Customer Service in 2018

Having good luck with your business? Give thanks to your customers!

Helpful tips to keep your customer service in step with current expectations.

As March rolls in, every business could do with seeing a lot more green, and not just if you’re Irish. Technology has changed the way businesses interact with customers and it’s not just luck that helps a business grow, it’s good planning. Just two decades ago, most interactions between consumers and businesses took place in-person, over the phone or via snail mail. Today, many of those same interactions are handled via email, text message, online chat or social media, and if you don’t have proverbial “skin in the game,” you could be watching customers heading over to the competition.  

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Customer Service in 2018

Mar 12, 2018

Customer Service in 2018

Having good luck with your business? Give thanks to your customers!

Helpful tips to keep your customer service in step with current expectations.

As March rolls in, every business could do with seeing a lot more green, and not just if you’re Irish. Technology has changed the way businesses interact with customers and it’s not just luck that helps a business grow, it’s good planning. Just two decades ago, most interactions between consumers and businesses took place in-person, over the phone or via snail mail. Today, many of those same interactions are handled via email, text message, online chat or social media, and if you don’t have proverbial “skin in the game,” you could be watching customers heading over to the competition.

When it comes to customer service, the more things change, the more they stay the same. That is, customers are still delighted—or frustrated—by the same things they were decades ago,(service, experience, products)  but the difference is, if they’re not satisfied with their customer service overall experience these days, not only will they likely take their business elsewhere, they can and will often communicate their dissatisfaction not only with current customers, but potential ones as well.

Customer Lifetime Value

The rule of thumb isn’t hard to learn: if you want your business to grow, retain your existing customers, even as you acquire new ones. Conventional wisdom tells us it’s five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, depending on the study you cite and the industry in question. 

Studies aside, smart businesses know they need to keep existing customers happy. For one, satisfied customers often recommend you to potential clients, which is vitally important when you consider that a recent Nielsen study (found that “the vast majority (more than 80%) of Americans seek recommendations [from others] when making a purchase of any kind.”

Another reason to focus on providing great customer service is that, “the consequences of subpar service are amplified by the speed and reach of social media,” notes a 2017 McKinsey & Company report  on Customer Experience. “One poorly handled claim, one mistake captured on a smartphone can escalate quickly into a brand-damaging crisis.”

It also pays to stop thinking about customers in terms of a series of transactions and how much those individual transactions are worth to you. Instead focus on the lifetime value of each customer—or CLV—“which represents the total net profit a company makes from any given customer.” In other words, “CLV is a projection to estimate a customer’s monetary worth to a business after factoring in the value of the relationship with the customer over time.” 

It may help to view the customer’s experience as a journey. The aforementioned McKinsey report advises “paying attention to the complete, end-to-end experience customers have with [your] company from their [emphasis added] perspective.”

Is Your Customer Service Plan Stuck in the Past?

Of course, identifying exactly what a customer values most may not be an easy task. And more and more customers expect to resolve issues outside of “classic” customer service channels like phone or email. According to Conversocial’s Social Effort Study, “54% of customers prefer social messaging channels for care over phone/email, and 35% of 18-34 year olds use social media for customer care regularly.” 

Consumers also expect response time to be fast. Per Conversocial’s Definitive Guide to Social, Digital Customer Service - Volume 5 - 2017-2018, “two-thirds of adults feel the appropriate response time to a text is under an hour, with 43% citing under 10 minutes and 10% thinking it should be instant. Remember that these expectations include responses from [customers who are like] friends; it could result in less patience when it comes to a pressing customer service issue.” 

Finally, more and more customers want “in-channel resolution.” That is, they prefer to resolve their issue in the same channel in which they reach out to the company. For instance, if a customer tweets a complaint, they expect to resolve the issue via Twitter (as opposed to being asked to contact customer service via phone or email).

“Enabling consumers quickly and effortlessly to get resolution in their original channel is critical, whatever channel that is,” notes Conversocial’s above-referenced guide. The key is to make interactions easy for the customer “by reducing the amount of work required of customers to get their issues resolved. This includes avoiding their having to repeat information, or repeatedly contact the company, switching channels, being transferred and being treated in a generic manner.”

Social Media Pitfalls & Opportunity

Ignoring advice and poorly handling a customer’s experience could result in a company being lambasted on social media. And just as quick, great customer service can also drive brand loyalty, as “67.8% agree that the easier a customer service interaction is, the more likely [one is] to engage that brand again,” according to The Definitive Guide to Social, Digital Customer Service. 

And here’s still more good news. The guide tells us that social customer service agents are able to handle four to eight times more issues per hour than phone agents, and that social interactions cost less than $1 each, as compared to $6 per phone call. In other words, social media and chat has the potential to be a much less expensive medium for responding to customer inquiries and concerns, assuming it’s done well. 

Keep in mind, too, even when a customer has a complaint about your business, it’s an opportunity to hear important feedback that can help improve your product, service or interactions with other customers. Moreover, a stellar customer service experience in the wake of a major customer service issue can not only restore satisfaction, but turn your most challenging customers into your greatest brand ambassadors. Perform well in a difficult situation and that individual may become your greatest champion.

Lana K. Moore, executive editor at MarTechExec, puts things in perspective by saying, “It’s tough to be in a customer-facing position these days. Any wrong move you make can be broadcast to the world in a click. But I think we should embrace the flip side and remember that every satisfied customer is also a building block to our success.”

Don’t Reach Out Only When There is a Problem

Another way to convert consumers into loyal customers is to be proactive and engage with your customers, even when there is no specific issue to attend to. “This will add an element of ‘surprise and delight’ for customers,” states Conversocial, giving you another good chance to turn someone into an advocate for your business. Also, don’t forget about those old-school loyalty programs and surprise coupons or gifts. “Let your customers and community know how much you value them with tangible rewards. This powerful gesture has proven time and time again to build customer loyalty and positive sentiment.”

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