Customer service. It’s the backbone, the glue, the mainstay that holds a company together. When strong customer service is at the heart of a business model, the company will thrive. Without a customer-centered focus that builds trust, appeals to the customer, and reduces services problems, failure is pre-destined.
More than ever, consumers feel businesses aren’t putting enough in to customer service and sales are being affected. to, upwards of 78% of customers have bailed on buying a product or service they planned to purchase because of poor customer service.
The same research reveals that excellent customer service is something that consumers want so badly, they’re not afraid to cut ties to get it. Over half of all those surveyed in each market and every country surveyed said they would try a new product or company if the customer service was better.
So, what major mistakes are the companies who are left behind making and what can we do to stop customers from jumping ship? Keep reading.
Many companies claim to offer the best customer service possible, when in fact, they aren’t customer-centric at all! Has your company gotten ridden of strict rules that leave little room for employees to negotiate for customers? Are you spending money training employees on customer-service best practices and “soft-skills” that help build relationships? Do the leaders in your company put customers first and lead by example? Is customer service the job of everyone and not just those on the front-line? If you didn’t answer yes to all of these questions, your customer service might be lacking.
When companies realize that they aren’t as customer focused as they once believed, they often don’t know where to begin. Though the big changes will take time, a great place to start is creating a customer-focused vision of what you want the company and its culture to look like. Do some reading, take a customer service quiz, talk to employees, and most importantly, speak with customers. What kind of service do they envision? Once you have a plan, start making changes that will turn it into reality.
You must talk to your customers. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace a consumer’s need for one-on-one communication. Even new and tech based ways of communicating are missing the bar if they don’t provide customers with a way to speak to a live person. This isn’t surprising when you consider that 90% of customers want to resolve their issues by speaking to a real person, not an automated system.
There is no virtual chat, email system, or live chat that can fully satisfy a customer need to hear a real person’s voice when trying to solve a problem with your product or service. According to the American Express research, phone conversations are preferred, even over face-to-face encounters. Thankfully, this customer-service ruin is an easy fix: get on the phone with your customers. Whether you must make the calls yourself, hire someone to do it, or enlist the help of an answering service, talking to your customers is a must.
Not all customers will be happy with the product or experience you provide, that is a fact. But one-way company’s fail is by not taking into consideration that one bad experience can stop sales or cost you business with many other customers. According to a Harvest Business Review report, 65% of customers will speak to others about their bad experience with you. Many speak with ten or more people who in turn will tell others to avoid your brand.
Though most customers are likely to share their bad customer service experiences with others, they are less likely to do so if they feel heard. Employees should be trained to hear customers out, not shut them down, and complaints should be dealt with in a timely manner. When you can, make things right with the customer. Comp a meal, offer a discount, do whatever it takes to make sure customers are satisfied after a bad experience. If all else fails, simply accept that you didn’t meet the customer’s expectations and learn from the experience. Share that learning experience with future customers, you will be surprised how much people like a comeback story.
One high point from that same American Express survey is that in general, most American consumers feel companies are meeting their expectations when it comes to customer service. When pressed for specifics, two-fifths of consumers stated that although they believe most companies are “helpful”, few do “anything extra” to keep their business. In fact, 26% of all consumers surveyed in US markets felt that companies either “didn’t care about” their business or “took it for granted.”
If customers feel we won’t “go the extra mile” for them, we must prove otherwise. This doesn’t happen through some catchy campaign slogan or annual one-hour in-service. You must get creative and do some things that show your customers how important they truly are. The hand-written thank-you note, a small bruncheon for a stellar client, remembering their names are all simple ways to start edging out ahead of the pack. Check out these 15 ideas that go the extra mile for customer service for more tips.
Even if you’re making mistakes currently, it’s not too late to get customer focused. Companies that take the initiative to do the “dirty-work” and strengthen their backbone and move into the top one-percent of companies that provide excellent service. After all, that’s what business is all about!