Customer service is becoming increasingly important, especially as our economy progressively moves from the tertiary sector to the quaternary sector (this is the business which supports the service sector).
There’s less acceptance of the old “Leave a message and we’ll get back to you” these days, especially with the introduction of AI (mainly chatbots) into business communication. Businesses simply must respond more quickly, positively, and provide increasingly higher-quality resources or responses.
Businesses need a friendly IT support team who can guide you if IT issues are impacting your customer service, as well. Fortunately, a 2018 customer service survey indicated that personal service, i.e. being recognised as an individual client with an ongoing relationship, mattered more than speed of service. To note, speed was ranked third in key expectations of clients that year but, unsurprisingly, moved to second position in the 2019 survey, meaning customers and clients both seek support which is quick, high-quality, and personalized.
What are customers looking for?
Over the past few decades, many surveys have inquired about customers’ perceptions of customer service. Within the last few years, three trends remain in the top three positions: customer experience, personal service, and cost. Additionally, there’s a significant and increasing generational difference in customer expectations.
For example, a recent buzzword you may have heard is customers wanting an ‘omnichannel experience.’ Put simply, this means customers seek to access company support through different mediums like email, telephone, SMS, live chat, etc. Customers are no longer happy with just an unmonitored phone number. In addition to this, they want a seamless quality service across every channel. Finally, customers expect to have companies from which they purchase support them, e.g. to know who they are and the history of their relationship.
An important statistic in the 2018 survey – and repeated in 2019 – is that customers don’t like the Interactive Voice Response (IVR), otherwise known as the menu of choices before you’re able to speak to a human on the phone. While there’s been a move to IVRs by major companies, 98% of respondents state they attempt to move past the IVR, and almost 60% see navigating an IVR as a negative mark against the company.
Interestingly, Harvard Business Review found the introduction of IVR throughout a particular retail bank in the US triggered an unexpected result: customers ended up physically going into the bank because they didn’t want to deal with the IVR. The lesson? If your business has IVR, e.g. automated phone systems, consider speaking to them face-to-face sometimes, if possible.
The positives of providing great customer service
There are encouraging signs, however, for companies ‘doing it right’ and providing good customer service. Customers seek and will pay more for services from a company with a good track record; in fact, 59% value personal service and 68% will pay more for good service.
The other good piece of news is: customers talk! Approximately 80% of satisfied customers go on to tell others about their experience, and a further 40% make the effort to post about it on social media. This is exceedingly good news for the business that are doing it right. So, when you are happy and you tell a friend, you are not alone. However, the inverse is also true, more of less the same percentages would intentionally tell other about their negative experience, by both word-of-mouth, and on social media. Therefore, good service is rewarded.
Millennials and retail: a generational shift
While the marketplace is ever-changing, customers are generally very loyal; it usually takes a few bad experiences to make the average customer move to a different brand. However, it’s a different story for millennials. It’s been reported that millennials are less brand sensitive, less loyal, and will move after only one bad experience. It’s also been reported millennials wait a maximum of four hours for a Facebook reply before moving. The assumption to be made here is that businesses need to think differently when Baby Boomers or Generations X, Y (Millennials), and Z are concerned. A common takeaway from the various research undertaken is younger consumers tend to use a wider variety of platforms to connect with support and generally expect a speedy reply.
Providing the best customer service
Customers are actively looking for companies which meet these expectations and have proven track records in customer service. If the company advertises ‘fast response time’, do reviews on their site back it up? Does your company offer different ways to get in touch (the omnichannel experience) like a ‘Get in Touch’ contact page with an e-mail address, phone number, Facebook page, Twitter handle, etc? This isn’t just a millennial expectation anymore – it’s the current expectation in the twenty-first century.
A good company defines its service standards, which may be in terms of time, accuracy (with information), or appropriateness. When service standards are defined and boldly stated, the customer understands what to expect from you.
Does your business do this?