The Value of good Customer Service
One of the major issues that consumers have with any business is the customer service. In fact, if you look at most review sites it's one of the factors that most crops up in negative reviews. Whether the customer service is online, over the phone or by writing a letter to the company it can lead to major dissatisfaction for the customer. So what can you do to ensure your customers feel satisfied when they need to contact you?
Over the last few years the need for good customer service has grown, partly due to the rise of social media, where dissatisfied customers can leave negative feedback for the world to see. Not only can more people see the feedback but it is now posted almost instantly with the company having very little, or no time, to try and rectify the situation. This means that companies can no longer sit back and let their customer service come second best.
While large companies can spend hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands on their customer service many smaller businesses cannot. Don't worry though, it doesn't mean you can't be a big player when it comes to customer service.
A common pitfall that many businesses make is treating their customer service as a purely problem solving activity. This can work but will result in a weak asset for the business. If you spend time developing it you can see great results.
The Benefits of good customer service
- It can help to distinguish you from your competitors. A trend that has been developing for a few years now is that people like to buy from people, not just faceless corporations. If your customer service is friendly and approachable then customers are going to appreciate it, especially if your competitors haven't realised this.
- Customers talk about good customer service. While the opposite is more likely to be true, with customers talking to friends and family about the poor service they received from Company A, this can allow Company B to be praised for the opposite. Imagine a conversation like this happening between friends. "I am never going back to Company A, all they did was fob me off.", "Well, I've been with Company B for a while now and they are never like that, they're always willing to help."
- It can provide a way for you to engage with customers. Whether they're phoning to complain or asking for advice on a product, by having engaging customer service it allows you to find out where your website, or other forms of advertising is falling down. For example, if you have 20 calls about the dimensions of one of the products listed on your website then you should consider adding the dimensions to the website. It can also be a way of you finding out what customers do and don't like about your company.
- Leading on from point 2, customers are more likely to come back if you've been helpful. If a customer has a query that you answered quickly and on the first time of asking then they're more likely to come back to your company because you have proved your worth to them.
The drawbacks of bad customer service
- Bad news travels fast. According to Marketing Charts, 95% of customers are likely to share a bad experience, whereas only 87% would talk about a good one. This can be bad if you're getting more negative comments than you're getting positive.
- On top of this, customers are now more likely to share their experience on social media, which can reach exponentially more potential customers than just by posting on a review site. Take a look at this example of bad customer service from British Airways:
- In 2013 Hasan Syed paid to promote a tweet after BA lost his father's suitcase saying "Don't fly @britishairways their customer service is horrendous" To make matters worse, BA failed to respond to this for 8 hours allowing it to be seen by 76,000 users.
There's no doubt that the online world has become bigger over the last few years and so has the ability for companies to offer better customer service to a larger audience. But your company has to navigate this carefully in order to avoid making the mistakes of others.
What about Automation?
Having the desire for effective customer service can lead some companies to automate the first point of contact in order to direct the customer to the right person at the right time. An example of this is a call to an automated line "Press 1 for..., Press 2 for..., for anything else Press 3", but if you have too many options this can be confusing for users and can make them turn to another company for help rather than go through your phone line. The same can be said for online chat hosts which pop up on the website offering help when the customer doesn't need it. These can be particularly annoying when you're browsing through items and you get a window pop-up, taking up half the screen "Hi, I'm... Is there anything I can help you with?" Things like this can actually make potential customers not want to be on your website meaning your company could be missing out on potential sales.
So how can you combat this? The simple answer is to train your staff in most aspects of your business, but still having one or two experts they can refer to if needed. Also, don't fully automated the process, some customers prefer to approach a company rather than be approached.
So what can I do?
Throughout this post we've looked at good and bad customer service and what each can mean for your company. It can seem hard to make headway with this when you're a small company but by being customer focused, approachable, knowledgeable about your industry and not relying too much on automation you can start to forge ahead. Also, don't forget about social media now also being a big part in customer service so keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for any complaints that have gone straight to there rather than directly to you as a person.
Remember to always follow good practice too!
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