When you look for ways to improve customer service, consider the degree of effort that customers use to fix an issue with your product or service. It may be the determining factor in whether or not they walk out the door never to return.
This was the finding of a 2015 study conducted by CEB, a best practice insight and technology company (now a part of Gartner), that set out to examine the impact of customer service interactions on customer loyalty.
The research involving 97,000 consumers and business customers worldwide reveals that 96 percent of customers who have to put a high effort in customer service interactions are more disloyal compared with only 9 percent of those with low-effort experiences.
In exploring ways to improve customer service, consider these seven tips. They offer insight on how you can provide an effortless experience for your customers when they seek assistance with problems or when they have questions about your product or service.
1. Set up a first-call resolution policy.
One of the primary ways to improve customer service and provide an effortless experience is to do whatever you can to resolve customer issues on the first try.
That is, ensure that whoever interacts with the customer, whether by phone or online chat, is trained and equipped to find the solution to whatever issue is affecting the customer. Don't force customers to re-contact your company to solve an issue.
2. Institute a "say it only once" process.
If a caller is transferred to another person in customer service, do you require them to re-explain their issue?
Having to repeat information is an annoyance for the customer that may be easily avoided. What system can you institute to capture the customer's explanations without forcing them to repeat what they said to a second, and in some cases even a third person? This one change may make a big difference when looking for ways to improve customer service.
3. Build flexibility in your scripts.
Having scripts for customer service employees to follow can be helpful to ensure uniformity of responses. However, it's important to allow employees to use their own judgment when dealing with an issue.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I contacted a plumbing company during an emergency. The customer care employee who answered started by asking me to respond to a questionnaire. The first question was how I had come across the company. As it was an emergency, I asked the person if she can transfer me to someone who can deal with my issue right away and I would be happy to answer the questionnaire later.
Her response was: "I am sorry, our policy requires me to ask these questions first."
I decided to try the next advertised company and received this response: "Let me transfer you to our expert in this area who will help you right away."
One of the ways to improve customer service is to train employees to sense what's going on with a customer who's seeking help and empower them to deviate from the script to make it easy for customers to get what they need.
4. Make velocity your mantra.
As a small to medium-size business, speed may be one of your most important advantages over large companies.
Consider tracking the velocity with which you deliver what you sell, answer requests or deal with potential complaints. Strive to answer emails or voicemails from customers the same day. Even if you don't have the answer, acknowledge their communication and let them know that you're working on their issue.
Make it easy for customers to feel confident that they're being taken care of. To that end, make sure that you don't have any unmonitored email boxes.
5. Set up an escalation process.
Customers can easily sense when an agent doesn't have the necessary information or skill to resolve an issue. One sure-fire way to irritate a customer is to have the person wait while the rep is trying a variety of permutations over and over again.
For those occasions when the customer service agent is unable to resolve an issue, it may be helpful to have escalation procedures in place to involve a supervisor or a next-level agent. This is perhaps an overlooked area when looking for ways to improve customer service.
6. Reduce the frustration of returns.
One of the ways of improving customer service is to make it easy for customers to return merchandise. For example, do you require the customer to wait while the sales clerk manually fills in a form requiring the client's contact information, reason for return and signature? Does the client have to wait for a second signature from a supervisor? These may be perceived as time wasters for harried customers.
Think about how you can reduce the chances that the customer will return the merchandise. You can start by educating sales people on the product so that they can explain it well during the sales process. This might prevent people from buying the wrong product in the first place. Add a detailed FAQ section on your website that leaves no questions unanswered.
For e-commence, give people a real feel for the product through high-quality images that include a 360° view, complete descriptions and any details and care instructions. If you sell apparel, consider posting size guides or using online fitting tools such as Virtusize or Zugara.
Also consider including clear guidelines for returns or resolution of issues. You might even go the extra mile and provide a label for returns. All of these initiatives may make the customer experience seem effortless.
7. Provide customers with easy-to-follow instruction manuals.
If your product requires assembly, think about providing concise and clear assembly instructions with plenty of visuals. Instead of a PDF version of a paper manual, explore programs, such as BILT or Animoto, that can help you create digital instruction videos for your product. This may help reduce the frustration of trying to figure out how to assemble a product.
When searching for ways to improve customer service by delivering a low-effort experience, consider not only the customer care people but other departments in the company. Whether it's the IT folks, the accounting department or the marketing group, everyone can play a role in making the customer's life easier.
By making buying from your company as hassle-free as possible, you may be able to stumble upon one of the best ways to increase customer loyalty.
Read more articles on customer relations.