You can have the very best people and products, but if your service strategy is off the mark, the customer experience is bound to break down.
Many companies focus hard on the specific motions of the customer experience — the campaign to attract customers, the sales approach to win customers and the service processes to keep customers.
While those touch points are vital to business, some strategic approaches that govern them might actually hinder the quality of customer experiences.
“As advancing technology reduces barriers to entry and industries become more and more competitive, companies must do more to keep the customers they have and gain new ones,” says Dana Brownlee, president of Professionalism Matters, Inc., and author of the recent survey What Customers Really Want.“The new goal (should) be ‘customer enthusiasm’ — how do we excite customers and make them not just stay with us but rave about us publicly.”
How can you reach that goal? Start by eliminating these customer service strategies that are often embedded in organizations and have outlived their usefulness:
1. Fix the problem
The goal shouldn’t be to fix customers’ problems. It should be to eliminate them. But many companies don’t have a strategy in place to move issues from the person who can fix it immediately (often a customer service or sales rep) to people who have time and resources to find the underlying problem and eliminate it.
One company added a layer to its traditional customer service help. Developers and engineers took customer calls so they could talk directly with customers more often and work on permanent fixes when they heard recurring issues.
If you can’t get your product experts to take customer calls, schedule weekly meetings with them to go over the most frequent issues that they can look into eliminating.
2. Put least experienced people on the front line
Front-line customer service positions are often considered entry-level. Then, employees with the least experience essentially become the face of the company. So they have the least experience and training, and the biggest impact on customer satisfaction.
“Companies must not just make changes in how they recruit, train and reward customer service staff, but also shift the corporate culture to acknowledge the importance of the customer service representative role,” Brownlee says.
One way: Start getting service leaders a place at the executive table and the opportunity to share what their front-line employees hear from customers most often.
3. Plan everything
In an effort to make service seamless, some companies make it robotic and insincere. They script responses online and on the phone, trying to make people and processes as efficient as possible.
And customers notice: Only 35% of them said they felt the customer service professional they talked to truly understood their concerns often, the Brownlee survey found. Customers’ biggest gripe was that the people they contact to help don’t listen closely to them.
That’s often because the service strategy is based on: “If the customer says this, you say that.”
Companies that allow employees the time to listen (either on the phone or online) and create an authentic interaction perform better. That rapport can be built in the first few exchanges, when front-line service pros reiterate customers’ issues or problems, show some empathy for their experience and assure them, “You’ve come to the right place for help.”
4. Automate more
Customers still prefer to take their service issues to a person they can talk to. Nearly half prefer the phone over social media, chat, text, and email, according to the What Customers Really Want survey.
Yet, companies ramp up social media and chat, cut phone options and even try to hide their phone contact information deep within their websites.
It’s important to offer customers several options for getting in touch and getting help. While some customers will prefer email and social media, the need for personal help over the phone in an emergency, complex situation or emotional circumstances will remain.
You can add self-serve and automated options, but it’s best not to do it at the expense of the traditional phone … at least, not yet!