We all know bad customer service when we see it. Take Comcast’s latest debacle, for example. The company was recently in the news for switching the names on complaining customers’ bills to taunts like “Super B**** Bauer” and “A**hole Brown.”
If you’re sticking with clients’ legal names, you’re doing a good job, right? Not quite.
While you may be avoiding disasters, that doesn’t mean you’re doing everything you can to make customers happy. In reality, the difference between passable customer service and the kind that inspires passion can be tough to quantify, but it’s a difference people notice.
What can be quantified is the impact of good customer service. Using SurveyMonkey Audience, we polled more than 400 Americans about how customer service impacts their buying decisions. We discovered that 72% of respondents are “very” or “extremely” likely to shop at a company with a stellar customer care reputation—one whose name evokes positive emotions.
Not only that, but if customers have a “very good” or “excellent” customer service experience, 97% of them said they are “very” or “extremely likely” to tell friends and family about it. Those stats can translate into huge wins for your business! Invest in exceeding your existing customers’ expectations, and they’ll bring in new customers for you.
So how can you go from merely adequate to all star? Examples of good customer service vary across industries. For a lawyer, being reachable at odd hours may be critical, while a high priority for some retailers might be free shipping on returns. But no matter what business you’re in, the basis of all successful customer care is often just making a customer feel like you’re their ally.
Customers want to know they can trust you like they trust a friend—that you’ll try your best to serve their interests, tell them the truth, and show up when they need you. Every customer touchpoint should reinforce a positive experience and that you’re working on their side. Boost your customer service by making things easy, saying what you mean, being pleasant, and handling problems well.
Everybody’s busy. So be your customer’s ally by making every interaction with your business as uncomplicated as possible. The Harvard Business Review has reported that customer service is more likely to send a patron scurrying to a competitor if it’s difficult to get problems solved, no matter how much effort you invest in being delightful.
Our own research also says getting quick and effective solutions is customers’ #1 priority. Keeping things straightforward shows that you value their time as much as they do.
Try to anticipate obstacles to simple interactions, and resolve them in advance—don’t make your customers learn the hard way. Often this means giving customers pieces of useful information when the right time comes.
Go on a customer journey and identify every moment where they might get lost. When they need your service, are you easy to discover? Is your logo readable or recognizable? Is any part of a visit to your store or website needlessly confusing? If they are ever forced to expend more effort than is totally necessary to get what they need, they’ll notice, and might abandon you before making a single purchase.
This is especially critical for online retailers. EConsultancy says 83% of shoppers need customer support when making a purchase online. If they can’t get the help they need right away, they’ll click over to someone else’s site. You can use a survey to not only gather customers’ thoughts about your website, but also fully understand your results. Head all of these issues off by doing the work for your customers to make things easy.
Customer love is about trust, so they’ve got to believe what you tell them. In fact, our survey showed this is a high priority for consumers. Don’t leave customers wondering if you mean what you say, or they’ll start to think of you more as a source of problems than solutions.
Some of these strategies may seem obvious, like showing up for service calls when you say you will, following through on promised discounts, and being ready to back up claims about your product quality or ethical sourcing.
But also watch out for subtler cues that customers perceive you as inauthentic. Many people have heard a recorded voice say, “Your call is important to us,” just to be put on hold for 25 minutes. It shows that the company wants you to feel like they care about you without actually investing themselves.
Not only do customers walk away from those interactions frustrated over their lost time, they might feel manipulated. To leave the right impression, be prepared to back up your words with action.
Being pleasant generally means certain things. Be friendly and warm, and never unload a bad mood on a customer. If you have a physical store, keep it clean.
But in other cases, the idea of pleasant experience differs. Sometimes it can mean being efficient. If you run a plumbing company, your customers may want you to get in and out of their lives as soon as possible. Making it pleasant for them means showing up on time and fixing their issue quickly.
Though if you’re a high-end retailer, some customers might come to your store hoping to linger and enjoy themselves. Good customer service could then mean things like playing music or decorating the space appropriately. Consider using customer satisfaction surveys to understand exactly what “being pleasant” truly means to your customers.
Problems will come up, and sometimes they cannot be avoided or easily fixed. Shipped merchandise goes missing. Machinery breaks. Buildings flood.
Sometimes a little ingenuity and elbow grease will get you to a solution right away, but you may not be able to solve every issue immediately. You can still deliver good customer service by becoming your customer’s ally against their problem.
If you send them the new sweater they ordered and it’s stolen off their doorstep, great customer care could mean replacing it at no cost to them. Stay positive, commiserate, and help them retrieve the same excitement they felt when first ordering the sweater. Taking responsibility for your customer’s loss might be expensive in the short term, but can also earn their long-term loyalty. Make sure to then measure your customer loyalty by getting your Net Promoter® Score.
Following through on customer complaints is also critical. It shows customers that when things go wrong, you don’t just tell them you care—you really mean it. It’s also good business strategy! By taking their free advice, you can prevent others from suffering the same frustration later.
There’s no shortcut to customer love. The only way to gain the trust and respect that brings in serious business is to spend the time and energy to learn what your clients need. While investing in customer service can be daunting and expensive, realizing the impact it can have on your business will help you succeed.
Integrating your surveys and your CRM can be a powerful tool as well. Try to be an example of good customer service, and your customers will notice—it’s a win-win situation! Put yourself in their shoes, make them feel valued, and earn loyalty that sticks.