What did customers think of service during COVID?
Customer loyalty today is hard-earned. With customers becoming extra sensitive and conscious about their choices, owing to the pandemic, it's extremely important that your brand lives up to their current expectations.
Not just in terms of having a world-class product or service. But, providing great customer support. Being there for your customers through these unprecedented times has a direct impact on their confidence and trust in your brand.
In order to do that, brands need to know what are modern-day customers' expectations regarding customer support. What exactly are they looking for when they turn to you for help?
Hiver - a customer service solution - decided to dive deeper into understanding how customer behaviour has changed owing to the pandemic. As part of a comprehensive study, they surveyed over 1000 respondents in the US across different age groups to understand their expectations regarding customer support.
Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from this Customer Service Through The Eyes of Consumers in 2020 study, and what it means for organizations worldwide.
1. Need for more empathy and faster responses during COVID-19
COVID-19 has brought about some drastic changes to customer behaviour. Despite the physical restrictions in place, we’re seeing more and more customers turn to brands for help during these unprecedented times.
And going by Hiver’s research, 32% of customers want customer service to be both more responsive and empathetic during COVID-19.
This is definitely a challenging time for customer support professionals. Not only do they have to manage a higher volume of customer requests but also keep up with rising customer expectations.
Owing to the pandemic, every business has had to empathize a lot more with customers - as we’re all going through similar experiences. I can’t stress how important it is for companies - and their support teams, in particular - to place themselves deep in their customers’ shoes, understand how their expectations are currently evolving, and provide support that is more human and relatable,” says Dan Gingiss, Chief Experience Officer, The Experience Maker.
To truly empathize with your customers, ‘active listening’ is something that can help. Support team managers could organize training sessions on active listening and help agents practice this consistently. At the same time, it’s important that your agents do away with pre-written customer scripts and instead, make more natural conversations with customers.
2. Resolution time matters for customers
Delivering great customer support is always easier when you break your goal down into action items. So, what are the things you need to do in order to create a memorable service experience for the customer?
When consumers were asked what qualifies as a ‘good customer experience’, 37% of them consider timely resolution of queries as an important factor while close to 24% prefer not having to repeat their problems.
What this shows you is the importance of resolution time. Customers not only expect you to be efficient but also fast. Jenny Dempsey, Customer Experience Manager at Apeel, puts it across perfectly: "When customers reach out to you, they just want their questions or issues resolved. They don’t want to repeat it 10 times to 10 different people in 10 different departments. They want one agent to be empowered to efficiently and correctly solve their problem or answer their question. The more consistently you can do this, the more customers will trust your brand as the one that has their backs when they need it.”
It helps if your brand can set the right expectations with customers. Have a standard wait time? Inform customers about it. Is it a complicated issue that needs more time? Communicate to the customer about the delay and when they can expect to hear back. To avoid instances where customers are having to repeat their issues multiple times, ensure the customer support software you invest in democratizes customer information. This makes it easy for agents to handover queries to one another without communication gaps and a lack of context.
3. Customers are quick to share negative experiences
Word-of-mouth is probably one of the most effective marketing tools for any brand. It is organic, doesn’t cost you a dime, and can have a knock-on effect, leading to exponential growth.
At the same time, word-of-mouth in today’s digital age comes with a risk. As much as customers would share good things about your brand, they’re as likely to put out their negative experiences.
In fact, Hiver’s study found out that nearly 89% of customers are likely to talk about their poor customer support experience -- either advising friends from buying the product or service (if asked), actively sharing their opinion in their circles, or leaving a negative review on social media and other e-commerce sites.
What makes this a cause for concern is knowing that 60% of consumers would switch to an alternate brand after 2 or 3 bad experiences, while roughly 30% would switch to an alternate brand right after a single bad support experience.
That being said, intelligent collection of feedback and real-time intervention can help stem negative reviews and prevent customers from jumping ship to your competition.
"While many customers will abandon a brand after poor experiences, it’s also true that they will forgive a brand with which they have an emotional connection. This is why companies should focus on strengthening the bond with customers. The best brands do this via data collection, analysis, and journey measurement. It enables them not only to monitor customer behavior but intervene and optimize CX in real-time,” says Jim Tincher, Founder and Journey Mapper-In-Chief, Heart of the Customer.
Set up real-time alerts for when customers rate you poorly on surveys. For instance, if a customer rates you lower than 4 on the NPS scale, create a workflow where the concerned Customer Experience or Customer Support manager is notified about it. This gives you an opportunity to proactively identify unhappy customers and fix their experience, before they tell the world about it.
Customer support is becoming an increasingly important factor in influencing your customers’ loyalty. When you’re able to solve customer problems in a timely and effective manner, it shows that you really care about their experience. And these one-off experiences are the things that add up to eventually create strong long-term relationships.