ever-evolving customer demands. The price if they fail to do this? The wrath of frustrated customers, a damaged reputation and losses in sales and loyalty.
What businesses should be doing
It’s clear that delivering unsatisfactory customer service is damaging to businesses, but turning this around can be easily achievable. There are things that businesses can, and should, be doing in order to deliver good customer service, and in turn, a good customer experience. Led from the top down, an effective customer service strategy is something that senior level management should both create and be engaged with. So what considerations should businesses be bearing in mind in the pursuit of fostering an effective customer service strategy?
Knowledge is key
When it comes to customer service, having customer-facing employees that are not only personable, but also knowledgeable and informed, is crucial. Having a customer relationship management (CRM) platform in place that is updated regularly so information is accurate and fresh, is one way to do this. Ensuring front-line advisors are empowered to manage knowledge banks means information is relevant and in line with the most current customer feedback and sentiment.
Taking care to listen
It goes without saying but listening is one of the most vital aspects of customer service. A failure to listen alienates customers and gives the impression that a business doesn’t care about their individual needs.
A measure businesses should consider more closely is customer satisfaction surveys. Especially those that provide feedback in real time as they help shine a light on poor scores and negative comments, and can be used effectively by businesses to introduce measures that directly benefit customers. It’s also important that businesses are quick to follow up on negative customer feedback as this can often help de-escalate situations and help ensure each customer feels valued as an individual.
Proactive as well as reactive
When it comes to customer complaints, it’s important a business reacts quickly. However, it’s just as important for businesses to encourage their staff to be proactive in their customer service approaches too. When a business gets this right, it helps them really stand out from the competition, for example by contacting a new customer after their first order to find out how they found the service, or following-up with a customer after a complaint has been lodged and sorted, in order to see if they were satisfied with the resolution.
Being proactive in your approaches to customer service often relies on a much deeper understanding of a customer and their journey. This is useful in identifying where real value can be added and in discovering new touch points, for example by finding additional services or products that may be beneficial for a customer that they hadn’t been aware of initially or considered.
Offer real choice
Taking care to listen, and being proactive in your pursuit to deliver great customer service are vitally important. Offering your customers real choice is also equally important – businesses need to truly listen to what each customer wants as an individual, as well as the channels they wish to communicate through. By listening, businesses can adapt and tailor their service and ensure interaction is as easy and fluid as possible.
Making sure the right channel is being used in the right way is absolutely vital. Given that channel choice is dependent on contact type and the complexity of a query, businesses need to be receptive to customer needs and wants. For more basic tasks, a digital self-serve option might be the best option, while a more emotive, complex query which requires a higher degree of empathy may need to take place on a call.
Looking at the bigger picture
When it comes to customers, and offering them a great service, it’s imperative that companies turn their focus to the longer term value of their customers, rather than just short-term measures. For instance, when it comes to debt recovery, research has found that half of customers have felt harassed when it comes to debt collection and 56% would actually switch provider if they experienced poor debt collection.
For many customers, debt is only a short-term blip on the radar. Ensuring you engage and connect with customers in a meaningful way is important – focusing on the lifetime value, rather than honing in on instant pay back i.e. getting the debt collected swiftly, which may only add to the pressure and frustrate the customer.
Good customer service is good for business
The quality of experience a customer has with a particular company impacts success and profit margins. Time and time again, evidence is pointing to the fact that the companies delivering a better customer service than their competition outperform them – both in terms of growth and profitability.
Having advisors that are switched on, knowledgeable, proactive and empathetic, who truly listen to your customers, while offering real choice and focusing on the longer-term, is the best route for a business to deliver a good customer service. If you can tick all these boxes, you’re well on your way to creating a customer service strategy that builds loyalty and trust – two of the most important assets a business needs and can build on for further growth.
About the Author
Chris Cullen is head of sales and marketing at specialist outsourcer Echo Managed Services. Echo Managed Services is a specialist outsourced provider of complex multi-channel customer contact services, comprehensive debt recovery solutions and the developer of the water customer care and billing system, RapidXtra.