You have a problem. Someone else has been talking to your customer. The likes of Amazon, Apple, Nordstorm – and the other gods of customer service have been educating your customer in what excellent looks and feels like.
And because of this ’education in excellence’ you aren’t simply being compared with your industry competitors – your peers. You’re being compared to the best service they have ever had anywhere – they want and expect everything to be ’Apple Pay’ standard.
And so back to the problem – if your customer service is anything less than exemplary it’s probably the easiest route to damaging your brand and losing you customers.
There’s simply no point in having excellent products or superb marketing if dealing with customer service is painful and ineffective. Industry data reveals that the majority of customers will switch brands after just one bad experience with a call centre or member of staff. The umbrella of customer experience – covering everything from data to marketing to call centres to online feedback forums– is increasingly at the heart of your brand and is the difference between loyalty and churn.
So, what can organisations do to maximise the value of the contact they have with customers to build the brand, not damage it?
Firstly, customers expect the way they engage with your organisation to be seamless – they don’t call for a chat, they call for a resolution to a problem. Poorly worded scripts, long queues, irritating looped music, and the need to repeat information all tell a customer that whatever you say – their call is NOT important to you. Customers expect a joined-up approach – the ’tell me once’ system that Gov.uk has implemented so effectively – and that customer service is timely - accessible 24 hours a day, rather than at a time to suit the business. Using AI and machine learning is a permission to play rather than a luxury in the era of experience – allowing you to offer increasingly sophisticated levels of service through technology.
Secondly it needs to be appropriate – nearly 50% of all customer service contact is made via a mobile device, so a website isn’t enough. Standard replies are also painfully out of date. "Noreply@business.com" emails aren’t enough and businesses have to deploy far more interactive digital platforms for customer engagement.
Every interaction also needs to reflect the data that you hold on your customer – how they want to be contacted, how they want to engage, what are their preferences and limitations. Appropriate service based on that data is a clear indication that you take your customers seriously and know them well. Reducing the time it takes to get to an answer, plus the number of touch points (ways you can engage with the organisation) are clear indications of respect. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, though. Rather, it’s about delivering the best service for the business and customer in question. Every interaction is unique and personalised, pulling from different data points and a comprehensive customer profile.
Thirdly – engaged employees are the secret weapon of customer management excellence. Employees that believe in the product (using the product is even better) and understand it; who are engaged in how products and services are developed; who are encouraged to innovate around the experience of the customer – can out-perform AI even on its best day. Rewarding, training, empowering, and listening to your people is crucial to the success of the experience of your customers.
The pandemic has accelerated many disruptive trends that we were expecting to take a decade, not a month. And customers have engaged entirely differently with brands and will continue to do so. Loyalty isn’t dead – far from it – but it will come through partnership with customers more than anything else. Customer experience teams will need to work harder than ever to provide a friction-free, authentic, appropriate relationship with the customer – with mutually beneficial outcomes, not simply higher sales.
Your call IS important to them. Prove it.