The other day, I shopped online for a pair of shoes. When the package arrived, I found I'd received a wrong pair. I tried contacting the seller’s customer service team to get a replacement. When I finally got through to them after several hours, it was just to be told that they don’t offer refunds and I'd have to bear the courier charges again for a new pair.
Fuming at the rude behavior, I placed a new order but on a competitor’s website. The second seller not only gave me a good price but also delivered the package the very next day. They kept me updated throughout about the shipping status as well. I’ve now become a loyal customer and have, thereafter, never shopped with the first seller.
Moral of the story: Quality of customer service can make or break your business.
If you’re wondering how to improve customer service, this article is for you. We look at five golden rules, which, if done right, can help you increase customer loyalty and brand awareness. But first, let’s refresh our basics about customer service and some related terms.
Customer service is the advice and assistance companies provide to customers who buy their products or services. It includes troubleshooting, maintenance, installation, training, product upgrades, replacements, etc. These services may be offered at your or the customer’s site or through channels such as phone calls, websites, and emails.
Customer experience is the sum total of all interactions a customer has with your company or brand. Customer service is only one part of the customer experience. Other elements of customer experience include product quality, marketing touchpoints, customer care, etc.
Customer support, also a subset of customer experience, is the technical assistance arm of customer service. It provides technical problem-solving and troubleshooting services every time a customer reaches out for help. The customer service team, on the other hand, helps buyers get more value from a business through proactive interactions, product selection assistance, etc.
Good customer service is the key to a great customer experience. Here are the five golden rules to keep your clients happy and increase customer satisfaction.
The most important part of customer service is the way you treat people. Rude behavior, impolite language, and unhelpful or unresponsive attitude can make customers unhappy and make them leave. Go the extra mile to be courteous and helpful, irrespective of a customer’s gender, ethnicity, race, or purchasing power. Also, show empathy and apologize whenever needed.
Case study: How unresponsiveness caused United Airlines 10% of its market value
When traveling with United Airlines, Canadian musician Dave Carroll noticed the airline’s employees carelessly handling his guitar on the tarmac. Carroll used various customer service channels to complain about the behavior of the baggage handling staff and the damages they’d caused to his guitar. But the airline’s customer service department remained indifferent and unresponsive to his complaints.
Carroll then voiced his unhappiness at United’s apathy through his now-famous song “United Breaks Guitars,” which has over 20 million views on YouTube. Reports mention that within five days of Carroll posting the song, United lost nearly 10%—roughly $180 million—of its market value.
Here are some ways to be courteous and helpful to your customers:
Train your staff in customer service skills: Provide customer service training to your employees, so they can have positive interactions with buyers. Reinforce the importance of good customer service practices through regular emails, signboards, posters, etc.
Reward agents who offer exceptional service: Highlight great customer service stories through company-wide newsletters or emails, and reward reps who provide exceptional service to customers.
Find out how your business can become more customer-driven.
In today’s world of instant services, customers want immediate responses to their queries or complaints. Per our research, 42% of customers consider timely service as one of the top three requirements for a positive customer experience. To attend to customers’ needs, ensure your service department handles complaints and queries without any delay.
Case study: How delayed customer service put British Airways in the spot
A British Airways customer whose father lost his luggage on a trip from Chicago to Paris, decided to use Twitter to express his displeasure with the airline. He not only tweeted, “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous,” but also promoted the tweet via paid advertising.
The airline’s customer service team took an astonishing eight hours to respond to the tweet. By then, the post had already been viewed by 76,000 users as well as featured on Mashable, which attracted much negative publicity. Also, when British Airways did respond, it was only with a standard message that read, “Our Twitter feed is open 0900-1700 GMT,” leading to more angry tweets from the public about the airline’s customer service quality. After this incident, British Airways revamped its service strategy and now has a Twitter account that’s operational 24/7.
Here are some tips to help you provide timely customer service:
Have organization-wide customer service standards and process rules: Document and execute organization-wide service standards. For instance, ensure all low-effort customer complaints are resolved within an hour. Also, have process rules that clearly state when the support team should escalate an issue.
Inform customers about the expected query resolution time: If you aren’t able to respond immediately to a service request, let customers know by when they can expect a resolution. You can use calls or automated emails or SMSes to communicate timelines. This will help plug any communication gap between customers and your business.
Customers use various channels such as email, phone, and social media to voice their concerns or feedback. Have a clearly defined multichannel communication strategy to ensure people can contact you when needed. Pick four to six channels most used by your customers and highlight them on your website, mobile app, and social media pages, so customers know how to reach you.
Case study: Nordstrom extends in-store customer service to online channels
Nordstrom, a luxury retail chain, uses in-store customer service reps to offer clients personalized styling advice and guide them on their purchases. But Nordstorm noticed a gap in its online customer service. The company realized customers shopping online weren’t getting the same guidance and assistance.
To plug this gap, Nordstrom created a video advising customers on how to choose the best costume and accessories and shared it on YouTube. It also acquired BevyUp, a digital selling tool, to help customers initiate or seamlessly continue conversations with customer service reps on both online and offline channels. Extending personalized customer services to online channels helped Nordstrom increase its online conversion rate by 32% and online order value by 5%.
Here are some tips to build a multichannel customer service strategy:
Budget for service channels customers prefer: Investing in all customer service channels may not be feasible for you. Thus, invest in channels your customers prefer or use frequently to contact you. According to our customer preferences report, online live chat, phone, and email are the most preferred channels among customers.
Build an integrated customer service strategy: Customers often start their conversations on one channel, say social media, and end it on another, e.g., phone calls. Ensure you provide consistent responses across channels, so your customers don’t get any mixed signals.
Unique customer service experiences leave a mark on your customers. Initiatives such as rewarding buyers unexpectedly, accepting product ideas from customers, and returning lost luggage are some ways you can wow customers and make them feel valued.
Case study: Gaylord Opryland surprises customer with an unexpected gift
A regular customer at luxury hotel and convention center Gaylord Opryland loved the spa clock in her room. For many years, she tried to find the same model in the market but to no avail. With no hope, she messaged the hotel’s Twitter page, asking where she could get a replica of the clock. The hotel staff replied the model is not available to the public, but she could look at other similar models.
The customer, however, wasn’t happy with the suggested alternatives. On her next visit to the resort, after returning from a conference, she was surprised to find not one but two spa clocks and a personalized letter that said both were hers to keep. With this gesture, Opryland offered an exceptional customer experience and won a customer for life.
Here are some ways to win loyal customers and provide exceptional customer service:
Allow every rep a small budget to reward customers: Assign a small budget that your customer service reps can use in any way to delight or help customers.
Personalize customer interactions: Make customers feel special every time they visit or shop with you. Remember their names, preferences, etc., and anticipate their needs. Try providing the necessary services even before customers ask for them.
Customer service software can help speed up tasks and reduce the workload on your staff members. You can also use software such as customer relationship management (CRM) and customer data platform (CDP) to store all customer information in one place.
Other tools such as customer analytics can help identify which of your customer care strategies or processes are working well. You can even use the latest tech, such as IoT and AI, to automate service tasks, reduce costs, and take customer feedback.
Case study: How Adidas uses an AI chatbot to reduce the time to sign up for services
Adidas noticed that its target clientele led busy, fast-paced lives and needed quick services when signing up for workout time on the company’s new community space, Studio LDN.
Adidas built a custom AI-powered chatbot on Facebook Messenger to help customers reduce the time and effort needed to sign up for Studio LDN. The bot-based system helped Adidas speed up an otherwise cumbersome process, resulting in over 60% customer retention and 80% repeat use.
Here are some ways you can use technology to improve your customer service:
Provide self-service options: Many customers, especially Gen Z buyers, don’t prefer interacting with a customer service representative. Use automated self-service options such as IVR, chatbots, and robotic experiences to save time for you as well as make the experience memorable for your customers.
Choose technology that best suits your business and customers: Make sure the customer service tools you buy are easy to use for your employees. Also, ensure customer-facing applications such as web forms and mobile apps are visually appealing and easy to access for your customers.
The five golden rules of customer service, in short, advise you to follow a human-centric customer service approach, aided by technology tools to automate mundane tasks and reduce costs. They also help improve your customer service efficiency and effectiveness.
For more customer service software options:
The application selected in this article is an example to show a feature in context and is not intended as an endorsement or recommendation. It has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.
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