Customers expect a lot from the companies they deal with – and rightly so. Handle them well, both in the good times and the bad, and they could become your most loyal ambassadors. However, let your customer service slip or come unstuck at any point (particularly if there’s an issue) and it could be a very different story.
Think for a second about Amazon, Utility Warehouse, First Direct, Specsavers and Waitrose. What do they have in common? The answer – they’re the best of the best when it comes to customer service. At least that’s according to the latest survey by the Institute of Customer Service.
As well as ranking the top 50 companies who are excelling at customer service, the Institute has delved into customer priorities too. The research shows staff competency has shot up the list, now being named the number one most important factor. This is followed by staff doing what they say they will. At the other end of the scale, taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach continues to be a big no-no.
Focusing on person-to-person (P2P)
The first thing to think about when it comes to customer service is what you’re focusing on. It’s easy to become wrapped up in the mechanics and to concentrate too much on processes, time, logs, automation and ‘the numbers’. But by doing so you risk losing sight of the most important thing – the person to person (P2P) relationship.
It’s irrelevant whether it’s a B2C or B2B relationship, in the end, being successful is about focusing on P2P. That’s because any interaction taking place between a company and a customer, especially after a sale has taken place, is always going to be a personal one. Recognising that fact and making sure all elements of the process embrace it is vital.
Whether it’s contacting Amazon, or getting in touch with a local supplier, at the heart of any interaction is a customer. And what that customer will usually be looking for is to deal with, and ideally have a conversation with, another human being. This is a consideration that needs to be taken into account when it comes to choices over technology. As new tools continue to develop at a fast pace, a trend is emerging towards using as much automation as possible. And it can work as part of the mix, if it is used in the right way. The key is making sure it is as close to a human interaction as possible.
A united front
In the modern sales environment, the strongest offering will always be one that sees all areas of the company working together in unison. After all, to a customer it doesn’t matter who they talk to, they only see one company voice. So whether it’s marketing, sales or customer services, all activities need to be streamlined.
Consider your customer service function in each of these common scenarios:
- on boarding and the setup of your product/service
- after sales interactions
- providing further information
- upselling opportunities
- complaints handlingWhen and who should be involved in these different interactions? Should marketing be, and what about sales reps? What more could you be doing that will help aid these situations – for example, could more customer questions be answered before a purchase even takes place through the production of more of the right content?
Understanding your customers and having everyone across all teams working towards the same goal means it can even be possible to anticipate what they will need and want. As P2P customer service goes beyond engagement, it anticipates behaviour and ignites it.
Data is another hugely valuable resource for getting customer service right. In the modern world, huge mountains of data are being produced daily. Are you fully equipped to collate and analyse that data? What are you using it for – can you take insights from it that you can use to optimise a customer’s experience with your company? What technology are you using to help with the problems that need solving?
Top ten mistakes
To help teams head towards a strong P2P offering, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 most common mistakes that companies can make when it comes to customer service:
1. Breaking promises – do what you say you will and when you say you’ll do it. And never make promises you can’t keep. There’s no better way to lose a customer’s trust and patience than going back on your word or making false claims.
2. Not listening – make sure you’re really listening and giving every customer you’re complete attention. That’s the number one rule of good customer service. Listen, ask questions and find a solution that works for both parties.
3. Keeping customers waiting – always try and deal with customers in a timely manner. Make it clear what your response times are likely to be and try and keep any waits as short as possible.
4. Arguing with customers – whether you agree with a complaint or not, don’t argue with a customer. That’s never going to end in your favour. Even if you don’t accept their issue, you need to acknowledge they feel there’s a problem.
5. Bombarding customers with surveys or upsells – no-one likes spam and being hit with sales line after sales line. Choose your moments to upsell and make sure you’re also making time for genuine relationship building without sales or any other motive.
6. Failing to have a crisis action plan – technology is great and can make life easier, but what happens if it goes wrong, you need a plan of action for times of emergency to ensure customers are kept up-to-date and supported.
7. Not valuing employees – if employees feel valued and an investment has been made in their training and wellbeing, it will shine through in any interactions they have with customers. Happy employees means happy customers.
8. Being fake – if you’re dealing with a customer and don’t agree with what they’re saying, or their complaint, then you must never let it come across to a customer. If they think you’re response is fake or sarcastic it’s only going to wind them up.
9. Too much scripting – speaking to a real person who reads of a script is not going to be any better than being trapped in an automated system. Real people don’t talk from a script, they actively listen, they respond and they interact naturally.
10.Being hard to do business with– customers shouldn’t need to jump through hoops. If you’re difficult to work with, they’re not going to stick around long. And if they get an easier ride elsewhere, they’re sure to compare and share their experiences with others
A great way to evaluate your customer services is to step into the shoes of your customers. One of the easiest ways to get started is to give it a try yourself! Call in and see what happens. Experience how your automation is working and how quickly you’re dealt with. If it works for your business model, consider introducing regular ‘secret shopper’ style calls to monitor quality and feedback to teams.
Being successful when it comes to customer service is about focusing on person-to-person communication. It is about having joined up thinking across all teams and speaking with one voice. And it’s about making the whole process as easy as possible for customers, so they feel valued, listened to and are encouraged to sing your praises to others. Focus on getting these basics right and you’ll already be ahead of the game.