The past twenty years have been more like a hundred, when it comes to customer service expectations. We’ve reached a point where technology and globalization are challenging brands across the world. And those brands are loosening their purse strings in order to meet these elevated expectations.
According to a 2018 Salesforce study, 80% of service decision makers said that emerging technology is transforming customers’ expectations of their service organization, and 63% were expecting a budget increase in 2019 for their service departments.
It’s clear now that having stellar customer service in 2020 isn’t even something you can differentiate based on – it’s a prerequisite to being competitive. So how can you create a GREAT customer service experience?
Be Consistently Consistent
Consumers today are liable to discover your brand across any combination of channels. They may see an ad on social media, and then google you later. They may come to your site once through organic search results, and later be retargeted with your display ads. So it’s important that you have consistent messaging across all your digital (and traditional) channels – but it doesn’t stop there.
That messaging, the spirit of your brand, should permeate through your customer service channels – including anybody who is answering your phone, responding to customer emails, chatting on social DM’s, and even your chatbots need to adopt your brand’s tone and messaging. This will make your brand more memorable, and provide your customers with a sense of comfort and security, knowing that they can rely on you.
When customers need support, you’ll want to make sure that you have standard operating procedures in place, and that they’re being followed. If there’s a complaint, there should be some set standard for when issues should be escalated, or which concessions to offer as a “makegood” or courtesy to your customers. Having these procedures in place internally will help your customer service team deliver a consistent experience.
A brand book or style guide can also help with attitudes, messaging, voice and tone adoption in-house. Make sure that every consumer-facing agent of your business has access to your brand book, and be sure to include your values, any recommended verbiage that you use, etc.
Be Available, All the Time, and Everywhere
Don’t just be available. Be FULLY available. Customer service issues can pop up during lunch or in the middle of the night, so you need to be there when your customers need you. A 24/7 answering service can help carry some of the weight by answering calls that come in after-hours, on weekends, or holidays – and virtual receptionists can improve customer relations over the phone while you focus on other areas.
While the phone is an extremely important channel for customer service (68% of customer support interactions still come in over the phone), it’s definitely not the only channel you need to consider.
You need to be in as many of the same places as possible, as your customers, so you can meet them with as little friction as possible. Customer support used to be a hotline, but just think about all the channels that we use for customer support now. There’s phone, email, webforms and ticketing, AI chatbots, live chat, social media, forums and message boards, and self-service channels. It’s not a stretch to say that most challenger brands are consistently active across all of these channels.
While it may not be feasible for your small business to actively manage every one of these channels, it’s recommended to at least have a presence, and set up automated responses. You can also set up notifications so that customer outreach doesn’t slip through the cracks.There are a number of platforms you can use to aggregate tickets and messages to keep things streamlined. For example, if you do have a CRM (customer relationship management) platform, many offer integrations either directly or through a connector like Zapier or Leadsbridge.
Nurture Your Relationships
Prospective buyers turn into customers turn into brand advocates – basically growing your business for you – right? So it’s important to have a full understanding of how customers are engaging with your brand, and providing consistent, but personalized, experiences.
Map out all your customer touchpoints. Even before a sale, you should have a full view of where your customers have been exposed to your brand – whether they come in from search engines, native advertising, email, display, social media, third party advertiser sites, directories, etc.
The best way to really track all this is through an integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform. You can tie it in to other major platforms where you manage your advertising and data – like Facebook, Google Ads, and Google Analytics. Your CRM will be able to track individuals based on their IP’s and follow their paths toward conversion – and beyond.
This might sound a little creepy, but at the end of the day, as long as we’re all responsible with first-party data, it enables brands to deliver highly-personalized customer service experiences.
According to a study by Gartner, 63% of consumers would be willing to share more information with a business if it meant receiving a great experience in return. With that in mind, get your team together and brainstorm ways to create “surprise and delight” opportunities for your customers. You can even set up automated flows for your customers based on birthdays, anniversaries, engagement levels, purchases or referrals. These personalized interactions will set your brand apart.
Constantly Optimize Your Customer Experience
Once you’ve got all your channels covered, and you’re tracking customer interactions, that’s when you can really dive in and do the work that will allow you to deliver a remarkable customer experience.
Touch base with your customers regularly. Send emails requesting their feedback about a purchase or interaction, and allow for 1:1 follow-up. Send surveys. Proactively request reviews; you’ll learn more about your business and your customers, and probably find about a million ways to improve. This leads to better retention, and as we all know, new customers are about 5x more expensive than repeat customers.
Stay up to date on trends. Technology is moving at such a rapid clip these days, you never know when the next best thing comes out to support your customer service channels and improve the experience. Follow industry publications and thought-leaders’ Twitter feeds to make sure that you’re always in the know.
And probably most importantly, remember how many different resources you have. Use all of the reporting and analytics, call recordings and live chat reports to inform your ongoing customer experience strategy. Make sure you have some system for grading and categorizing your interactions with consumers. This will allow you to better refine your conversion funnel, improve service levels, and identify emerging issues sooner.
It’s almost Q4 – the perfect time to sit down and develop a strategy to improve your customer service experience in 2021. As always, we’ll be here to keep you up to date on customer experience best practices and what’s next in the world of customer service.