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3 Steps to Improve Customer Service

customer service

Customer Service during the pandemic was something that was not on most people’s radar. For many small businesses, hospitality especially, they did all they could just to stay afloat. As we begin to vaccinate more and more people, businesses are beginning to open up again. With this new reopening comes some challenges. Some previous employees are not returning to work. Good help is becoming harder to find for some industries. As a business owner, you may find yourself in any or all of these challenging situations.

As crazy as it may sound, I believe this is the very best time to create a way to gather customer insights and to evaluate the customer experience. One silver lining for a reset it that it allows a business reinvent themselves. No longer should you just do the status quo. Stepping up your internal measurements by starting with how your customers see you and what they feel can be improved upon.

1. Evaluate Customer Service Levels Before You Get Busy

Unless your business allows you to be present 100% of the time, you need mystery shopping. Mystery shopping measures what you train. Training employees takes a lot of time and resources. Isn’t it worth the time to evaluate its effectiveness? This allows your employees an opportunity to learn. It can do wonders to improve your business by increasing customer service.

Sending in evaluators to measure things like initial greeting, rapport building, listening skills, cross sell or up sell, follow up, etc. can be very eye opening. Most owners believe they know what is happening in their place of business. Once you mystery shop your locations, you may find an entirely different situation. One that can cost you a lot of money.

Beginning a program now is smart because it allows you to see areas that may need improvement before you are back up to 100% capacity. Fixing those areas can be well worth the investment!

2. Gain Customer Service Insights

This may be the best time to gather customer feedback on services, programs, products, etc.. that your business sells. Most people have had to change their way of life for the past year. They are working remotely, teaching their kids at home, shopping differently, etc.. In other words, your customers have changed. How have they changed and how will it impact your business? What can you do now to insure they think of you when they do start going out more regularly again?

Listening to your customers will improve your business by tapping into what is most important to them. Once you have a good understanding of what they are looking for, you can update or add items that may influence their purchases.

3. Competitive Intelligence

Researching your competition is always a good idea and now is no different. Do you have the same competitors as you did a year ago? What are they doing differently? How do their service offerings compare to yours?

What about their pricing? Have they increased or decreased? Gaining these insights now can be of great value in positioning your business down the road.

How do their service levels compare to yours? A great idea is to send your employees in to your competition and use the same evaluation form you currently use for mystery shopping. This not only shows your employees the importance of this type of measurement, they will come away with the differences between your business and the competition; good and bad.

Just taking some proactive measure now will increase sales and profitability down the road.

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COVID-19 Customer Service

ecommerce

Customer service adjustments. During the last several months we have all had to make a lot of changes to our lives. We all have our own personal story on hardships as well as new opportunities. Working from home for the first time. Working while trying to home school kids for the first time ever. Getting accustomed to wearing a mask for the first time. Social distancing all while trying to work and take care of our families.

During this time I think that most consumers have shown appreciation for the essential front line workers and we understood when our Amazon order took 2 weeks instead of 2 days. We appreciate those hard working people sacrificing for the well being of others.

Are Things About to Change?

While for the most part, people continue to have patience. Some people are showing a great deal of resistance to mask wearing and retailers and restaurant owners have had to quickly train employees on how to handle an unhappy guest who didn’t want to comply.

My concern is more along the lines of people using the pandemic a an excuse for poor customer service. I have two examples of what I am referring to.

Local Steals and Deals

I am located in the Charlotte, NC area, and I see their commercials daily. Sometimes as part of my local evening news (slower news days). They have a spokesperson who is very compelling and does a great job selling products. Their About Us section on their website states the following:

Local Steals and Deals is operated by Knocking (www.knocking.co) in association with Cox Media Group.

We connect the best brands with Cox Media Group’s audience, offering exclusive deals.

I like the concept. However what I wasn’t impressed with was the customer service. I placed an order 2 months ago and never received my purchase. I honestly think I would have forgotten about it altogether if it were not for the commercials! After emailing the company, I found out that the product is no longer available. It left me wondering how many people placed orders and then forgot about them? Automatically refunding customers on out of stock items, should be part of any e-commerce site these days.

Website Hosting

A quick chat with my hosting company regarding a log in issue I was having kept me busy for over an hour trying to trouble shoot with them in a chat. Finally, I was told my issue would be escalated and that I should try again in a few hours. Good enough. I did what he said and even waited until the next day. Still had the same problem. Got on the chat with them again, knowing full well that I would have to start from the beginning. Sure enough. When I asked if my issue was escalated as I was told, I received an awful reply. I was told that because of COVID19, they were working with reduced staff. Really? You are working on a computer from your home office, I would bet. How could COVID be affecting your customer service?

Don’t Neglect Your Customer Service

Times are hard and budgets are tight. Now is not the time however to neglect your customer service standards. In fact, I believe it is the time to make them an even more important priority. Evaluating what is happening when a customer engages with your business or brand is more important than ever before. People will remember the businesses who came through for them during this time.

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Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Customer service

The terms “customer service” and “customer experience” are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings and interpretations. While they are related, there are definitely unique characteristics of both.

Today, research shows that companies investing in customer experience boast a higher stock price. According to a portfolio of publicly traded companies drawn from the top 20% of brands in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index – these companies that invest in customer experience had higher stock price growth and higher total returns than a similar portfolio of companies drawn from the bottom 20% of brands.

So what is the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

Customer service is only one piece of the puzzle — focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers while customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

Let’s get into more detail.

Customer Service

Customer service is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer service requires your team to possess patience, product knowledge, and compassion, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs.
The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction, usually by answering questions, but could also include helping a customer choose the right product before they make a purchase, giving assistance to customers on how to best use the product, trouble-shooting any issues, and ensuring they had a great buying experience. Customer service is a vital part of the entire experience—nearly 75% of customers who leave do so because they aren’t satisfied with customer service.

What is Customer Experience?

Customer Experience, or CX, reflects the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business. Customer experience is the sum of all contact, from first discovering and researching a product to shopping and purchasing, to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards. Customer experience measures how customers feel about a company overall and includes the emotional, physical, psychological connection customers have with a brand. It isn’t a one-time interaction, but rather includes the entire customer lifecycle and every touchpoint a customer has with a product or service.

Customer experience includes three main components:

  1. Customer Service: Including Customer Support, Customer Success, and self-service support — the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
  2. Technology: This is the product itself — how it works and the interactivity points.
  3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint — the marketing, the design, and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

All of the pieces combine to make up the customer experience.

Putting it Together

Customer experience is measured by net promoter score (NPS), which tracks how likely a customer is to recommend the brand to a friend. Customer service is measured through the customer satisfaction score (CSAT), which measures how satisfied customers are with the experience.

The main difference is customer service is reactive and often is only used when a customer isn’t satisfied. If a customer has an issue with a product or service, that is typically the only time they would contact customer service. On the other hand, customer experience is proactive, aiming to reach every customer. The goal being to provide an exceptional journey so customers do not have to contact customer service. While customer service may only be a one-time interaction, customer experience is long-term, creating lasting impressions that will stay with the customer every time they think of the company.

Customer service and customer experience are both important pieces to an organization’s success, yet it’s not possible (or necessary) to draw hard lines between them. Customers consider the whole picture when thinking about your brand, and you should, too. The two elements work together to build a satisfied customer base that is loyal to the brand and will return for more.

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