Today more than ever, it’s important to close the gap between what customers expect and what companies deliver. Given that CRM and social tools make for instant results, the customer has rightfully set his sights on higher levels of customer service, which include personalized and competent service, immediate results, and a variety of communication options.
Let 2012 be the year you overreach yourself in delivering to your customer. Here are 6 ways you can do this:
1. Understand your customer: Do you really know what your customer thinks? Can you learn from complaints? Benefit from praise? Thanks to feedback management tools, which are easy to implement and use, it’s possible to truly understand what your customer wants (and not what you think he needs).
Companies like British Airways take it one step further and use tools like those offered by Aptean (formerly CDC Software) to help them track and monitor customer feedback and complaints.
Do you really know what your customers want?
2. Give your employees more authority: While you might hesitate to give your employees autonomous power to do as they will, if they are on the frontlines, they will benefit from the freedom to make immediate decisions.
A good example is Zappos which is known to encourage its staff to make decisions ‘beneficial to the company’s overall health and growth’. Zappos even developed their own CRM system based on customer feedback.
3. Adopt tools to help enhance customer experience: Some brands are well designed to foster customer loyalty – think high end fashion, luxury goods, or even a bank. Companies such as mortgage and investment agencies, real estate agencies, and maintenance businesses like plumbers, electricians, and lawn care need to work harder to net and retain their clientele.
No matter your organization however, every customer interaction is the opportunity to build on an existing relationship. If you are an ecommerce store, a good shopping cart can go a long way in creating higher conversion rates. Similarly, any business can benefit from adopting a good CRM system to help with simple, yet vital issues like customer tracking, service resolution, and online support.
Here are 5 customer enhancement tools to explore:
- Clickdensity helps identify and address website architecture efforts via heat maps.
- 4Q Survey encourages customer engagement by helping you gather customer feedback via 4 questions you design.
- Get Satisfaction helps build online communities to facilitate customer conversations
- Zendesk offers a support system to help you track and respond to your customers.
- LiveHelpNow lets you create a live chat system to connect with customers.
4. Anticipate customer needs: Customers who’ve had their needs met generally tend to become loyal followers of a brand. But how about those brands which anticipate customers’ needs before they arise? Can you imagine the impact such an action will have on a current or potential client base? To anticipate a need is to solve your customer’s emerging need. Will he have this same need in the future? Your customers might be satisfied, but are their needs solved?
Airlines have often been given a bad rap when it comes to customer service, but this is one example of when an airlines, Southwest, has anticipated its customers’ needs and acted on it. In this instance, the customer in question, Steven Levitt, has not only become a lifelong fan, but is happy to share his experience on his blog. Cost to Southwest= a phone call. Benefits? Invaluable.
5. Align your services with your brand values: What do you expect when you book into the Ritz-Carlton? Luxury? Comfort? Indulgence? Excellent customer service? The brand delivers on all of this and more. From the moment you check in to the moment you leave, you are treated by gracious and courteous staff whose job it is to make your stay pleasurable and memorable.
Now think of some of the brands you know like Mercedes Benz – engineering, quality, performance, price; Netflix – convenience, affordability, speed; Ikea – reliability, DIY, affordability. Your brand should evoke a certain feeling and deliver a certain promise. Make sure it’s consistent with what the customer expects.
6. Create a defined policy: A small business owner might not feel the urgency of creating a well-defined customer service policy. But as the company grows and begins to service more clients, a policy can save you time and effort. If the customer contacts your staff with a complaint, what’s the first step to be taken? If this doesn’t work, what’s the back up plan? Who should the customer approach?
We’ve all been given the runaround at some point or the other and can understand how frustrating it can be from the customer’s point of view. A customer service policy should eliminate most if not all these issues.
Customer service like any business dimension is an art, which generally takes time and effort to learn. Unfortunately, it’s also a business aspect that does not forgive mistakes easily. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools to help you implement a successful customer service department.
What are some of the customer service plans and policies your business will be adopting in 2012?