5 Tips for Improving Customer Service
“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.”
~ Nelson Boswell
Picture this: you’ve booked a hotel room for the wrong weekend by mistake. Immediately after realising your error, you reach out to the hotel by phoning the number provided on your confirmation. After a short moment, the phone clicks, and you are greeted by a helpful, calming voice.
In what feels like no time at all, your issue is resolved without any consequences. You didn’t receive any extra charges, and the hotel even apologised for the inconvenience despite the fact that it was your error. You hung up the phone feeling even more excited for your stay at that hotel than you did before you booked it.
In a perfect world, all customer issues or complaints would be solved just as smoothly. However, that’s just not the case, everyone has their own horror stories with customer service.
Customer service is a vital element of business because it reflects the entire organisation. It’s what people remember about your company, their takeaway, and what they tell the people around them. The difference between them saying good things or bad things is the difference between a healthy channel of referrals or a tarnished brand.
That being said, having great customer service on every level of an organisation leads to a sustainable competitive advantage within any industry.
Recently, Amazon ranked the highest in the American Customer Satisfaction Index by a landslide compared to their competition. Their CEO, Jeff Bezos, explains their customer service formula through 7 lessons. This method has given Amazon a competitive advantage and increased sales.
The number one thing that people forget when it comes to customer service is that it does not only apply to a company’s support team or whoever’s job it is to deal with issues. Customer service starts from the first touch point a customer has with your business. The goal is to give a positive customer service experience from the start. Doing so will help you close more sales, bring more referrals and minimise the number of complaints to deal with.
The following five tips on how to improve customer service apply to every position in an organisation. No matter what your title is your goal should be to make your customers happy.
1. Be available and actively involved
It is important that there are means of contact readily available for customers to reach out to. More importantly, there has to be someone waiting to respond on the other side. It can be really stressful for customers when they feel like they are continually being passed from person to person without resolution.
As a matter of fact, in a study conducted by Accenture, 85% of respondents reported that being put on hold for a long time is one of the most frustrating experiences when dealing with customer service. So make sure you have enough people in your customer care department to deal with customer queries.
Another box to tick connected with being available for your customers is to make sure they can find the relevant contact number, email, or chat without having to search for it, and when they make contact, it should feel personal.
A great example of a company that makes sure their customers can access the customer service without any hassle is Zappos. Their customer service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to answer customer questions — no matter how long they take.
This online fashion retailer made an excellent customer service their competitive advantage and a core of their culture.
You are probably familiar with Zappos length record breaking customer service call that lasted over 9 hours. That’s what you call a dedication! But you probably think now that you can’t possibly afford that. But can you actually afford not too? This kind of culture of encouraging customer care workers to listen, not just hit the targets put Zappos on the map, provided an incredible amount of positive PR, that would normally cost hundred of thousands of euro. Not to mention the power of trust building this approach has on the consumer – no matter what will happen with your order or the ordering process, there will always be someone on the other side to look after you – the consumer. Isn’t it all the consumer wants?
According to The Aspect Consumer Experience Index: Millennial Research on Customer Service Expectations, 76% of Americans view customer service as a “true test” of how much a company values them, that has a direct impact on customer retention and 55% of people have stopped shopping or using the services of at least one company because of poor customer service in the past year.
Nonetheless, your business requires the right phone service for what you are providing, so make sure you have a suitable system for your organisation.
Once contact is made, listening and understanding should be the focus. Being attentive to the customer and assuring that they feel heard will foster that the conversation begins on a positive note.
2. Express product knowledge through clear communication
It is fairly obvious that product knowledge is important to customer service. How could you come to a resolution without it? Whether it’s the sales team knowing what a customer needs, or the support team resolving an issue, this knowledge is paramount.
The crucial element here is to make sure all employees are trained and up to date with what your organisation does. However, it is imperative to note that training should not stop after an employee’s orientation to their job. It should be an ongoing process because there will always be something new to learn. Weekly team meetings could be used to continually develop knowledge on products and services and to develop best practices.
When it comes to customer service, it is the way that this product knowledge is communicated that truly matters. The correct information should be conveyed in the simplest way possible ensuring that the customer doesn’t feel like they are being talked down to. Keep the jargon to a minimum and try to qualify as quickly as possible. This will help you provide a solution.
If you feel as though you are continuing to take calls for the same small, easy-to-fix issue, then offer a FAQ page on your website.
According to The Aspect Consumer Experience Index: Millennial Research on Customer Service Expectations, 64% of respondents said that “I’d rather do things on my own most of the time” and 69% of Millennials say that they feel good about themselves and the company when they solve a problem without talking to customer service.
3. Be able to adapt to any situation
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” ~ Bill Gates
Customers can become angry and without a doubt irritable. Dealing with irritable customers is known as emotional labour. It helps to take a step back and remember a time when you have had to deal with customer service yourself. Even the most positive customer service experience can be stressful because it takes time out of your day.
There is an abundance of skills that are essential to being able to deal with any type of customer. The number one skill is clearly patience, but it is a virtue that tends to deplete as the day goes on. You know yourself best, so if you feel that your patience is beginning to run out it is time for a short, mental break.
As a leader or anyone outside of the customer service department, it is necessary to be able to sympathise with your peers when they are running low on patience in order to facilitate a healthy company culture that is as stress-free as possible.
Not only can customers become angry, but also they can become hostile if things are not going the way they want. When this happens, you have to stick it out, remain as calm as possible, and remember to not take things personally. Working in customer service requires a tough skin and a tenacious personality.
If you remember empathy and show respect in the most difficult situations, yourself and your organisation will come out on top in the end. Word of mouth advertising is one of the most important and effective marketing methods, so do your best to show respect and be friendly under all circumstances as a good customer experience is likely to result in referrals and customer sharing the good experience on their social media channels. The Aspect research reveals that if you make it quick and easy to share a good experience on social, 64% of customers will!
4. Become personable with customers
The best way to create a positive customer service experience is to make it not feel like customer service at all.
When there’s a chance, maybe a lull in conversation while you are looking up their account, simply ask how their day is. You don’t have to go too in-depth at all, but everyone gets burnt-out of talking about the weather unless the weather really is out of the ordinary that day. While larger organisations need to rely on scripts to guide their staff on what to say, smaller businesses have an opportunity to show their personality when dealing with customers.
Organisations should strive to build relationships with their customers outside of customer service conversations. Take a moment out of your day to reach out via email or telephone to a few customers to thank them for their business and see how they’re doing with your product, do they have any questions or small issues you could help with?
It is the little things that make the biggest differences.
5. Continue to improve
As we mentioned above, customer service is an ongoing learning process where there is always room for improvement.
Provide your customers with an outlet for their feedback, reviews, and opinions and use the information gained from it to implement new strategies and ideas, or simply to fix any recurring issues. It can be difficult to get customers to fill these out, especially if they had a positive experience.
That being said, online reviews can be an outlet for disgruntled customers which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because that is where you learn what needs to change or be worked on.
However, positive reviews also provide you with valuable information. If you know what you are doing well, your marketing team can use this to craft campaigns, or to differentiate your brand from others. You have to get better at what you are already doing to become the best, so focus on further enhancing what customers are saying you’re already doing right.
In the pursuit of positive reviews, it can be worthwhile to offer incentives to complete them. Even the smallest incentive can be beneficial to any consumer.
At Blueface we regularly survey customers and benchmark our performance with a Net Promoter Score (NPS). It is a great, simple way to understand your customers’ level of loyalty. The NPS system seeks to measure not just customer satisfaction, but it gauges whether customers like your company so much that they’d tell their friends about it.
It does this by asking one core question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [Organization X] to a friend or colleague?”. Consumers mark their answer on a scale of 1-10 – 1 being the least likely and 10 being extremely likely.
If you haven’t surveyed your customers yet, waste no more time and set it up asap. Customer loyalty research has shown that most companies lose 45% to 50% of their customers every five years, and winning new customers can be up to 20 times more expensive than retaining existing customers. Moreover, just a 5% reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by 25% to 85%, depending on the industry.*
We have seen how customer service touches all parts of an organisation through our own experiences at Blueface. We hope these five points will help you to improve and strengthen your company’s customer service skills and operation.
If you would like to contact us for any matter, you can do that here or call us on 01 524 2000.
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About the author: Kelci Scott interned with Blueface throughout summer 2016. Kelci worked with our sales and marketing teams to gain experience in those areas, which she studies at Kansas University.
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