For many businesses, providing quality customer service is a balancing act.
Yes, you want to give fantastic service to a paying client, but in some instances that may run counter to the company’s bottom line. After all, if you’re spending time attending to past buyers, where does that leave your resources to generate the all-important new prospects and leads?
However, as important as a new client may be, perhaps we have the whole issue backward.
If we paid more attention to what the customer wanted versus what the business needs, we’d discover that it provides a boost to our bottom line, instead of a burden.
After all, word of mouth and referral marketing are increasingly powerful avenues for attracting new business. We do live in a world where excellent client care and generating a steady stream of prospects can go hand in hand.
The CEO of online retailer Zappos, Tony Hsieh, puts it another way: “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”
But what does the customer want from a company? Your company?
And is your business in a position to provide it for them?
Turns out, a lot. And why shouldn’t they?
They bought into a product or a service or even a lifestyle. They expect to receive what they paid for. In many cases, it's the company that set the bar for those expectations.
But as you run down the list of the five key points that customers ask from a business, you'll see it's quite manageable. In fact, it's probably fair to speculate that if the roles were reversed with you as the customer, it's not at all dissimilar to expectations you would demand.
So, what exactly do your customers want? Well, they want...
Whether it is time, attention, or accessibility, customers expect access to a company on their terms, not the other way around.
Call it the curse of our always on, always moving digital lifestyles, but when customers need to speak with someone they expect the response to be immediate, or as near immediate as possible.
Of course, many companies have leveraged digital technologies to make promises to customers such as 2-day shipping, 24/7 online chat, and round the clock help both live and self-service.
Don’t be surprised when clients took the pitch to heart and except a business to deliver on their promises. The solution to availability is three-fold:
Continue utilizing evolving technologies such as AI that can fill in response time gaps with substantial assistance towards the customer.
Take advantage of the recent trend to use social media such as Facebook or Twitter as service portals, and not merely marketing tools.
Finally, honor guarantees or don’t promote them at all.
A classic example is reaching out to a firm that had an advertised wait time that was reasonable, but then heard the classic “We are experiencing unusually high call volume at this time.
”With a business that has proven responsive in the past, they get the benefit of the doubt. A company where experiences have been less stellar, a consumer might question if that recording is the exception or the rule.
Consumers are savvy, and quickly understand when sleight of hand is used to pacify them. It will send a loyal client elsewhere.
Listening is about as straightforward as it gets. When encountering a customer who’s not yet ready for an answer and only wants an ear, make it easy on yourself and them.
Don’t let out a massive sign in the middle of a diatribe.
Whether a customer wants to explain a situation or just blow off steam, at that moment, they don't want dialogue; they want a sympathetic ear. It's not that difficult.
Listen carefully, jot down notes of the actual concern (not the filler in between), and wait until their done. In the majority of these scenarios, once the customer gets it all out, they are easier to work with and very often appreciate the outlet and empathy afforded to them.
Nice is free, and it's valued.
It's easy to smile.
We’re only guessing here, but we bet the more pleasant your interactions are with others, the better your mood and the better your day will be.
Indeed, working customer service is no small task. Whereas customers anticipate a certain level of assistance, the grind of a typical day may leave employees only seeing the job side of the equation, and not the service.
Not just that, but too many businesses get caught up in projecting an image or neglect to train their team members that friendliness and common courtesy is a quality that all brands should share.
According to a PwC consumer survey, respondents listed friendly service as one of the top reasons for their having a positive customer experience.
Customers, whether they admit to it or not, look to you as the authority who will help them solve their problem. Wear it as a badge of honor, striving to exceed expectations. The better your service, the happier the customer, and - wait for it - the better your day.
Information is the new currency, and it seems the more we chase it, the more elusive finding the right information can be.
When customers seek out help from a business, at least 72% of consumers expect the company to know exactly who they are.
In the information age, it's not enough anymore to possess product knowledge. Consumers want a personalized experienced.
They’ve handed over enough data to businesses that they expect it to be put to excellent use. If that experience isn't connecting with them, they’ll go to another company where it does.
More than that though, an individual seeking out solutions wants answers to them. Consumers don’t mind if they have to use a self-service portal, social media platform or call center to get the information they need, just as long as there's an outlet for it.
Being informative also means following up.
Open complaints, unfulfilled orders, and unanswered questions can hang around a consumer's neck like a hundred-pound weight.
Even if you don’t know the answer, be upfront about it, and advise the customer you’ll do everything you can to get them the information they seek.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, consumers want to trust the brands which they do business with.
According to PwC, over one-third of consumers in a recent survey consider “trust in brand” as a top three reason for doing business with a company.
It does make sense.
Trust goes a long to building strong relationships, and it's often hard earned, so there's strong commitment involved.
Companies that are cognizant of the importance that consumers place in brand trust, often do well with gaining and keeping it. Even firms that experience very public failures or tests of the faith that consumers once had in them can rebound if they are open about and show a willingness to be better.
Trust and honesty permeate every aspect of the customer journey. We even mention it above in the Someone Who is Available and Someone Informative sections.
When you provide a customer the service, they need at the time they need, and with unflinching commitment in resolving their concerns, you give them the trust they seek the most.
Once you realize that employees and customers are two sides of the same coin - a coin that's constantly flipped - the balance of customer service and an organization's bottom line is far easier to manage.
Which is why in the moment of providing service to someone else, its beneficial to reflect on your own past experiences and ask what you’d want and expect if you reversed the roles.
That similarity and like-mindedness should make both connecting with and providing service to the consumer much easier. They are not just a number or another cog in the wheel of business.