In today’s fast-paced, rough and ready world, do we still care about how we treat one another? Do feelings have any place in the professional world, or should we be shifting our attentions and budgets away from customer services in favour of delivering quantifiable results?
It’s understandable that some companies might consider the latter the most logical approach. Wouldn’t people prefer to quickly receive the product or service than be treated courteously while they wait? Actually, no. And this is a mistake which can have seriously damaging results.
What are customer services?
Customer services begin well before the point of purchase, and include contact with any member of the public, not just your actual customers. You need to be sure that every person you employ exhibits good manners, professionalism and diligence in every communication.
Customer services are generally thought to be the support that is offered to customers before, during and after they buy and use your product or service. In fact, it starts before a person even manages to contact your company. For example, a website which is really difficult to navigate will make people angry before they have even thought about picking up the phone. Also, charging your customers exorbitant rates to call you will create resentment and bitterness, and really deter people from contacting you. That’s why 03 numbers are so great for customer services. Similarly, you should make sure you don’t charge your clients and partners for the privilege of participating in your audio meetings, something which can also be avoided through the use of conference call rooms accessed with an 03 number through conference call providers like WHYPAY?.
But of course, it’s important to look after the every day customer, not just those who might be sitting in on your teleconferences. And these days it’s a bit more complicated than making sure your telephone agents are helpful and friendly. Customer service can be provided through instant messaging, email, SMS and social media. This might seem a little excessive – is it really a good idea to be texting your customers? But actually, the availability of all these channels is great, because different customers and enquiries are suited to different methods of communication. By offering options, you’re making it easier for people to get in touch and therefore creating more opportunities for you to solve any issues and retain their loyalty.
Nevertheless, it does pose the added challenge of keeping lots of plates spinning at once. It’s even a little trickier than that, as each type of communication requires a specific approach. You might feel quite confident about engaging with customers on a few of these platforms already; there’s a good chance you’ve already integrated social media into your telemarketing campaign, for example. But customer service is a delicate area, especially as often customers are already disgruntled when they reach out, so it’s definitely worth doing some research and getting together with your customer services team to have set strategies and approaches.
Why do customer services matter?
Customer services can be quite easy to overlook. Many businesspeople have gained success in part thanks to an ability to look at the bottom line, to focus on the final result and to demand that the figures speak for themselves rather than looking at qualitative data and lengthy explanations. Yet most people at the helm of companies which have enjoyed long-term success would probably tell you that how you treat your customers is actually absolutely vital.
Such a thing as bad press
Despite being a specific area of your business, possibly with its own dedicated team of employees which can make up varying proportions of your workforce, customer service affects and reflects almost every aspect of a company. It tends to have a direct and significant impact on that all-important bottom line, and can be one of the biggest factors in determining your company’s public reputation. You won’t struggle to think of some companies which have received a great deal of negative press as a result of their lacklustre customer services, with plenty of lengthy lists being published every year highlighting the worst offenders.
Your reputation is built by others
But good customer service isn’t just about avoiding unsavoury stories about your company being published. It brings with it a whole host of amazing benefits. Your customers will be more loyal to your company, which means they won’t be swayed over to your competitors. They’re also more likely to spend more on your products or services at a time, and to do so more often, which again increases your profit margins. And not only will they be giving you more of their money, but people will talk to friends, family, or even the public via social media about positive experiences they’ve had with a company, helping to build your reputation and make others more likely to buy from you. Having this kind of reputation for offering great customer services can remove barriers which some people might have about buying from you.
The proof is in the numbers
It seems easy to make these claims, and they might even seem intuitively true, but you might want some stats to back them up before rejigging your budget. Luckily, plenty of studies support the importance of customer services. You might think that people don’t really sit around discussing customer services, but one study found that 68% of consumers really would tell family and friends or post about a negative experience with a company on their social media accounts – something which will often not only reach their own friends and family, but be re-shared sometimes thousands and thousands of times.
You might also be sceptical about the idea that treating people nicely really makes them happier to part with more pounds. But RightNow Technologies reported that a whopping 86% of adults surveyed were willing to spend more money in return for an improved customer experience, while almost three out of every four stated that good customer services had made them fall in love with a brand.
And if your customer services aren’t up to scratch, people really will take their business elsewhere. Even if whatever you are providing is of great quality, treating them poorly will be reason enough for people to cease trading with you. In fact, the very biggest reason given for no longer buying from a company was a belief that the company does not care about them. This accounted for 68% of those surveyed, with the next biggest factor being dissatisfaction with the service at just 14% of respondents. Another study reported that if they believe that your company doesn’t care about them, 82% of people will leave.
How can you make sure you are providing good customer service?
So now we’ve established that customer service does indeed count, you’ll want to be doing everything you can to make sure that you’re providing the very best. Thankfully, there’s tonnes of advice out there to help you do just that.
The fundamental basis of good customer service is empathy. You and your staff need to be able to understand your customers’ wants, needs, frustrations and difficulties before you can even begin to try to address them. Your customer service philosophy needs to put the customer first. Ask them what they require, but don’t expect them to explain exactly what you need to do – that is part of your job!
It isn’t just a case of waiting for somebody to call and complain, and dealing with the issue. Try to be one step ahead and predict what they need before they realise they need it, and never make them feel they are bothering you or keeping you from other tasks. Whether dealing with an angry customer or one who is giving positive feedback, you should always aim not to meet their expectations, but to go above and beyond them. Every customer should feel that they are the priority.
The great thing about good customer service is that it is pretty common sense stuff. We have all crossed paths with hundreds of companies in our lifetimes, with varying levels of satisfaction. That means you and your employees have plenty of personal experience on which to build an effective, friendly and respectful customer services policy. It boils down to treating people as you’d want to be treated – something we’ve been learning since our first days at nursery!
Aside from generally being courteous and dedicated, there are some concrete practices which you can implement. For example, whether somebody has been queuing to pay for a couple of minutes, or had to be put on hold or transferred to get in touch with you, an apology should be offered straight away for the delay and the customer should be thanked for their patience.
A longer-term and possibly more time-consuming but undoubtedly worthwhile step is not just training your staff, but really educating them. You want to be sure that they can answer any and all questions fully and helpfully. It’s extremely frustrating to go to the trouble of getting in touch with a company, sometimes with a lengthy wait on hold, or having physically driven to you, and finding that the member of staff they reach can’t answer their question. Whether they’re sent back to the website or to a different department, placed back on hold while they are transferred elsewhere, or simply turned away with no further help, it’s simply not good enough. It happens all too often, and can absolutely cost you somebody’s continued business. Be fair to your customers and to your staff by giving them robust training and education regarding all of your products and services, and related fields, and try to make sure they have easy and quick access to all of this and further information while they interact with customers.
Depending on your particular company there are lots of other things you can do to make sure your customer service is really great. From tailoring each customer’s experience to sending out targeted offers or apologies if you know that they have encountered a problem, keeping customers happy doesn’t need to be difficult or costly. A little bit of extra effort can go a huge way in giving you the edge over your competition and making sure you have the happiest client-base around. There’s no doubt that it’s a truly worthwhile area in which to invest your time and money.