How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Success
Five ways to ensure your business' customer care stands out for the right reasons
You may have missed ‘National Customer Service Week’ last week, an event aimed at raising awareness of the influence customer service has on successful business practice. Whilst this may sound obvious, we all remember bad experiences as a customer, so it’s important not to approach the topic with complacency. What the economic turmoil has shown over recent years is that looking after existing customers is crucial in retaining their business.
Fundamentally, people still buy people, so delivering great customer can also be the stand-out reason why you get chosen as a new supplier too. With this in mind, we share some tips…
Make the first impression count
Would you believe it’s possible to deliver great service without even speaking to someone? With your website often being the first point of call for prospective clients, it’s your chance to make a great first impression. It’s important, as Forrester Research say that 72% of customers prefer using companies’ websites to answer their questions, yet TSIA Technology Insight reports that only 52% actually find the information they need. The solution? Using live chat software.
In a survey carried out by Forrester, 44% of respondents believe the ability to get quick answers from a live chat representative during an online purchase is “one of the most important features a website can offer.” Providing an online chat service then not only ensures you’ve delivered an efficient, helpful service, it can get the prospective client to the decision-making stage quicker.
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys
This well versed saying can be attributed to a fundamental aspect of great customer service. Quite simply, you can’t deliver quality service without quality people; if you don’t pay for the right calibre of people and invest in ongoing training, it will soon show.
With your people being the most valuable element of the business, it’s important to remember that the way they are treated at work can influence the way they treat customers. As emphasised in an earlier article on how to keep your best employees; getting to know staff, greeting them enthusiastically and making time to listen to any issues or suggestions is essential if you want to maintain a workforce that cares about what they do.
If you’re looking for some help when it comes to improving buy-in and engagement, the Investor in People standard is tried and tested. There is also the Customer Service Excellence standard, which started off as Charter Mark within the public sector, but is now available to all businesses. These standards involve a third party, and thanks to this, are often well received if your company bids for tenders.
Use feedback intelligently
Many businesses are now good at collecting feedback on their service through surveys and polls. It highlights opportunities for improvements, and also gives you something to shout about (presuming you’ve done well!). However, whilst often some issues may be raised, they can too often be drowned out by an overall positive picture, and therefore not acted upon.
When carrying out surveys, it’s important that the results are broken down in to actions, which are then managed. Sometimes it can be a question of knowing who is responsible for customer service, but the answer is simple: everyone!
With surveys identifying more widespread trends, the rewards from fixing issues can be huge; improved customer satisfaction, retention and resulting economic benefits.
Be proactive, not reactive
For many, it’s simply deemed a success once a complaint is resolved. However, there are detail differences in approaching complaints which can surprise or delight a customer, rather than merely satisfy them.
Today, there are multiple channels that a company may receive a complaint. It could be a phone call, email, or even on your company Facebook page. News can spread on the internet like wildfire, but the good news is that ‘reputation management’ is relatively simple. Google’s free Alert service means you can track words involving your brand; an email automatically being sent to you when you’re mentioned on the web.
What this all means is that you can deal with a potential situation before a complaint has officially arisen. With research by Enkata showing that pre-emptive service can reduce call volumes by 30%, whilst increasing customer retention rates by up to 5%, there are clear all-round benefits to be had from being proactive.
Taking this concept further, acknowledging mistakes before a client has even realised it is another way of preventing future problems. This involves people and departments which interact frequently and honestly, so there’s never the mentality of an issue becoming “someone else’s problem”. Whether it is a wrong order sent out, or an appointment not being booked when it should have been, honesty is the best policy. Reducing the impact of a mistake could save an important relationship, and the resulting costs.
As companies grow, it can become increasingly difficult to manage with the same hands-on approach. Sometimes, customer complaints can be handed from department to department because all the information required isn’t at hand. This sort of scenario is common, despite it clearly not being the best way to deal with a discontented client. So if it is an issue you believe you’re suffering from, ISO 9001 is an internationally recognised best practice standard to help improve traceability and consistency of service.
Reward loyal customers
New sales are often the main focus of any business, but with research showing it can cost up to 10 times more to win a new client than it does keep an existing one, ensure the balance is right!
New client promotions are common, but can understandably alienate existing customers who’ve had no such discount despite being loyal for years. The solution isn’t to stop publishing promotions, but to ensure that they are well targeted so to not risk upsetting existing customers unnecessarily.
Consider the reasons why your clients choose you in the first place; it could be down to your fixed prices, or they hit it off with one of your account managers. Whatever the reason, it’s important to keep reinforcing these same benefits as little reminders to why they should stick with you.
You may find discounts aren’t needed to retain customers (see our dedicated article for lots of tips), but if you’re in a particularly competitive market where customer loyalty is hard to come by, a well timed discount can make all the difference. For example, a 5% discount on the renewal of your service shortly before the contract expires could be all that’s needed.
This article was written by our business expert Robert Fenn of the British Assessment Bureau.