Customers have long memories. So whether the customer service your company provides is terrific, terrible, or somewhere in between, chances are good that people will remember it today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
That’s meaningful not only to your reputation, but also to your organization’s short- and long-term prospects for growth.
Helping happy customers stay that way by providing them with helpful, timely assistance is, of course, an important aspect of that. But it’s just one part.
To build and maintain a good reputation, and position your company for future success, it’s also necessary to have the culture, people, processes, and tools in place to ensure you can quickly and effectively address the concerns of customers, some of which may be frustrated and require special attention.
Don’t discount the value of providing a good experience for your outgoing customers either. Even they can wreak havoc or pay dividends for your business down the line.
Reap What You Sow
Let’s begin this conversation on a positive note.
Recently, a story broke about three Lowe’s employees in a New York store who stayed late to fix a veteran’s wheelchair. This inspirational story went viral, which made everybody feel good.
It just goes to show that creating a culture in which top-notch service is the norm and not the exception is critical. Not only does it provide a good experience on the individual level, you never know when a customer experience is going to have an impact far beyond that one interaction.
Indeed, spending an extra minute or two to ensure a customer is completely satisfied can translate into years of loyalty. That’s a tradeoff any business would love to make.
Now that we’ve looked at a good example, let’s move down to the other end of the spectrum.
This example involves British Airways, but it exemplifies a situation that any type of company could experience if it doesn’t take steps to avoid it.
The airline recently found itself in the spotlight for misplacing a passenger’s luggage and then failed to answer tweets from the man as he tried to get his belongings back. But the passenger took that a step further, and invested $1,000 to promote these tweets. That got the attention of the media, and it spread like wildfire.
The real problem with British Airways’ handling of this situation was not misplacing the luggage, of course. While that is what triggered this scenario, had British Airways moved more quickly to address the customer’s frustration and offered a fast response to his communications, this story would’ve been a blip instead of a boom. But the situation escalated because the airline was unresponsive to the passenger.
The lesson we can all learn from this example: Don’t ignore your customers.
To make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen to you – and your valued customers – ask yourself the following questions:
• Do you have enough agents to handle all interactions at peak times?
• Do your employees have the experience and expertise to deal with difficult circumstances?
• Is your supervisor-to-agent ratio low enough to allow for effective coaching and training?
• Do your representatives have the tools necessary to provide great service across all channels?
• Is running a contact center part of your core competencies?
Take the Long View
Our conversation so far has centered on the experiences – good, bad, and ugly – of existing customers. But there’s another set of constituents you’ll want to consider as well: Your departing customers.
Despite conventional wisdom, a former customer is as important to the future of your business as any other person who comes in contact with your company. We say this for a couple of reasons.
Former customers could, of course, opt to return to your company after trying something else. And they’re likely to circle back only if you parted ways on good terms.
But even if that doesn’t happen, former customers are walking, talking, typing, repositories of information about your company. That means these individuals could serve as brand advocates for – or critics of – your company now and down the line.
That’s a particularly salient point given that news travels especially fast in the age of the connected consumer, and that while 87 percent of consumers are likely to share a positive experience, 95 percent of people will tell others about negative ones.
So make sure everybody in your organization understands they need to treat customers with the utmost respect and help them achieve their desired results whatever that might entail, even if that means they are moving on.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, there is actually no time like a cancellation call to distinguish your company as a customer service leader. Customers may already have their guards up when they get ready to make the call to stop service, so putting them at ease is likely to give them an unexpected warm feeling that they won’t soon forget.
Open the Toolbox
Not only does treating people well make the world a better place, it also saves money, frustration, and time.
Dealing with service issues costs Americans $108 billion annually, amounting to a yearly individual loss of about $750, according to a recent report from ClickSoftware (News - Alert). And ineffective customer service results in $900 of lost productivity per employee each year, totaling $130 billion in losses to businesses across the country.
So what can be done about that? Here are some suggestions on tools and techniques you can employ to help your company ensure it delivers customer experiences that are positive and enduring.
Based on information the customer service representative obtains throughout the call, top-of-the-line CRM solutions automatically adjust the agent’s script to allow for a more personalized, effective response. Such customizable screens bolster productivity and promote first call resolution.
Interactive Voice Response
Customers must have their needs addressed as soon as possible or they’ll be hanging up the phone in frustration and looking elsewhere for business. A user-friendly IVR solution that empowers customers who prefer to engage through self-service can help expedite those calls and create a positive customer service for the self-sufficient customer. Most importantly, ensuring a live agent is readily available to help customers who prefer to speak to someone directly is a critical part of providing great service.
Remote Call Monitoring
With remote call monitoring technology, call center managers are able to keep tabs on their customer service reps – to spot stellar and subpar behavior – whether they work down the hall or across the country. Such technology helps managers create customized reports that include clear metrics for both agent performance and script effectiveness so that any necessary adjustments can be made.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi