Avoid the small mistakes that drive customers away
It's a well-known fact that good customer service is a cornerstone of business success. Poor customer service can have a significant impact on a brand's reenue, with 96% of customers stating they would avoid a business as a result of a bad CX experience. The significance of customer experience on business outcomes has increased in recent years: in 2010 just 36% of companies were competing on the basis of customer experience – but by 2017 this figure had risen to over two thirds.
It has never been more important to keep your customers satisfied and engaged. In a crowded market, it’s vital for businesses to offer streamlined and accessible customer service. The golden thread of customer service must be integrated at all levels of a business, from big picture mission statements and c-suite engagement to online accessibility and agent experience.
A massive 97% of CEOs believe customer satisfaction is the key to business success. But all too often I come across businesses that, whilst paying lip service to the importance of customer experience, fail to engage their audience and employees at the points where it matters the most.
Navigating a crisis? It’s all in the details
With the coronavirus pandemic tightening purse strings for many, it has never been more important for businesses to retain and nurture existing customers as well as attract new ones. Many sectors have faced massive disruption, dealing with an increased number of customer queries whilst transitioning their teams to home working. A Harvard Business Review report found that over a two-week period in March, the average company saw the percentage of customer calls scored as “difficult”, more than double from a typical level of 10% to more than 20%.
Six months down the line companies are still struggling to adjust, leaving customers frustrated and disengaged. Ryanair has faced widespread criticism for the time it has taken passengers to receive refunds on cancelled flights. Three months into the pandemic and with many customers going through personal financial difficulties, 80% of customers still needed to be refunded. According to a decade of research from Accenture, 80% of customers who shifted loyalties would have remained if the issue was resolved on first contact – making this type of delay reputationally damaging. Businesses must prioritise online offerings in a time of crisis: promoting online information points frees up phone lines for those who need them the most.
A time of crisis is also an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate empathy. McKinsey found that since the coronavirus outbreak, people globally have lower levels of income, savings, and spending. The report notes the challenge for consumer-facing businesses to balance customer support in a difficult time with preserving long-term shareholder value. Virgin Media offers a positive example of empathetic customer service driving loyalty and retention. The business offered free additional benefits such as broadband upgrades and premium content at a time when demand for speedy and reliable internet was high. This helped drive 25,000 new product sign ups, increased word of mouth promotion and renewed loyalty – showing that putting customer needs first is a key way to drive long-term revenue and growth.
Consistency is key
As a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to access support from a business whose services you’ve paid for. Customer support information must be consistent and easily accessible across your company’s website, Google page and social media channels. With 57% of internet users stating they wouldn’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website, it’s vital for companies to ensure their websites and profiles are optimised for all devices. Customers can often be frustrated if they cannot easily obtain information that should be easy to find. Delivering an excellent online customer experience which is easy to navigate is vital to retaining customers during a time of crisis.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – what questions might you have about your product or services? Addressing these concerns through clearly signposted resources such as blogs, FAQs and AI chat functions will simplify the customer journey and allow issues to be resolved more quickly and efficiently. Building a streamlined, customer-friendly website will not only keep customers happy but will also help reduce workload and pressure for customer service staff.
Happy employees = happy customers
The most vital, but often the most overlooked resource to help improve customer service is your employees. The link between employee satisfaction and improved customer service is well documented: a report from Glassdoor found on average, a 1-point increase in Glassdoor company rating is associated with a 1.3-point increase in customer satisfaction.
Customer service can be a highly stressful job – over 70% of agents are at risk of burnout, and in the US, contact centres have some of the highest turnover rates, ranging from 30-45%. This is more than double the average for other occupations. Taking the time to invest in employee wellbeing will pay dividends long term, as customer service agents set the tone for a customer’s first interaction with your company.
Encouraging agents to undergo regular training such as active listening and problem solving will empower them to provide a better service. 83% of high-performing service agents say they get the training they need to succeed in their role compared to only 52% of underperformers. In turn, more comprehensive training will reduce customer transfers, increasing loyalty from service users: just 3% of customers who have a problem solved on first contact are likely to churn, compared to 38% if the issue takes longer.
Engaged employees are more knowledgeable and more motivated, driving an increase in revenue. Aligning customer service experience and strategy with organisational missions and goals promotes an integrated, customer-centric offering.
Customer retention must be considered at every stage of the journey, across every platform and in every customer conversation. Taking the time to focus on smaller details will improve customer service on a larger scale, resulting in improved employee wellbeing, increased revenue, and greater customer loyalty.
I am the CEO and Founder of Aileen Allkins Consultancy (AAC) which assists companies aspiring to differentiate by delivering a world class customer service experience. I have over 30 years’ experience transforming the customer experience of some of the world’s best-known technology companies. Most recently, I was the CVP of Customer Service and...