Do you know why companies like Amazon, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, or the plumber in the next town keep getting more business from consumers like us? The answer is quite simple. It’s because they provide exceptional customer service every chance possible. Their entire brand is built on the promise of great service.
Sounds easy, right?
On the surface, perhaps. However, when you dig down just a few inches from the surface of the words, “exceptional customer service”, you’ll find a machine and team hard at work turning dials and pulling levers to constantly fine-tune the machine’s ability to produce output that turns one transaction into many.
Most of my customer service experiences have been good as of late, but when I get a bad one it’s usually because of inadequate systems or the representative has been hired to protect their employer and not help the customer. People have strong memories of how companies make them feel and it’s never been easier for them to share their opinions with their personal or professional networks. That’s a pretty good recipe for good or bad word-of-mouth marketing.
Can you afford to get it wrong?
The Customer’s Experience requires incredible customer service
Putting yourself in the shoes of your customer shouldn’t be difficult because you know what it means to be a customer. Fantastic customer service remains difficult because businesses struggle with the cost of handling every moment with excellence. The cost is a real issue, but research shows over 86% of consumers would pay more for better customer service. We know the customer experience is the aggregation of all customer moments that inform us of the brand’s value. Big things begin with small changes, and when there is an accumulation of disappointing micro-moments, customers start to consider options.
Customers are fickle
It’s often quoted that 30% of consumers will tell others about a good experience, but over 45% of unhappy consumers will tell others about a bad experience on social media. You can see how this can build into a problem. Your brand and future revenues are at risk. Moreover, according to Zendesk, 83% of customers trust word-of-mouth over advertising. What makes improving customer service challenging? Research shows that executives are far too delusional about how willing consumers are to change brands. In short, customers are significantly more willing to change a provider than company leadership understands.
Customer Service is the brand promise being kept or broken
When someone purchases a product or service, three sales take place. The first sale is when the customer chooses the product or service. The second sale is when the customer starts using the product or service. This third sale is when the promise of the brand is kept or broken. Think of the buyer’s experience of going to a website, spending hours devouring content, working with your salesperson, and finally choosing you, only to have customer service break the promise of the brand and not exceed the customer’s expectations. It’s like building a 100-floor skyscraper only to stop at floor 60 and the builder walking away because s/he lost interest. That unfinished tower sits in the mind of the customer and remorse ensues. Depending on your industry, your company could be spending 20-45% of its revenue on marketing and sales. When customer service fails to delight the customer, the entire investment takes a hit.
Customer Service is an opportunity for customer insight
By canvassing customers, you can achieve a clearer picture of the effectiveness of your customer service. For example, after a call, a survey can be completed or a follow-up email is sent with a desire to understand how the experience can improve. If customers are unhappy, of course, you want to address them as soon as possible with extreme directness. But to gain real insight, take the time to learn from those unhappy customers. There may be a new product or service idea in the middle of that customer’s struggle.
Personalization delivers the keys to the kingdom
For most of us, poor customer service is experienced as 30-minute waits and speaking to someone who clearly does not have a unified and consistent view of the customer across multiple channels. My nuisance favorite is when you call in, and the automated response asks you to enter your account number and minutes later (you hope), you get directed to a customer service agent, only for them to ask you for your information that the account number should have given them. Tell me again why I entered the account number?
Excellent customer service begins and ends with the customer feeling that the provider knows them and their personalized needs. Maybe brands could forego a personalized experience in the past, but the customer experience bar is elevated, and it is going even higher. Without addressing customer personalization, companies will see their profits fall and risk being sold or shuttered. The flipside is that the better a provider is at building a personalized experience, the more likely the customer is to stay there for the long-term. This can be accomplished with a platform that delivers a unified view of the customer. Agents can instantly address all aspects of the customer connection, thus enabling the agent to quickly address concerns, anticipate needs, and offer up recommendations.
Bad customer service can turn into a PR crisis
By now, everyone knows about the unfortunate United Airlines incident where a passenger got dragged off the plane. For an undisclosed amount, the airline has made peace with the passenger. We would not be surprised if the cost of that peace were in the seven figures.
Not knowing what to do in extreme outlier circumstances leaves people unprepared to do the right thing. In this case, it gets caught on video and goes viral. These “people are behaving badly” moments happen every month with big brands and often get captured on video. Many poor customer service moments get created by systems that have been designed for economic efficiency while forgetting that on the ground, it’s a much more complex and human environment.
Regardless of the cause, a PR crisis can threaten the company’s profits and even its existence if not addressed properly. What makes it particularly disappointing is most of these PR crisis moments are easily avoided with a little forethought. Well-trained and empowered employees can do the right thing at every customer interaction to exceed expectations. It’s easy for a tired employee to get overwhelmed when there are no proper processes or training to save them.
The technology by which you capture, organize, analyze, and manage customer relationships is the make or break of healthy profits. Don’t underestimate the need for a holistic view of the customer or the right tools to inform, enable, and empower your agents to “do the right thing” to avoid the risk of turning a happy customer into an unhappy one.
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