What Does Great Customer Service Mean?
Good customer service means treating customers with a friendly, helpful attitude. Of course, friendliness doesn’t count for much without efficiency. Therefore, your friendly, helpful customer service representatives must have enough knowledge at their fingertips to provide information, problem resolution, or effective escalation of issues.
Charm and knowledge can only go so far. It’s inevitable that you will occasionally be asked a question to which the answer is blindingly obvious, or worse. But we are not in favor of groveling. Great service means that the customer should feel as if they are valued and their feelings respected, even while they are gently redirected to a more productive course of action.
But you knew all that. Really, the basics of great customer service don’t change from year to year. The delivery mechanisms, the business environment, and the technologies continue to evolve.
So what’s new in 2016? Here is our list of the top 9 trends to watch in customer service delivery, 2016-style:
- Customers are smarter than ever. More than ever before, users know the difference between good and bad customer experiences. Our own marketing efforts are teaching customers what they should expect. What’s more, they will be comparing you both to your competitors and to organizations outside of your main area of business.
- Customers are younger than ever. This means they are using non-traditional channels. In addition to your web portal, therefore, you have to factor in phone, email, instant chat, social channels, smartphone apps, and other ways of connecting. You don’t need to use all channels, but you must use the ones that your customers want to use. Be prepared to move outside your comfort zone. Which brings us to …
- Mobile is everything. The smartphone is more than a phone – it’s a way of life. Most of your customers – and the younger they are, the truer this statement is – will use the smartphone almost exclusively to conduct their business, access your website, review your product, and contact your customer service desk.
- Customization is key. The more you know about your individual customer’s buying patterns and preferences, the better and more customized will be the experience you create for your customer. Make sure your customer service applications allow you to collate data that helps you build a closer connection with the customer.
- Social sharing builds reputation. Word of mouth referrals are more powerful than ever before. Peer reviews, customer case studies, and word-of-mouth endorsements are more compelling than billboard advertising. The trick is to deliver customer service that consistently meets people’s expectations. Even an ordinary product can rise to the top on a tide of great customer experiences.
- Self-help customer service is popular (up to a point). Many customers now want to find answers to their questions online if possible. The trick is to give them options to quickly switch from self help to reach a human if the answer they seek is not available through your FAQ or knowledge center.
- Social media customer service is here to stay. More and more people are turning to Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and other online channels to share their customer service experiences, and this has completely changed the way companies allocate their customer services resources. Great customer service means that a snarky comment on Facebook or Twitter will trigger a personalized response from someone who wants to solve your problem. The main power of social media (according to a recent discussion on the Customer Service Innovation Group on LinkedIn) is that poor customer service is no longer hidden in end of week spreadsheets.
- Value beats price or features. Even in the most cut-throat scenarios, customers place a premium on great customer service versus price or lists of add-on features. Industry research suggests that delivering a great customer experience will be the biggest competitive differentiator in the next three to five years. And you can’t have a great customer experience without great customer service.
- Actionable analytics. Businesses are looking for new ways to source, analyze, and interpret data. Does your customer service application include ways to collate, visualize, and report statistics that can feed into an organization’s continual improvement efforts?
Other trends and issues are emerging but these are our top nine. Can you add a tenth? We’d love to hear from you.