Before putting forward suggestions about great customer service, we need to understand our customers’ needs and how to support those needs.
Let us start with our marketing professionals and their mantra about creating a point of difference between your business and competitors. Their focus is all about helping prospective customers find your business quickly and to differentiate it from your competitors.
If your business and competitors therefore are all going down the same digital path of customer service with few opportunities to engage with an employee except via a call centre, what is really your point of difference regarding the customer’s experience? After all, your call centre employees rarely have the time or opportunity to engage with and learn about your customer’s needs.
In other words, we know that all too often, the social experience is destroyed by cold blooded digital communication solutions and by those employees who fail to address the customer’s or enquirer’s needs.
We also need to understand those parties which will benefit most from a focus on mainly digital communication interactions. These parties include cybercriminals, internal fraudsters and manipulative customers who do not want to pay or just slow pay your invoices. The evidence of the losses to the business community from these parties is available almost daily in the media.
In light of the above information, it is essential when focusing on customer service, is to create the best social experience possible for potential and existing customers. After all, often the efficiencies gained by technology are then undermined by management forgetting the social experience when a potential or existing customer interacts with their business.
The best example are the banks which are focused on digital expansion at the expense of branches. When a branch is closed, often their customers vent their anger and distress publicly. The banks’ responses to these complaints is usually one of condescending motherhood statements of customer protection, that cash is used less often, or you can bank anywhere and at any time. The problem is their customers only see a message that they can bank at any time - except at a branch!
The banks of course are no different from many large businesses, or governments and their agencies. In many ways these bodies only frustrate and annoy the parties forced to interact with their inadequate digital contact methodologies. Despite on-going criticism from their “customers”, these organisations refuse to consider how to operate their businesses more efficiently because of their focus on digital communication methodologies.
Improving social interactions and customer service experience does not necessarily involve the reduction of digital methodologies. Rather, the focus is on improving the customer’s experience for the benefit of both parties.
As each business interaction is a social experience, three simple factors will help enhance the opportunities to gain the business of potential and existing customers.
1 The value of a receptionist or another employee on first contact. Too often recorded messages and pressing another button, waste a customer’s time and often fails to satisfy the customer’s needs.
With the current telephone technology there are no reasons why all telephone calls should not be routed to a professional trained employee with knowledge about the business which employs them. A minor extra set-up cost may be required, however, remember, we are trying to improve the communications experience for all our potential, current and future customers and enhance our business’s image.
A properly trained and committed employee can enhance the customer’s experience. The outcome for both your business and the customer is saving the customer time and ensuring the caller ends up with the correct employee for their needs quickly on the first contact. This outcome then often provides the business with another sale and/or good customer rapport.
2 If the customer is forced to use an email communication system only contact system, it is essential their email receives a response on the same day by an employee. A reference number or poorly worded email acknowledgement which goes unanswered does your business no favours. Any delay in responding quickly and professionally, alienates the customer and makes them question the value and reliability of your business’s ability to supply their needs.
3 Answering all enquiries, adjusting incorrect invoices, and working against the causes of mistakes identified by customers quickly is another must. Customers will simply not pay any invoices which contain mistakes, or do not reach the correct person within their business for payment authorisation.
A problem quickly identified and resolved is essential and leads to improved costs savings to both parties and improved cashflow for your business. The fact is that many businesses these days underestimate the practical and positive aspects of great customer service. Alternatively, motherhood statements about offering great customer services without practical and timely results for the customer and the business, only reflects poorly on your business.
In conclusion, many articles and features about increasing customer numbers or on retaining our existing customers, seem to offer no other solutions other than to go digital. Yet it is often these digital solutions which are the very drivers of dissatisfied potential and existing customers, which results in their departure to your competition.
The reasons for establishing a digital focus and expecting it to add value and savings via business communication, often fails as it is unlikely to create a positive social experience. Get that part of the customer’s experience right, and you go a long way to gaining new customers, keeping the existing ones and making more profitable sales.