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Andy Steuer
By Andy Steuer #customer_experience August 29, 2018

At the heart of any successful business are happy customers.

As a matter of fact, customer service is one of the main determinants of keeping customers genuinely interested in your business. For 73% of the population, customer service is an important aspect which determines their buying decisions after price and product quality.

And yet $75 billion is lost every year by companies in the United States due to poor customer service. According to the same report by New Voice Media, 67% of the customers are willing to switch brands to get a better customer service experience as many brands are failing to provide a positive emotional customer service experience.

In other words, these businesses are failing to retain their customers and develop strong brand loyalty.

But some organizations are blazing forward in customer service. Check out this list compiled by Forbes in collaboration with American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) — the only national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction in the United States.

Naturally these businesses and a few more have implemented excellent customer service strategies that provide exceptional customer experience leading to high rates of customer retention. In fact, analysis by Bain and Company shows that businesses which offer an excellent customer service experience grow their revenues by 4% to 8%.

So what are some of the strategies that these businesses are implementing and how can you ensure outstanding customer experience to your customers?

Let’s take a look at three vital customer service examples need to start applying in your department right now.

1. Consistent Multi-Channel Customer Service

In today’s dynamic, fast-paced technological era, consumers want access to information at lightning speed. And mobile technology has made it even easier for customers to seek answers to their questions through a plethora of social channels like SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter DM.

Customers want a resolution to their problems, and they seek answers immediately across a variety of digital platforms and media. In fact, most organizations support an average of eight customer engagement channels from traditional calls to social media.

The use of live chat is also increasing as people are more satisfied with easy access to customer service agents and at having answers at their fingertips.

While speed is not essential for email, phone, or in-person support — for social media support the expectations from customers are very high. In fact, 32% of social media users who contact a brand expect a response within 30 minutes, according to a survey of 690 social media users.

Companies interact with their customers across many channels, and while customers accept this, customers also expect a seamless customer service experience where they don’t have to jump through the hoops to get answers.

But systems that manage all the channels of customer support are often disparate and uncoordinated resulting in undesirable customer experiences.

One of the most frustrating things about omnichannel customer service systems is that customers hate being passed around multiple people to get the answers they seek. According to Gladly’s 2018 Customer Service Expectations Survey, 71% desire a consistent experience across any channel, but only 29% get it.

Consistency is also critical when dealing with multiple people across various service channels with 76% citing that they receive conflicting answers for the same issue from different representatives.

Next level customer support leaders ensure that product and skill training is consistent across all channels as they empower service agents to handle multiple channels and tackle issues without having to send customers to higher authority support staff.

While many businesses are already providing self-service solutions to enable customers to solve product or service issues themselves, it’s critical to have human support to fall back on if the self-service solution fails to deliver the solution customers need.

According to Gartner, 85% of customer relationships with an enterprise will be without interacting with a human by 2020.

Keeping that in mind, customer service leadership must design robust self-support solutions with relevant and easy to understand information on company websites, in the knowledge base and FAQ section and through other media like video.

To truly delight customers and sustain the effort, senior executives successful in creating exceptional customer support invest in developing uninterrupted systems across all channels and provide their customer service agents with the right tools and technologies that drive seamless interactions. This pleases the customer as it reduces customer efforts and boosts customer loyalty which further spurs business growth.

2. Personalize Customer Experiences

One of the biggest complaints that customers have with businesses when it comes to customer service is that they don’t feel appreciated. Customer service is apparently failing to engage with customers on an emotional level.

According to research, personalization of the customer service experience is one of the critical aspects that contribute to feeling emotionally connected with a brand and driving engagement.

Although many businesses are experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) and chat-bots to scale volumes and execute routine inquiries, what is lacking from these new technologies is the absence of human connection with the customer.

The best companies know that they must find a balance between technology and human support — where personalization is most effective.

Even if the query received from a customer is standard, to that customer their question is new, and therefore their experience is unique. And businesses that understand this fundamental concept go one step further in creating genuine, positive, and personal connections with their customers.

Data is central to personalization. Businesses that utilize intelligence and information found in market research, financial data, press reports, social media listening posts and analytics are often seen breaking ground in personalizing a customer’s experience with their company.

Customer data keeps track of customer’s likes and dislikes and helps categorize customers into various groups based on purchasing behavior or support issues. Customer service agents are better equipped to personalize outcomes for the customer and create a tailored customer experience when they have all the data on various customers.

That is why 70% of enterprises have increased their spending on real-time customer analytics solutions over the past year, according to insights from a new study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services.

The same study also tells us that 58% of enterprises are seeing a significant increase in customer retention and loyalty as a result of using customer analytics which is essential for improving customer experience across all marketing, selling and service channels.

Basically, it’s important not to ignore customer feedback. This is where you find invaluable information about the customer and leading businesses that deliver exceptional customer service know this and actively seek out feedback from their customers.

3. Invest in People Skills

Another main reason for people to cease doing business with an organization is that they are not able to speak to a person.

Automation is excellent, and many customer problems are solved with seamless technology. But what nurtures an emotional connection with the customers is real people.

Genuine human connection is vital to foster a positive customer experience. And while companies must invest and develop automated technologies and CRM systems to streamline customer service, it’s important not to forget that a real live person to talk to makes a big difference.

But it is also critical that customers don’t have to wade through multiple menus, various recordings, or wait too long before they can speak to a customer service representative.

According to the Institute of Customer Service’s (ICS) research, one of the three main factors in maximizing the ROI on customer service are employee based attributes — selecting the right staff, empowering staff, and training and development of staff in soft skills.

Leading companies don’t hesitate to hire the right kind of people and invest in training them in soft skills necessary to deliver exceptional customer service.

Empathy is one such soft skill and probably one of the most important to develop.

Customers want businesses to understand them and their issues. They want to be listened to and they want to feel appreciated and valued. Too often customer service agents sound clinical and embark on a data gathering quest without portraying any understanding of the customer.

Encountering rude and unhelpful staff is a big complaint against some businesses and their customer service experience, causing customers to cease any interactions with that organization.

But experienced leaders rethink customer experiences by putting themselves in the shoes of the customer. They train their staff to see things from the customers’ perspective and to actively listen to customers so that they can understand the customer’s viewpoint without bias, while they show their appreciation for the customer through genuine verbal and nonverbal gestures.

At the most basic level, it comes down to being genuinely friendly and patient with customers — human skills that are still inadequate in customer service staff across many businesses.

According to 2017 Digital Marketing Trends survey, friendly customer service agents succeed at upselling 42% more often than agents customers rated as unfriendly or neutral — a clear incentive to train your staff in exceptional people skills.

Conclusion

When outstanding customer service is one of the main differentiators that either retain customers or drives them away, it is critical for customer service leadership to recognize the importance of delivering an outstanding level of customer service experience that meets customers’ demands and keeps them coming back to your organization.

Realigning the customer service model in your organization with these three genuine examples of good customer service is wise as well as profitable.

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