I have a three-year-old niece who cannot raise food from the plate to her own mouth. If she is not fed, she will throw a ruckus and at worse go hungry and she feels entitled to it.
Customers can be compared to little babies, they would really love to have everything done for them and all they have to do is enjoy the service. Just like babies, they will certainly throw tantrums when service is delayed or effort is required from their side.
Airlines are the most hailed for good customer service, especially in-flight. If you watch keenly, they strap down the customer in the seat, and bring him or her everything he or she needs as the plan cruises through the atmosphere. The customer does nothing except to enjoy the service and the customer cannot abandon the service midway, he has to get to his destination and if he has a complaint it is resolved there and then; remember he is on straps!
In your business, you may not be able to achieve this, your customer is a free molecule, walking in and out of your business at will and can abandon your service midway and walk right across the road to your competitor. You, therefore, need a strategy on how to manage this customer right from the begging of the relationship up to the end of the transaction and beyond.
The Harvard Business Review once polled thousands of customers to understand their customer service priorities. The researchers found that customers wanted an effortless experience the most. The researchers found that these customers will move from one service provider to the next, simply because the latter is offering to do more for them.
The foundation of great customer service should be to lower the effort customers have to put in to acquire your service.
Think about a bank with online payments versus one that is still in the Automated Teller Machine (ATM ) era, the one with online services will wow its customers because they will be able to access services wherever they are while the one with ATM requires the customer to move a muscle, leave his couch and drive or walk to the place where the ATM is located, then from there, find the recipient of the money and hand it over to him. You can tell which bank will have the most loyalty!
The Harvard Business Review researchers found that the more effort and time customers had to expend to get what they want, the more dissatisfied they became.
At an organization level, the more cumbersome or lengthy the service delivery process is, the more it becomes susceptible to corruption and manipulation. Look at Government services in the developing world, you will realize some processes take up to six months and involve so many individuals that a single bottleneck will lead to a clog in the whole system opening a Pandora’s box of corruption and kickbacks.
I painfully remember an incident where a friend of mines application to get a loan from a Microlender took over six months and involved bribing some people. I wonder whether it would have taken a year had bribes not been involved. You can bet he transferred the loan to another lender because he was completely dissatisfied with this provider.
Promises of outstanding service have little impact on customer satisfaction, customers are more concerned with the actual receipt of the service.
Advantages of stellar service
Here are a few reasons why should invest in providing excellent service.
1) It retains the customer; happy customers will stick with your brand and will not shift to competitors.
2) Gets you more references; When customers have been receiving good quality service over a period of time from your organization, they will tell others about you (word of mouth) and these references mean money to your business.
The more the references, the more customers acquired without spending money and the more profitable your organization becomes.
When your service is good, and the word of mouth references are good, you will acquire new customers at a fraction of the cost. A normal business spends a lot on advertising, promotions to get new customers, but with good customer service, your existing customers will do this for you, hence you become more profitable.
3) Gives you and your employees confidence; As humans, when we receive the praise it boosts our morale. Therefore, when customers praise you or your customers for good services, your confidence rises and reinforces the need to give even better service, which leads to more engaged employees, who offer better service to customers and ultimately happier customers and more repeat business.
4) Competitive advantage; If you and your employees are building good relationships with customers, through good service, you will naturally lock out competitors and your business will become more competitive and difficult to beat.
There are huge benefits in giving good customer service, you retain customers, lock out competition and increase profitability which are key desires of any business. However, achieving good customer experience requires resources which may not be available to the small business or startup. Below are some cost-effective ways a small business can implement to improve customer service and propel itself ahead of the competition?
1. Train all employees and partners on the products you offer.
When all employees and partners understand the products, it means everyone in your organization can respond to a customer’s query and act as the first line of support, saving customers the need to call the help desk. When customers can get their questions answered promptly, it goes a long way toward making them happy.
2. Train employees in customer empathy.
Customers are humans first. Any of the interactions that happen to any human is both emotional and factual. As an organization, you should strive to ensure that everyone can empathize with the customers by magnifying and sharing a happy customer’s enthusiasm or diminishing a frustrated customer’s tension.
This can be done by simply listening to customers and confirming that you have understood them. When your employees make customers feel truly listened to and understood, customer satisfaction rises.
3. Let your infrastructure support great customer service.
As noted before, customers are looking to receive a service with minimal effort. That means availing as many channels as possible to the customer to access the service is one way to increase that satisfaction.
Online channels to help answer customer queries are now popular since most customers have access to the internet. It means that incorporating live chats and support ticket software, streamlined self-help options like knowledge base on your website and call-backs instead of lengthy hold times can lead to happy customers.
Research has shown that customers perceive looking up a tracking number or reading frequently asked questions as less effort than calling a customer care center, so offering these options increases satisfaction.
If resources to implement a customer care center are lacking as will be the case for most SME’s, consider outsourcing which most of the time will be a cheaper alternative than running an in-house call center.
4. Resolve customer issues at their first point of contact.
Have you ever experienced to have to call a company’s contact center, only for the person you talk to refer you to another who refers you to yet another, all the time you having to disconnect the call and call again? Really frustrating isn’t it? Researchers have noted that having to repeat a problem to a chain of company officers was intensely frustrating for customers.
Your aim should be to improve first contact resolution by ensuring that the person who initially handles the call takes full responsibility for it until the customer’s concern is resolved.
5. Resolve the root cause of problems to avoid a repeat.
In a recent book launch, the author took us through the frustration of repeat mistakes by giving an example of a household, where when the husband leaves his socks on dining table, wife will casually advise, “Darling, It is not good to leave your socks on the table”, as she carries them away. On the second occurrence, she will be like, “Musyoki, why do you always leave your socks on that table”, while on the third occurrence, she will just exclaim, “I do not know where some cows that leave socks on the table came from”.
When a mistake is committed the first time, people are forgiving and loss in trust is not as great, however, on the second time, the words and emotions are usually more unforgiving and if it happens a third time, people shift loyalty. Therefore, ensure to quickly look at the root cause of your issues and resolve the root and not the symptom.
6. Empower your employees to make customers happy.
Customers will see frontline employees they will not know that there are other employees behind the scenes. To them, any member of your staff becomes the face of your organization. When your employees have the power to please customers, they make your whole organization shine.
Instead of focusing on speed and productivity, give your frontline employees permission to take the time they need to make each customer feel valued.
7. Always deliver on your promises.
Every package that arrives on time or product that works as intended reinforces your customers’ trust in you. Customers don’t want promises, they want you to deliver it on time and with a smile.
8. Make it personal with a smile.
Be quick to apologize sincerely when you’re unable to meet your promises for any reason. Make the apology personal and not just a formal process. Set things right quickly for your customer and he will return the loyalty.
If you give your customers the most effortless experience, they’ll choose you over the competition every time. And the sooner you can start implementing these eight points, the faster you will be on the route to building a great business.