Market Leaders Dish on Challenges, Opportunities & Real-World Solutions
In today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, it’s no secret that consumers have captured majority ownership of the customer journey.
Contributions from increased globalization of the Internet, increased usage and expansion of social media applications, and the continued technology enhancements of mobile devices to instantaneously access data, global consumers have more information and options at their fingertips than ever before,” Michael D. Mills, Senior Vice President of CGS’s Global Sales Contact Center Division, says. “As a result, consumers not only expect a responsive, simplistic, personal and seamless customer service experience across channels from skilled and knowledgeable customer support agents — they demand it.”
In fact, according to a recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), 74% of Millennials, 85% of Baby Boomers and 86% of GenXers said they would switch to a different retailer if they received poor customer service.
While the evolution of consumer expectations has gone from emerging trend to everyday reality, in our experience, uncovering opportunities and making meaningful change are elusive and lofty challenges for companies of all sizes.
We recently enticed a range of customer service thought leaders to confess their top tips and insights for tackling challenges and harnessing opportunities. These experts have worked in the customer service trenches of recognizable and emerging brands, or served as consultative partners. Below we share their thoughtful confessions.
Table of Confessions
● Confession 2: If you want to improve the customer service experience, you need to flip your script.
Confession 1: Great customer experiences breed loyalty — and bolster bottom lines.
For more than a century, “the customer is always right” motto has been a foundational element of customer service policy. But in the modern era, this default thinking is problematic for the business and the customer. Why? Because the very nature of the statement signals that something has already gone wrong and giving into any customer demand will make everything better.
In the end, you aren’t scaling solutions to improve the customer service experience and foster loyalty, rather you’re maintaining the status quo — which can have dangerous business implications. But the flip side is exponentially brighter, according to Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer and owner of Shepard Presentations, LLC.
During his confessional, Shep told us:
A bad customer service experience can lead to the loss of a customer. When a bad experience becomes “business as usual,” it can be the demise of a company. Poor reputation and unhappy customers are part of the formula for no sales, no profit and, ultimately, no company.
On the flip-side. A great customer service experience can lead to repeat business and potential word-of-mouth referrals. Customer service can be your best marketing. Customers talking about you is far more powerful than you talking about yourself.
Confession 2: If you want to improve the customer service experience, you need to flip your script.
You’re committed to creating an amazing customer experience. After all, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. But you may be asking yourself: Do I have the full picture? What opportunities am I missing?
This is where Blake Morgan, customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of More is More, revealed her insights. In her experience, she told us, most businesses are overlooking two major opportunities:
No. 1: Seeing the customer service operation as just a cost center.
It's important to make things easier on the customer, even if it makes things harder on you — the brand. Too often we have a "me" mentality. We don't think of the effort the customer has to make — we only see our standard process. Start seeing that your customer service operation is a relationship-building tool — it's a marketing investment not a cost center. If you make customers' lives easier and better, you invest in creating and retaining more customers.
No. 2: Showing — not telling — your customers that you’re there for them.
Instead of creating distance with customers through half-baked phone trees and self-service, create a memorable customer experience by showing you want to be there for the customer. Companies often use technology that makes customer experiences worse, not better. If you personally wouldn't want to use your own self-service customer service technology, why would you assume the customers wants to use it?
Confession 3: Your employees, your history, and your strategy are key to your success.
As the old saying goes, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” But when it comes to leveling up your business’s customer service experience, where do you start?
We asked Adrian Swinscoe, customer engagement and service consultant, author and speaker, to divulge his top secrets. This is what he had to say:
1. Employees have most of the answers you are looking for.
Ask your employees about all of the little things that are broken, hard to do or get in the way of them providing great service to your customers. Make a long list and then set about fixing those problems. The little things matter as much, if not more, than the bigger things. Moreover, by focusing on fixing the little things as well you are likely to achieve a state of steady improvement faster.
2. Become a student of your own history.
Research shows that, on average, around 60% of all calls or help requests into a contact center/help desk happen because customers can’t find the answers that they are looking for on the company’s website. Meanwhile, other research has found that between 25-40% of calls or support requests can be avoided. These numbers suggest that there are lots of opportunities to learn from the past about what we could do to improve service before the customer asks for help.
3. Identify your strategy.
If you ask most organizations what their customer service experience strategy is most of them won’t be able to answer. This results in a confusing service mix, set of tactics and decisions. The best companies know if they are, for example, using service as a way to differentiate themselves or if they are optimizing it for speed, cost and efficiency. This gives them clarity and allows them to focus on delivering the best and most appropriate type of service and experience for them and their customers.
Confession 4: Social customer care can be a major competitive differentiator.
From documenting some of life’s biggest moments to keeping up on the latest and greatest product releases from our favorite brands, there’s no question that social media has become part of the fabric of our daily lives. But, as nearly every company has experienced, the boom of social media has made it possible for their customers to not only give praise, but also air grievances.
According to social customer care expert Dan Gingiss, author of Winning at Social Customer Care and co-host of the Experience This! podcast, either scenario boasts an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition, enhance the customer service experience and foster brand loyalty.
In his confession, Dan reveals how the brands he’s worked for embraced social customer care for the win.
I've had the pleasure of walking into three Fortune 200 companies with the opportunity to improve the customer service experience in social media. All three of them were active in the channel but taking hours to respond to customers. Just as this is a customer pain point in traditional customer service channels, so too is it in social media.
By re-allocating resources and investing in a commitment to be best-in-class in social media response time, these companies were able to change customers’ minds and opinions about the brand. A fast response time leads to increased revenues (per Twitter), higher loyalty, and more positive sharing about the brand.
Customers are going to complain; but by welcoming the feedback and trying to solve problems rather than being afraid of the negativity, brands can easily turn detractors into advocates.
Confession 5: Customer service fails can turn into big wins.
Despite your best efforts, you’ll inevitably run into a snafu that puts your customer service experience strategy to the ultimate test. But you can turn your customer’s perception of the situation from failure to major win.
Andrew McFarland, Vice President of Customer Success for Packet Design, shared a story of one such opportunity, as well as the steps his team took to make amends and bolster the customer relationship:
We had a case where somehow our customer expected product implementation to be simple. This extremely frustrated customer felt as if we had: 1) misled and 2) abandoned them. To recover, we took these steps:
● Apologized quickly. Whether or not we were at fault was unimportant since the relationship was in tatters. An honest apology began the healing and helped us build a foundation on which to collaborate.
● Provided options. Since there were several solutions to the problem, we asked our customer if one was preferable to the others so we could tailor our response to their needs.
● Followed-through. After we collaborated on the best solution path we got busy. The “make it happen” stage was critical to re-establishing our credibility.
● Delivered a positive surprise. After we resolved the original issue, we delivered personalized training which helped them accelerate their project timeline.
During this difficult time, our goal was to turn a dissatisfied customer into a brand advocate. We knew that a positively memorable recovery would help us rebuild trust and convert them to a lifetime advocate.
Spur Your Own Customer Service Revelations
If you’re ready to make meaningful and lasting improvements to your company’s customer service experience, the first step is engaging in a confession session of your own to take stock on where you’re currently sitting. Download our free workbook featuring thought-provoking questions to guide your reflection and foster revelation.