The majority of companies claim to deliver ‘good customer service’. This phrase is so overused, that it has lost its value. When it comes to giving customers what they want, actions certainly speak louder than words.
Back in 2013, Walker predicted that customer experience would be the primary differentiator by 2020. In the Customer report, the Global organisation suggested that greater value would be placed on how the customer was treated. It implied that experience would surpass the product and price in influencing purchasing decisions.
An updated report was released in 2017. This indicated that the level of customer expectation was increasing more rapidly than previously thought. It stated that rather than being ‘customer-focused’ organisations should now be aiming to be ‘customer-committed’.
Differentiating on Customer Service
If you are looking for customer service excellence to set your business apart, it has to underpin every single strategic decision.
Most businesses are set up around the ideas of the company owner. This leader may seek advice from partners, business advisors and other stakeholders. They then build their business and take it to market. Already, the business is focused on its objectives, rather than the customers.
If customers are the top priority, it has to start at this embryonic stage. When an initial concept is considered, this vision should be shared and feedback should be sought. This is difficult because it is risky to share business ideas before they are fully formulated. It also requires being completely open to fresh suggestions, which might blow the initial plan out of the water.
Start-ups and established companies that want to lead the way in customer service excellence have to be proactive in communicating with the customer. They need to be open to gathering genuine feedback. They must listen, ask questions to explore suggestions in greater depth, record feedback and use this to support continuous improvement.
Aiming for Continuous Improvement
Delivering a positive customer experience is challenging. As the Walker report indicates, expectations are not fixed. A company has to keep pace with the changing wants and desires of their target audience.
Your customers will have specific expectations about your goods, services and how these are delivered. In generic terms, there is considerable data to support the fact that speed, convenience and personalisation are important factors for customer service excellence, across all industries.
Technology and Customer Service
Advancing technology is improving efficiency and making it easier to hit the mark with speed and convenience. It has provided consumers with a variety of choices about how they shop. Technology also makes it possible for businesses to gather data and apply this to offer greater personalisation. If you understand individual shopping preferences, it is possible to make relevant recommendations.
The issue is that in some organisations, technology has been used to cut costs and replace human interaction. Instead, it should be applied to routine tasks and data collection. This should then free up the people in your team to provide those extra details that make the experience memorable.
The Human Element in Customer Service
Even in a technological world, human interaction is valued. When we are served by a knowledgeable, friendly and helpful person, we create a stronger connection to that company. If we return as a regular customer and are remembered, we feel special and our trust in that brand grows. If that company goes the extra mile, we become raving fans; sharing the positive experience with others and being an unpaid member of the marketing team.
In order to be served by a knowledgeable, friendly and helpful person, companies have to invest in their team. Each employee has to be selected for their attitude, as well as aptitude, their values as much as their qualifications. Their skills should be developed through training and mentoring.
Employees should be given time to really understand the products and service in detail, so they can share the learning with customers. Their opinions and ideas should be heard and considered. In short, they should be given the tools to be confident, happy and empowered at work.
Commitment to Customer Service
It is only a few months until we will be welcoming in 2020. If it is important that your company embraces customer service excellence to stand apart from the competition, you need to:
As business owners, we all need to be acutely aware that consumers have never had so much choice. It is simple to switch loyalties if one brand fails to match expectations, so there is no room for complacency.