$62 billion. That’s how much money US companies are losing because of poor customer service, according to research by NewVoiceMedia. That number is fairly astonishing, especially when you consider that it’s up from $41 billion just four years ago.
So what’s going on? Why is that number so large, and why is it growing so fast? Are companies getting that much worse at customer service? Perhaps. But what seems more likely is that, along with customer spending more money (a fact – the economy has been getting stronger after all), customers’ expectations of what good customer service is has been getting higher.
Some high-profile companies with high visibility have been doing an exceptional job with their customer service. Think Amazon with their free two-day shipping and almost instantaneous order fulfillment. Or Apple, with in-store “Genius Bars” and making free software and operating system upgrades the new standard. There are others too, and these top companies are raising the bar for everyone else, creating a new set of expectations for today’s consumers.
So, what do consumers expect now as good customer service?
With the ubiquity of smartphones, WiFi and LTE data speeds, customers can get almost any service or bit of information on-demand and at their fingertips. You can order dinner on your phone on the way out of the office and be meeting the delivery guy at your door as you pull into the driveway. You can ask your phone any question – with your voice – and get an immediate answer. You can post your vacation pics on Facebook while you’re lying on the beach and get instant gratification from your jealous friends. So why should customer service be any different? Long wait-times on customer service calls have always been a frustration, but now the rest of the world has sped up, so customer service, in whatever form it takes, needs to be snappy and responsive.
Around half of people still prefer a phone call as their customer service method of choice. The other half thinks the phone is the most frustrating channel for resolving problems. Just as consumers have gotten used to their digital lives moving at a certain speed, they have also gotten used to having a choice in how they communicate. Call, chat, email, text, social media – all are ways that consumers communicate with each other, and expect to communicate with their companies. While you don’t necessarily have to offer every channel under the sun for customer service, customers do expect to have some degree of choice.
Machine or Man?
Nobody likes those robotic voices they encounter over the phone where they are forced to navigate through seemingly endless layers of confusing menus using number keys on their phone, or even worse – talking. And yet, when you take a similar experience via online chat, people really don’t seem to mind interacting with bots. Perhaps that’s because consumers can’t see the gears turning quite so readily, or perhaps it is because sophisticated chat bots allow for a nearly seamless handoff to a real person, without the customer ever noticing they were chatting with a bot at all. The noticeable line between a chat-bot and a customer service rep who is on-script is very thin, and the upshot is allowing for responses to be quicker, friendlier, and seemingly more attentive.
Now It’s Personal
Consumers have gotten used to pretty much everything around them being “smart.” Their products anticipate their needs and learn their behaviors. Thermostats know when they want to be warm or cold. Speakers know what music they like to listen to. Customers expect that level of personalization and anticipation to be part of the customer service experience as well. Companies would do well to use the technology and data at their disposal to provide the most personalized experience possible for their customers in any and all customer service interactions.
Change You Can Believe
For customers to feel like they’ve had a good customer service experience, they need to feel like they not only had their concerns heard, but that the company is going to take steps to do something about it. The more that companies can prove they are listening and taking stock of their customer feedback, the better. But customers will appreciate it even more if you can present them with evidence of exactly what you are doing to address their concerns. This is especially true in communications over social media, where conveying tangible changes can make the difference in turning negative customer service interactions into positive ones.
Many companies have begun to implement initiatives they refer to as “customer success” programs. These are a way of saying that sometimes, the best customer service interaction is the one you never have to have. Customers like seeing that companies are taking steps to make their products more intuitive, less confusing, as well as providing them with resources up front to find information if they have questions or get confused. The better and more accessible that information is, the fewer frustrated customers a company is likely to have, and therefore the fewer poor customer service interactions.
Whether or not a customer feels positively about a customer service interaction sometimes comes down to (or is highly influenced by) what that customer thinks about the company overall. This may sound like a no-brainer, but customers prefer to do business with companies that they like, and that they feel share similar values to their personal ones. By being transparent and vocal about business practices, such as sweatshop-free labor or energy-efficient manufacturing, or by letting customers know that a portion of sales gets donated to a worthy cause, companies can take proactive steps toward engendering good will in their customers. That way, when it does come time for a customer service interaction, customers will be more likely to hold positive feelings toward the company, and give the customer service interaction a greater chance at success.
At 10twelve, we are constantly replying back to our customers comments or concerns. If your company needs help with getting in touch with your customers, contact us today!