When was the last time you've experienced outstanding customer service? Do you remember how it made you feel? While it's best to make similar moments seem to emerge naturally they rarely happen by accident. They're often a result of careful planning and processes that systematically support people in making great customer experiences happen.
In this article, we'll go through the steps that you can take to instill exceptional customer experiences in the DNA of your company. By following them you'll be able to spark moments of joy and delight your customers more frequently, and when it happens they'll repay you with repeated business and referrals. But first, let's define customer service and gain a better understanding of why it's so important.
What's Customer Service?
Customer service is about showing genuine interest and care about the experiences people are having when they interact with your business, regardless of where these people are in their customer journey. It can be defined as the assistance you deliver before, during, and after they make a purchase that enables them to derive maximum benefits from the products and services you deliver.
It's important to remember that customer service is more than just providing quick and relevant answers. It's one of the most important aspects of the promise your company makes to its customers, and it's vital to keep your promises because if you don't, you can neither expect people to stay as paying customers for very long nor to help you promote your business among their friends and relatives.
Customer Service vs. Customer Support
While customer service and customer support are closely related are not the same thing and it's important to understand the difference. Here's a handy comparison:
Customer service is an umbrella term for all the activities focused on enhancing customer experience and maximising the benefits they get from their purchases. It's all about providing useful advice, guiding customers, and ensuring that they're making the right decisions to build long-term relationships based on mutual trust.
Customer support on the other hand focuses on the functional aspects of getting things done. It starts when a customer knows what needs to be done and either wants to do it or wants to learn how to do it. Customer support is like a swiss army knife that helps to resolve common needs clients have quickly and effortlessly.
What Shapes Customer Perception?
In the book "The Power of Moments" Chip and Dan Heath talk about research that contrasts with common beliefs, and claims that people tend to ignore most of what happened during the interaction with a business and focus on a few key moments, that make their experiences "mostly forgettable" and "occasionally remarkable". Moments that have the biggest chances to influence human opinions are:
- "The peaks" - the moments of joy and satisfaction.
- "The pits" - the moments of disappointment.
- "The ending" - how it all ended.
This means that, well, human beings are emotional creatures and they don't assess their experiences by just averaging them minute-by-minute. Instead, they tend to forget what was aligned with their expectations and remember moments that caused extreme emotional responses both good and bad and use the ending to form their final verdict.
A conclusion that comes as a result of their findings is that raising the bar for what's expected by the consumers not only makes it more challenging to delight them, because the former moments of joy, are becoming the norm but also makes the lack of experiences that became expected unacceptable. These findings help to establish the direction for improvement efforts we'll talk about in a moment.
What Makes a Good Customer Service?
Good customer service is a subjective opinion every customer has about how they're being treated when they engage with your business. Every single interaction contributes to a collective perception of the quality of services your company provides and is expressed in the form of reviews or other forms of passing that information from one person to another.
Although what's perceived as good service is constantly evolving and might vary slightly between industries customer expectations tend to gravitate towards the best experiences they are familiar with from interacting with big brands. We've analysed many different studies and compiled a list of the most common expectations people have when they interact with customer service:
Quick Problem Resolution
While some situations require additional research, it's important to remember that speed and convenience win over customers today. Clients demand fast replies to their questions because it saves time and makes them feel important.
Having around-the-clock service is the new normal and not having one makes your company look like you don't care about customer satisfaction. Enabling clients to access your services any time they need them increases their loyalty to your brand.
Service Across Channels
Customers want to connect with your business on the same channels they use to talk to friends and family. So being there to help them on their channel of choice is one of the best ways to create a customer service experience they're going to enjoy.
Not Having to Repeat
When customers have to repeat themselves, it can leave them with an impression that either there's no one capable of handling their query, or the business doesn't pay attention, and none of these will help to improve their levels of satisfaction.
Anticipating Their Needs
Instead of always waiting for customers to contact your business in some cases it's better to prepare in advance and anticipate their needs before they arise. Offering proactive support is one of the best ways to deliver good customer service.
Some customers instead of wanting to talk to a human agent prefer to take care of the problems themselves by using self-service options. This is especially true for younger generations of buyers that are expected to account for 40% of customers.
Is Customer Service Hard?
Customer demands are at an all-time high, and this is especially true in the area of customer service. Customers expect support to be available 24/7 and they want to be able to reach your business no matter where they are. This can be difficult during peak hours when some customers visit your establishment while others expect prompt responses over a variety of digital channels.
Customer support reps are expending a lot of physical and mental energy during every customer interaction, and can quickly feel overwhelmed with an influx of incoming customer requests and difficulty in prioritising them. This complicates things primarily for companies that don't leverage technology advancements to complement staff skills and abilities to reduce their workloads.
How to Improve Customer Service?
In the beginning, it might be hard to know exactly where should you focus your improvement efforts. Should you adjust customer support hours? Should you focus on your staff's well-being? Maybe you should rethink your customer service strategy altogether? While these might be viable options you might also want to consider leveraging technology advancements to augment human service reps with chatbots and artificial intelligence.
Doing this will set a foundation for a hybrid approach to customer service where real-time conversations are powered by a combination of live agents and intelligent chatbots. Rather than blocking interactions and forcing your customers to wait, you can welcome them with personalised messages and offer help as soon as their questions arise regardless of the channel they've decided to engage on.
When a customer sends a common query or your service reps are not available a customer service chatbot can step in and help. In addition to checking your availability, canceling, or rescheduling appointments it can provide answers to common questions from your knowledge base, links to relevant help documents, and other useful content.
Opening real-time messaging channels and partially automating them with chatbots can sound like a lot, but it boils down to three steps that can result in a long-lasting impact on your customer service and quickly help to make your customers feel the difference:
Understand Customer Needs
Improving customer service starts with a better understanding of customer needs because first, you need to know how can you serve them better. You might have the best ship, but if you don't know where to go chances of arriving at the desired destination are slim to none. Knowing is just half the battle because you also have to prioritise their needs to create an action plan for sustainable improvement.
Meet Consumer Expectations
Now it's time to put newly acquired knowledge into action and start implementing repeatable and scalable processes that will enable your business to consistently meet customer expectations. This is when the rubber meets the road causing your clients to start noticing the difference between the quality of services your business delivers and other alternatives available on the market.
Go Above and Beyond
All the previous steps should help to free up your time and let you focus on things that matter most in building lasting relationships with clients. Exceeding customer expectations is what brings the biggest opportunity to impact customers' perception about the quality of services your company provides. It can be a total game-changer that can propel your business to previously unreachable heights.
Why is Customer Service Important?
Customer service has always been an important part of a successful business, but in today's highly competitive market it's become more essential than ever. In a world where there are many alternatives available, it's increasingly more difficult to differentiate based on products or services alone, and most customers rely on the overall quality of services a company provides to make their choice.
Many studies lead to a common conclusion that a customer experience is becoming a key differentiator, which means that this is what sets your business apart from the competition. Customer service has an impact on how loyal your customers are to your brand, products, and services, and improvement in this area enables you to retain more customers and grow your business faster by decreasing the cost of customer acquisition.
Before the Purchase
Although brand experience used to be an area reserved for marketing professionals it's important to remember that marketing messaging is just a fraction of what shapes how your brand is perceived. Even the best slogans or marketing materials won't bring sustainable advantages over the competition when they don't reflect the actual quality of services you provide.
After the Purchase
Imagine a first-time visitor enters your establishment, you greet them and answer all their questions and after some time they decide to buy. Now picture the same person coming back later with a question about the product or service they've purchased, but this time instead of continuing to be their trusted adviser you refuse to talk to them and just ask them to submit their query and wait for a reply.
Think for a moment how it'd make them feel. They've been expecting the same quick, friendly, conversational experience they received before deciding to buy from your company, but now they're treated as temporary inconveniences that need to be dismissed as soon as possible? Do you think they'll come back for more? Or tell their friends and family about the fantastic experience your company delivers?
Seamless Transition from Presale to Aftersale
Although some professionals see closing a deal as the final step of the process, the truth is that when you convert prospects to become your clients, customer service doesn't stop. The only thing that changes is a set of activities you focus on, and while it's always fun to celebrate your successes, you should put your feet on the desk, or do a happy dance just for a brief moment.
After doing that you should transition your full attention from acquiring a new customer to making sure that what your company delivers aligns with their expectations so they can make the most out of their purchase. When a presale conversation ends, the aftersale conversation begins, and it's time to delight your customer and make sure they want to come back.
Providing the same conversational experience after the sale is an important next step to keep the customers satisfied. Not only does it allow for a smoother transition for the customers, because they can continue to use their channel of choice but also contributes to a better overall experience your customers get when interacting with your business.
Will Customer Service be Replaced by Robots?
Customer service is becoming increasingly automated. Chatbots are a prime example of this, as they can answer simple questions quickly and efficiently without the need for human attention. However, this doesn't mean human support is going anywhere. Sometimes there's no substitute for the empathy live agents can deliver or the kind of intelligence that needs creativity or judgement to resolve a query.
In these situations, it's often the human ability to draw parallels with similar experiences that allows for problems in complex or unusual circumstances to be resolved. It’s then essential for a chatbot to be able to seamlessly hand over to a live agent when the need arises, ensuring that all the information already gleaned during the conversation is transferred too, so the customer doesn’t have to start from the beginning again.
Chatbots and live agents can work together in harmony, where chatbots rather than replacing them, undertake standard queries and perform repeatable and mundane tasks saving their human counterparts from boredom and overheads, and let them focus on more creative parts of their jobs, which improves their well-being and overall job satisfaction.
Building a successful business is about providing a stellar experience at every step of the way to everyone you interact with from the first-time visitors to loyal customers and everyone in-between. By combining a conversational approach to demand generation and inbound sales with exceptional customer service you can rightfully earn a reputation of a company that truly cares about its customers.
Customers are constantly raising the bar for how they would like to be treated, and they're not willing to compromise if you don't make it a top priority. Chatbots can help to improve customer service by creating a repeatable and scalable process for reducing the number of disappointments, consistently meeting customer expectations, and making their experiences occasionally remarkable.