5 Essential Customer Service Tips
Many organisations are now moving to a model of analysing every interaction, across every channel, producing metrics designed to perfect the customer experience. It is with this in mind that the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) report (http://bit.ly/1SfdalY) published by the Institute of Customer Service in July 2015 makes for an interesting read. It indicates the trend for customer satisfaction as having flat-lined with only a 0.2% improvement between the months of January and June this year. This is against a background of two years of successive decline. The report offers a number of insights, not least: –
- The fundamental importance of executing the basics of customer service flawlessly and consistently
- The effectiveness of an organisation in dealing with a problem or complaint is a key differentiator when it comes to customer satisfaction
- 41.3% of customer complaints were escalated
The first two points stand out markedly as they extol the virtues of getting the ‘basics’ right. The third point and the overall findings indicate that for many organisations they are some way off the mark. So what constitutes the ‘basics of customer service’?
1. Make your organisation easy to deal with – Customer effort determines how easy your organisation is to interact with. It shares a close relationship with customer satisfaction. Your communication channels should be easy to navigate, closely monitored and your organisation should be responsive to these channels.
2. Listen and empathise – Ensure every problem or query is correctly detailed. It is equally important to understand the impact it has on your customer. Don’t rush this stage. If the issue is passed to another employee or department it is incredibly important that this information and understanding is captured and relayed. A customer forced to repeat a problem shows indifference on the part of your organisation.
3. Empower your employees – Equip your employees to make decisions and afford them the flexibility to balance the needs of your customer with the commercial needs of your organisation. This includes the ability to reach out, unhindered, to any Subject Matter Expert within your organisation. Reducing the communication chain has a beneficial effect on both your customer and your organisation.
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Make sure your customer is kept informed. Ensure communication is regular, clear and concise; waffle is for breakfast only. Agree a communication timescale from the onset and stick to it regardless of the status.
5. Create exceptions to the rules – Processes are great but customers (people) remember and recount experiences which stand out. Scripts have their place but customers will become agitated when they feel they are being systematically led down the wrong path. The same problem can affect two customers in different ways, treat each customer as an individual and listen to them. This will breed loyalty, a key influencer in customer satisfaction.
Whilst the data for the UKCSI is garnered from larger organisations it is smaller organisations that should be able to capitalise on some of the weaknesses identified with their larger counterparts. Responsiveness, flexibility, communication and decision making are all areas that lend themselves to a small business setup, unencumbered by the barriers or constraints with which a larger organisation have to contend with. A small business can ingrain these basic principles into their DNA far easier and use them as a platform on which to build their business and future success.
Customer Service is not a department; it is the embodiment of how an organisation deals with it’s customers. It is no coincidence that organisations that are performing well in the market place are more likely to have a higher Customer Satisfaction rating.