Working to improve your customer service has always been important, but in today’s highly competitive business environment than ever before.
As it becomes harder for consumers to differentiate between companies based on product alone, most rely on the quality of customer experiences a company can provide to make their choice.
This shift isn’t lost on businesses either—in 2017, two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete primarily based on customer experience (CX), according to a Gartner Customer Experience survey. And in 2019, 81% of companies expect to be competing mostly or completely based on CX.
As companies compete on customer experience, consumers increasingly set higher standards for how they expect to be treated.
Thirty-three percent of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service, and one in three customers will even pay more to receive a higher level of service. It’s projected that poor customer experience costs businesses more than $75 billion a year.
Increasing competition and high standards for customer experience mean that improving customer service at your company is one of the most vital things you can do.
Advantages of improving customer service
There is always room to enhance your customer service and increase customer satisfaction. After all, what is customer service but caring for the people who support your business?
Here are a few of the many advantages to improving your customer service, whether you’re currently offering good customer service or falling short in this area.
Increased customer loyalty
Companies that prioritize customer service earn more loyalty. When you’re committed to exceeding customer expectations and providing them with high levels of care, your customers are more likely to return to your business over and over.
And loyal customers don’t just make more purchases - they also tend to tell their networks about how much they like and trust your business. Word-of-mouth marketing like this is very effective and low-cost. Since acquiring new customers costs much more than retaining existing ones, increasing customer loyalty also increases profitability.
Increased profits and reduced costs
Training customer service employees to provide optimized customer experiences helps bring out their full potential and increases retention and engagement. When you have less employee turnover, your business saves money on recruitment costs, and employees are happier.
Providing improved customer service through omnichannel experiences also cuts costs when implementing effective automation such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems. And finally, customers are willing to spend more money with companies that show they value their business, leading to higher profits.
Improved brand reputation
Customers share their experiences with brands when they’re exceptional, either positively or negatively. And with the power of social media, their complaints and praise can be shared widely and amplified. One negative customer interaction can have far-reaching consequences.
Maintaining a positive brand reputation is easier when you provide a high level of customer service and care. Customers will tell their friends and colleagues about how much they appreciate your service, giving your business free and effective advertising.
Provides a competitive advantage
Standing out from your competitors in today’s crowded marketplace is increasingly difficult, especially if you offer fairly similar products or services at a similar price point. But providing excellent customer service can set you apart from the competition.
When you’re going above and beyond to fulfill and even anticipate customer needs, your customers will notice the difference. And they may stay with your company even if another brand offers a comparable product at a lower price.
Customers value companies that take care of them and help them answer questions and solve issues, which can be a powerful differentiator.
When you work hard to implement a customer service culture in your organization, it also often results in better communication within the company. Executives come up with brand goals, they’re communicated to the organization, and managers implement them with training. Employees develop a more robust understanding of their role and the organization’s goals as a whole.
It can also improve communication with customers as you refine and enhance your communication channels and methods to serve customers better and train customer service reps to practice active listening.
And regularly asking customers what they think about your customer service creates a two-way dialogue, building that relationship further.
How to improve customer service
Now that you know the importance of providing excellent customer experiences, here are five steps to improving your customer service. No matter if you’re starting from scratch or simply adding onto an already robust CX strategy, these steps will take you to the next level.
1. Monitor customer feedback
Most organizations don’t doubt the importance of great customer service. But most overestimate the quality of service they’re currently providing their customers.
According to a Bain & Company study, even though 80% of companies say they provide great experiences for their customers, only about 8% of customers agree.
One reason for the overconfidence on businesses is that most customers who have poor experiences don’t complain about the experience. They just switch when it gets too bad.
Without actively monitoring for poor customer service interactions, most companies don’t even know they exist, so they can’t improve.
It’s no longer enough to wait for your customers to complain about something before fixing it. Great customer service has to be proactive, and that starts by regularly asking and listening to what your customers have to say. Monitoring feedback helps you identify sources of dissatisfaction before they become worse.
Here are a few of the best ways to gather feedback on your customer service.
Net Promoter Score
Start measuring your Net Promoter Score® (NPS) since this gives you a broad view of customer sentiment. Use it to measure how customer loyalty impacts a specific customer service interaction, such as in a tNPS survey. You can determine what experiences increase or decrease loyalty.
Asking customers how likely they are to recommend your business to a friend or colleague is an excellent measure of their loyalty. You can use the NPS system to track progress over time as you work to improve your customer service to ensure you’re making the right changes.
Consistently survey your customers after important milestones, like a purchase or onboarding, by sending them a Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) survey. You should also monitor how satisfied they are with the support they receive after contacting your customer service team by doing a case closed CSAT survey.
Remember to keep these surveys as short as possible - your customers are busy, and they’re not eager to spend their time answering 10 questions or more. Keeping the length to one question and an open-ended option to explain their answer will ensure you get a high response rate.
Act on the feedback
Once you have collected your customer feedback, it’s time to act on it to improve your customer service. If you fail to make changes after asking your customers what they think, they will be discouraged from answering future surveys.
First, you must analyze the data you receive from your surveys to surface any trends. Which areas of your customer service have the most significant pain points? For example, if you notice that customers often mention long hold times, you can begin with this area.
It is also a good practice to respond to negative feedback - if a customer tells you they had a bad experience with your customer service team, follow up with them. You should apologize for the issue and tell them how you’re going to fix it. This can save the relationship with a customer, even if the experience was negative.
Next, develop a strategy for putting changes into place. You may need to offer extra training to your customer service reps to increase their knowledge or capability to deal with complex questions and interactions.
Implementing a closed-loop feedback system can be a powerful way to act on customer feedback and make meaningful improvements to your customer service. This will help you to follow up effectively with customers and make the right improvements, so your customer service stands above your competitors.
2. Make customer service omnichannel
Your customers are always on the move these days. When they have issues, they don’t just send emails or call anymore, they also use social media, your app, and even live chat. And they expect consistent support across these channels.
That’s why most businesses today use multi-channel customer service to interact with their customers across different channels.
But multichannel service can only do so much because while these channels work alongside one another, they’re largely separate.
For example, if you email a service agent today and then call support the next day, you’ll have to start a new conversation with the agent.
While multichannel service is better than only having a single channel for supporting customers, omnichannel customer support takes things a step further by making the interaction more cohesive.
With omnichannel customer service, you can offer your customers a more seamless experience with omnichannel customer service. Rather than starting from scratch, your service agents can pick up where the customer left off.
This way, each channel feeds into one main view, and the result of this is a complete customer profile that helps customer service teams tackle cases more effectively.
Customer history displays every call, email, tweet, and community post, so the journey agents see it is the same one that customers experience.
For example, if I call a customer service representative and then email them a few days later, the support rep can see that I spoke to another representative six days ago and use that information to provide a workaround.
Integration is key to omnichannel customer service, leading us to our next step.
3. Invest in customer-relationship management (CRM) software
Another way to improve customer service at your organization is to offer more personalized interactions with your customers.
In an Evergage survey of over 206 digital marketers, 96% agreed that personalization advanced their customer relationships, and 61% said personalization has helped them achieve a superior customer experience.
CRM software like Salesforce can help you create personalized interactions with your customers because it unifies all customer data and provides more context for every interaction.
It also helps you learn more about your customers and offer up solutions for improving customer service beyond answering complaints.
For example, it might reveal that most of your customer complaints come from one location, which could mean a problem with how customers are treated there.
It could also show you that most of your customer complaints come from a certain cohort, which could indicate a problem in onboarding these customers.
A robust CRM not only allows you to create better and more personalized experiences for your customers but gives additional insights into solving issues and empowers your employees to act.
4. Train the right customer service skills
Great tools won’t improve your customer service if your support team doesn’t interact effectively with customers.
Bad employee attitude and unfriendly service are two of the most common reasons customers stop doing business with a company.
As the customer-facing part of your organization, a great service team needs to have a few crucial skills to consistently provide great service.
Here are a few crucial skills members of your customer service team need to have to succeed:
A deep understanding of the product: There’s nothing worse than speaking to a service agent that can’t effectively answer your questions. All team members should have more than a surface-level understanding of your product so they can better help customers.
Empathy: Like all customer-facing roles, support needs to empathize with the people they’re talking to and show they understand and care about them. Empathy is often overlooked as an essential skill, but the fact is, 60% of customers will stop dealing with a business they feel is indifferent to them.
Taking ownership: Mistakes happen, and the best customer service agents know how to take responsibility for them. Sometimes all the customer wants to hear is an acknowledgment of their problems and a promise that they’ll be resolved.
Time management: Time is a crucial yet extremely limited resource for service agents. Training your support staff to adequately manage their time will lead to faster response times and improved customer service.
5. Make customer experience part of company culture
The only way to truly improve customer service is to make great CX part of your business strategy and company culture.
However, you’ll need to get buy-in from your top executives to accomplish this, since customer experience isn’t something only your customer service staff should consider.
This emphasis on improving customer experience needs to reach across departments and become a part of your company’s standard operating procedure.
Here’s how you can get started with integrating customer experience into company culture:
Track customer experience metrics to create a benchmark to measure your progress.
Empower employees (even your non-support staff) to take action and go the extra mile for customers.
Create a customer journey map to identify and fix possible friction points for your customers.
Monitor how engaged your employees are since they can only do their best work when motivated to do so.
Customer service is now a point of differentiation for most companies. Consumers now have higher standards than ever before, and research has shown that most companies are failing to reach these standards even though they think they are.
Improving your customer service starts by first listening to customer feedback and supporting your customers seamlessly through every channel.
You’ll also need to personalize these interactions and train your support staff with the right skill set they need to do their jobs. Finally, improving customer experience needs to be a priority for everyone in the organization and not just your customer support team.
If you want to improve customer support at your organization, GetFeedback has a suite of tools to help you listen and act on insights from your customers. Get started with a free trial today.