What is Bad Customer Service Costing Your Business?

 Céu Mendonça

According to recent research, 73% of consumers say they would share a good customer experience with friends or online acquaintances, but 91% of unhappy customers don’t come back.

In this age of abundant business alternatives and viral proliferation, the risks – and potential rewards – of customer service have never been greater.

Brands can be built, but reputations are earned with great experiences that satisfy your customers. So, to grow your company’s profile, retain your customers’ loyalty and mobilise them to find new leads, set aside the marketing plan and follow this advice for reaching small business heaven at the coalface…

1. Put your experts on the front line

Many of your customers know your product or service intimately – and they certainly know their problem only too well. Rip down the barriers placed between customers and the staff who really solve problems. Instead of an army of call centre operatives who are often too many steps removed from your actual product, put your real problem solvers closer to your customers.

2. Help customers help themselves

Many of the thousands of service requests lodged by customers are actually just repetitions of the same perennial problems. Free up wasted engagement time by creating online self-service pages, FAQs, blogs and how-to videos that involve one-time production effort but which pay off by giving solutions time and time again.

3. Deliver to customers, wherever they are

Today, consumers are in control – and they are used to getting their own way. That means being ready to receive customer engagement via mobile, by email, by social media or whatever route they choose. Open all your channels and both of your ears for maximum customer satisfaction.

4. Every contact may be your last

Every one of your customers is different, but all are equally important. In this age of readily accessible alternatives, for every customer, the cost of you not fixing their problem may potentially be the immediate loss of their business. But, in this age of social word-of-mouth, every positive outcome may equally mean a recommendation that converts a new customer. Treat every interaction with that degree of risk – and potential.

5. Your team must be on the same page

Little frustrates customers more than being given competing information by different members of the same team. A customer returns to her favourite coffee shop because the resident baristas all know just how she likes her latte. Your challenge is to replicate that consistency on a corporate scale, by ensuring staff have all the same information at their fingertips and that they all have equal levels of training.

6. Make every contact positive

Your contacts with your customers aren’t just a necessity to put things right – they are also your chance to shine. Solving your customer’s problem will only restore their experience to the natural equilibrium of expected service level – go the extra mile and use every interaction as an opportunity to delight them further, with offers, news or unsolicited helpful knowledge. After all, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one bad one, according to research.

7. Up-sell – sensitively

It’s rare you get to speak with your customers. So use every opportunity to ask them how things are going, and to advance your relationship. Seek opportunities to fill their needs with additional products or services, or, if they are happy, seek testimonials or customer referrals. But be sensitive to the situation at hand: if they, frustrated, are seeking resolution of a problem, don’t compound matters with hard sells, just fix things.

8. Be likeable

People do business with people. So make it easy for people to buy from you. Be personable, be yourself, but be professional. None of this will override the image of your company brand – rather, your brand will develop a reputation for having great people aboard.

9. Be in touch

Maintaining regular customer contact is critical. Every contact is an opportunity for your company to develop its expertise and reliability over time. Contact customers pro-actively to ask how they are getting on – after all, research shows only 4% of unhappy customers actually complain, but 91% of them don’t come back.

10. Use latest technology solutions

All of these pieces of advice will drive up your customer service so that you impress, soothe and delight customers. But managing all of these pieces manually would be a recipe for confusion. Fear not, there are many digital tools on hand for a customer service strategy that lowers costs, improves efficiency and amplifies the quality of your information. Experiment with several solutions to find the right one for your business.

Céu Mendonça is Director at PHC Software

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