Getting a person to feel good about interacting with your brand is a key goal if you want to retain your existing customers and attract new ones.
Although it might seem that great customer service is a cliché these days and everything has been written about it, in the face of the change caused by the coronavirus, it is worth re-focusing on the topic and analyzing your strategies for building relationships with consumers.
In this post we will explain what customer service experience means, as well as how it differs from customer care and customer support. We will also show you why excellent customer service should be important to your company and what the key areas of this concept are. Some practical examples will complete the picture.
How to Define Customer Service Experience
Making your customers feel special never gets old. And while it's impossible to please every customer every time, certain habits and behaviors on your company's part should conform to the gold standard.
Customer service is a very important area of an organization's functioning, which may consist of many activities, ways of interaction or various forms of helping customers to increase loyalty and encourage further sales in the future.
It differs depending on the industry, company philosophy and market specifics, but within one brand it should be consistent at every stage of contact with the customer.
On the other hand, excellent customer service experience means not only following the best practices in solving customer problems, including respecting their time, guaranteeing a pleasant attitude, or providing competent and useful resources. The best brands are always a step ahead and exceed, not just meet, the expectations of their customers.
Just like one of our clients, Żabka Polska, which recently proposed the following solution for these difficult times:
In Poland, in connection with the pandemic situation, the government ordered the introduction of "Hours for Seniors" in stores, which was aimed at isolating the elderly from younger shoppers, who could suffer infection asymptomatically. From 10:00 AM to noon, only people aged 60 or over were allowed in the shops.
Żabka responded to the needs of its younger clientele and introduced "Hours for the Young". From 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM, every 2 hours, a promotion for a different type of products was launched and could be checked in the Żappka mobile application. Did Żabka's customers expect such a step from the brand? Probably not. Will such a customer service experience have a positive impact on the reception of this chain of stores? It remains to be seen, but we think it was worth it.
As Seth Godin mentioned, customer service means something different for every company or organization. Nevertheless, seeing this area of the brand's business as a necessary evil and joining the “cost-cutting race to the bottom” never ends well if you are committed to retaining a loyal customer base.
Customer Service – Customer Care - Customer Support: Differences
The conceptual differences between customer service, customer support and customer care are not clear to everyone. Each of the fields involve helping customers but they are still three separate domains with different functions and therefore should not be used interchangeably.
Let's start with customer service. This is an area that operates reactively and focused on giving advice or assistance to customers when interacting with the brand. It connects customers with previously designed solutions and prepared answers. If your order is lost, incomplete, or you have problems with the correct use of what you bought, the customer service team will be your first contact.
Moreover, customer service personnel can also provide recommendations to clients when considering a product purchase, thereby influencing their shopping decisions. Therefore, customer service qualifies as an element of end-to-end customer experience. It is usually measured by transaction metrics, such as CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score), average service time, or first contact solution.
Customer care has a slightly broader meaning in business. An additional factor here is building emotional commitment and a long-term bond with the client, before, during and after meeting their expectations.
This kind of interaction can be considered as a way to attract and retain customers by providing high-quality service, competitive prices and product differentiation. Customer care is not as reliable as customer service, because it is focused on interaction with a single client.
On the other hand, the difference between customer service and customer support is that customer service focuses on providing a customer-centric relationship, while customer support is a business-oriented approach.
Customer support is usually associated with the activities of IT vendors and providers, which consist of supporting users in operating their products or services in a correct and efficient manner. Customer support also includes creating knowledge base documentations, analyzing product feedback, and verifying usability.
To measure the effectiveness of customer support, we have to take into account not only transaction indicators, but also business metrics such as NPS (Net Promoter Score) or the churn rate.
Great Customer Service is a Source of Growth, Not a Source of Costs
Why is top-class customer service so important in business? Since most of us have access to the Internet through a smartphone in our pocket, any negative customer experiences towards the company can be quickly shared online. People are much more likely to share their bad experiences online when they feel they have been treated poorly or unfairly by the brands they interact with.
Satisfied customers, on the other hand, tend to act as loyal brand spokespersons, primarily on social media. When you make customers feel appreciated and support them throughout and after their shopping journey, you increase their satisfaction, making them more likely to recommend you to their friends (and nothing works better than word of mouth!).
Today, companies operate in a more dynamic and rapidly changing environment than ever, and customers can choose from many options and possibilities in all areas of life. Therefore, customer service in 2020 and beyond should be based on authenticity, trust and building partnerships. Remember that sometimes one negative experience is enough for a customer to switch from your brand to a competitor's product or service (and 51% of them will never come back to you).
Recently, on Zalando's Facebook profile, there was a post by an annoyed customer who had been waiting for his package for over 10 days. In the meantime, he was informed that the delay was due to the product being out of stock.
The store responded immediately. The customer received an apology, all information about the status of his shipment was sent to him by e-mail and also received a discount code. Although initially the brand abused the customer's trust, the problem has been dealt with and a positive gesture will remain in the client's memory.
Companies that focus more on customer service experience always have an advantage over their competitors. Customer service data and reports are an invaluable source of information about a customer's journey, current pains and expected gains, as well as actual uses of products or services.
All types of data from customer service channels (e.g. call center, social media, online help center) are a rich resource that brands should use strategically. Drawing conclusions from them and translating into product or service design can help build a more competitive offer and directly contribute to savings, additional revenues, and even creating market-changing innovations.
Key Areas in Building Exceptional Customer Service
Increasingly, customers judge companies based on how satisfying each interaction they have with the brand is - and that matters even more to them than the product itself or its price.
High-quality service should be delivered with these basic steps:
1. Create and follow a clear vision of customer service in your company.
To provide exceptional experiences for your consumers, you must make a sincere commitment to treating all of your brand audiences to the highest standards. Formulate clear rules and enforce them properly. Promote, among your employees, a culture of not only meeting expectations, but also exceeding them.
2. Select team members with extensive knowledge of the product and social competences.
Professionally and comprehensively answering questions and providing assistance in solving problems are the basic assumptions of each customer service team. It’s important to base the communication on empathy, active listening and being proactive.
If any of your products are no longer available or your site is down, stay ahead of customer questions, contact them and explain the problem. They may not be happy with the situation, but will surely appreciate that you let them know.
There’s no such thing as a bad customer, but crises happen. It’s not enough to get rid of the intrusive customer as soon as possible—your customer service specialists must remain calm, take the time to listen to them and understand their needs.
3. Customize your customer service experiences.
Providing personalized customer service means an individual approach and responding to specific customer needs and wishes. Impersonal contact with a brand seems irritating these days, while personalization means adding a familiar, human character to every interaction. Reimagine your way of understanding customers better by personalizing each step of contact with the brand.
4. Be in the right place at the right time.
Clients want to be able to contact a customer service representative through whatever channel is most convenient for them at the time. Offering support through the communication channels your customers rely on the most is the answer to so-called "micro-moments".
These are the seconds when customers suddenly realize they need an answer, help or solution, and at the same time expect brands to deliver exactly what they are looking for immediately. The key at this point is the company's reaction, which can be designed in advance as part of an omnichannel experiences strategy.
After analyzing these core elements in your current customer service plan, you can move on to building a more extensive customer service experience strategy.
What You Cannot Forget When Building an Excellent Customer Service Strategy
Providing great customer service takes a lot of effort, but it’s not impossible. Like any key aspect of your business, it requires a strategic approach.
Getting straight to the point - first of all, you need to know who your customers are and what they want. A successful customer service strategy does not play with guessing anyone's expectations. Businesses need to conduct need-focused research through market analysis, satisfaction surveys, focus groups and many other sources of information. This way, organizations can make decisions based on real data.
Of course, you have to start out fairly generally, by creating personas and the appropriate segments. Nevertheless, it is equally important to collect and analyze information at the level of a single client.
According to the Microsoft report "State of global customer service" as many as 76% of consumers expect that customer service employees should have access to information about who the customer is, what they bought and have access to their product or service information and history. It will be easier to implement a customer-centric strategy in the company if you collect and analyze all your data in one place, preferably in real time.
After determining who your audience is and what their needs are, you can go to the next stage, which is to create an emotional connection with them. Have you ever heard the saying: "It doesn't matter what you say, it matters how you say it"? Customers become loyal because they perceive the brand emotionally. When using a product or service, each time they subconsciously feel the emotion it evoked at the beginning.
Even before the pandemic, empathy, emotional bond and personalized experiences were integral to exceptional customer service - not just across e-commerce channels. At a time when the need for the highest possible sales rate is particularly painful, it’s important to remember about the people who make your business run.
Providing a little bit of ease for customers you know are struggling with problems can do a lot. Try introducing a reduced or free service like free shipping, extended free trials, or make your return policy more flexible. However, it is not just about financial matters. Active and helpful customer service across all channels is one of the most effective ways to build an emotional relationship.
Therefore, how can you tell if you are providing your customers with a "WOW experience"? Ask for direct feedback from customers and employees, check customer feedback reports, analyze online reviews and monitor social media. Record the experiences, thoughts and suggestions regularly.
Every opinion from the community is important, even if it's not positive. Businesses interested in improving customer service try to understand the gaps, challenges, problems or bugs that need to be changed and fixed. Opinions and recommendations may be collected, for example, through long form-based surveys, short in-app surveys, phone calls or suggestion boards.
The Last Chance to Catch the AI and Automation Train
The impact of Covid-19 has prompted many companies to re-evaluate their technology needs, especially when it comes to automating customer service and the use of artificial intelligence.
In mid-September, the International Data Corporation (IDC) released a report predicting that global AI spending will double to $100 billion by 2024, where one of the main determinants of artificial intelligence deployment is providing better customer service.
AI, chatbots, and automated self-service technologies free employees from parts of routine support requests, so they can focus on more complex tasks.
Companies equipped with this type of technology can monitor an almost infinite number of actions on your website or application in terms of dysfunction, identifying customers who are experiencing problems and defining their source. This can significantly lower customer churn rates on the shopping journey, as well as reduce complaints and increase customer satisfaction.
Perhaps you are concerned that the implementation of AI in your company will mean a high cost. However, remember that hiring and training employees also takes time and money, and expenses can increase rapidly with staff turnover. Automation tools can deliver unprecedented time and cost savings in this area.
There is no need to retrain the team to update knowledge and resources, you just have to reconfigure the software. Importantly, automated customer service does not apply to time zones or holidays. Thanks to this, you have the opportunity to provide constant customer service and your clients don’t have to wait hours for a response to their problem.
Artificial intelligence is also a powerful personalization tool. It can include product recommendations, real-time website content customization, behavioral and visual search engine and much more. Intelligently adjusting to user preferences can significantly improve the interaction with customer service, increase consumer satisfaction, positively affect conversion and encourage to repeat purchases.
Responsive Customer Service in Times of Global Crisis
Faced with social distancing, when many companies have had to close their doors and switch to remote work, providing exceptional customer service can be a tough nut to crack. Customer expectations are growing, but at the same time a number of tools and tactics are developed to facilitate and improve their service.
Excellent service can have many faces, but the most important thing is to constantly raise standards, because it makes us competitive. Select the right people with specific competences, take advantage of the possibilities of modern technologies, be proactive and properly manage customer expectations. Sound like a good way to take your business to the next level? Let's get to work!