Customer Service Excellence - The Guaranteed Strategy for Customer Retention

You can see examples of bad, good or excellent customer service not only around the web, but in businesses all around us.

When you visit a restaurant and the service is mediocre, you’re not very likely to come back, even if the food isn’t as bad.

But if you are treated with care, attention, appreciation and acknowledgement that you are the most important person in the world, you’re very likely to become a regular customer. Even if the food ain’t all that great.

According to a report about Customer Experience Impact by Harris Interactive and RightNow from 2010, the top two reasons for customer loss are:

  • 1. Customers feel poorly treated

  • 2. Problems aren’t solved in a timely manner

Offering great customer service is about constantly improving the experience that users have when interacting with your brand on all levels.

Userlike have a great article on the customer service skills that agents must have to make sure that customers will receive all the support they need, and even more than they expect.

They talk about patience, attentiveness, calming presence, expertise, all of them being vital virtues of effective and successful customer service. But probably the most important one is having, as Userlike puts it, a goal oriented focus.

Almost 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they are willing to pay more to ensure a superior customer experience - Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow, 2010

This fact means that great customer service is not only appreciated by users, but is also an investment that leads to bigger long-term revenues.

Customer Support is a Continuation of your Business Goal

In this post, we want to emphasize on the goal your brand needs to have to be capable of providing the necessary level of customer service that will either make or break your business.

The goal of your business shouldn’t be dictated by your desire for profit and progress. The initial idea behind your business should be about what you can do to make your customers’ lives better and easier.

Don’t start a business for your own benefit, but figure out how your customers will benefit from your business. That is what the phrase “customer-oriented” means after all.

“To give great service, you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.” - Douglas Adams

If you have such a goal, then the rest should be easier to execute. If working in favor of your customers is the purpose of your business, then you will definitely find this article useful.

The few companies that respond promptly and accurately to customer emails increase trust, customer satisfaction, and increase sales both online and offline - BenchmarkPortal

The forementioned goal oriented focus might sound a bit strange and confusing, but it has direct influence on how customers will perceive your brand. When your business goals are infused with high levels of support and customer service, you only need to add the happiness of clients to be a winner in your niche.

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Customers

In your mind, what’s the first thing your customers might think when they need to contact you for customer service?

There are two things to think about here - whether your customers dislike the idea of contacting you, and whether they are happy with the service they get.

How easy is it for users to reach you?

A typical business will only hear from 4% of its unhappy customers - “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner

If a user feels uncomfortable to contact you, this means you are already making a mistake somewhere. You’re either making it difficult for them, or it doesn’t seem like you’ve put any effort in assuring users that their message will be noticed or answered anytime soon.

(Source: Combadi)

The Contact Us page is where most users usually look for a way to get in touch with businesses. Combadi take the opportunity to assure users that they will “respond as soon as we can.” They also want customers to know that they will be able to do things they have “always wanted to experience”, even if they cannot be found on their website. Aside from the regular channels such as email and phone, they have also added a Skype name for people who want to chat.

Create copy that will be remembered

81% of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competition - Customer Experience Maturity Monitor, 2009

The text in your contact us page should not be a generic message like “Contact us for further details”, or “Get in touch with us with your questions.” This will neither make your customers feel comfortable with contacting you, nor give them the confidence that you will actually have a useful answer.

(Source: Mother Earth Brewing)

Users have to be convinced by the copy that they will be in good hands, that their questions will be replied ASAP, and most importantly - that the time they spent contacting you and waiting for support is justified by the answer’s effectiveness.

Never give in to your anger, Luke

Negative news for bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as positive news for a good experience - White House Office of Consumer Affairs

It takes a lot of guts and strength to be good at customer service and support. Customers who have paid for something and reached the point where they need to contact you for help are usually confused, angry, impatient, demanding, or simply have trouble understanding things and need help.

In such cases, you should always be the one who has the patience and expertise to resolve the issues, no matter how pissed off the customer is. But there is another side to this argument.

(Source: Leg Work Studio)

When is the customer no longer “right”

If a policy like “The customer is always right!” is only used to let people be excessively abusive and treat agents bad, the support history will be filled with angry rants and agents who cannot draw the line because “the rules say so.”

There always has to be a line, and customers who try to take advantage of your friendly policy should be treated accordingly.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” - Bill Gates

However, there can always be a silver lining. Customers who are unhappy and outraged are the ones who can offer the most benefits for your business. This can come in two forms:

Negative (but useful) feedback - even if you lose the user as a customer and he walks away from your business disappointed, you already know why this happened and you can work on fixing it for future cases. Such extreme situations are relatively uncommon, which is why you can use them to grow better and be more prepared.

91% of unhappy customers will never do business with you again - Lee Resources

Conversion opportunity - since the one providing customer support is supposedly the expert in their field, they always have the upper hand. Even if the customer goes into extremes with their abuse levels, turning out to be right and fixing the issue at the end will definitely be in your favor. It will make them change their mind, it might even make them apologize for their behavior, and most of all - it might make them a long-term customer.

In 2011, 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with businesses they believe provide excellent customer service - American Express Survey, 2011

Promote Your Business Values and Set Standards

One of the most powerful elements of building a strong team and having employees who are devoted to what they do is having values that everyone shares.

(Source: Hello Monday)

One of the values that iSenseLabs takes to heart is:

“Customer service shouldn’t just be A department, it should be the entire company” - Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

In these days of growing competition, having great customer support is a unique selling point and a huge competitive advantage. It’s one thing to have a company that will sell you a great product, but it’s another thing to have a team that will do so in addition to making your journey and experience as a customer special, solving any issue along the way with promptness and respect.

That’s what makes excellent customer service the perfect method to keep your customers. A method that should not be viewed as a cost, but as an investment.

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