In the new world of ecommerce, social media, apps, and call centers, customer satisfaction is as important as ever. While staying open to customer feedback continues to foster loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and repeat business, all of which are good for a brand’s bottom line, what has changed are the rules to achieving genuine customer satisfaction. Numerous studies indicate that today’s customers expect instantaneous and efficient service to be available through their preferred channels around the clock.
Customer Service Drives U.S. Job Growth
Due to consumer demand for better all-around service, the occupation of customer-service representative will continue to be a top producer of jobs in the United States:
- The California Employment Development Department ranks customer-service representative high among occupations expected to produce job openings over the next several years.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that employment of customer service representatives is projected to increase by 38% nationally, specifically in call centers.
- The American Express 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer finds that two-thirds of surveyed customers state they are willing to spend more with a company that provides excellent customer service – as much as 13% more, on average.
- A recent study released by the Customer Contact Association, which designs and sells customer-relationship management products, finds that while a variety of new tools have emerged to assist businesses address customer concerns, changes in customer expectations have made the role of customer service representative even more vital to a company’s ability to build and maintain relationships with customers.
Satisfaction is the New Innovation
Hiring talented front line support staff remains a priority. But investing in the right tools is equally important.
In the last ten years, social media and mobile have forever changed how customers shop and interact with brands. The combination of these elements has pushed transparency and responsiveness to the forefront of business success. Consumers have, essentially, forced businesses to adopt a new customer service model, one in which businesses are always connected, listening, and responding to customer feedback.
Unfortunately, not all businesses are prepared to meet the challenge. The CCA report also found that while most companies offered multiple channels through which to serve customers, the majority lacked the ability to track the history of a customer’s experience across multiple channels. This means that a customer who attempts to obtain service online but switches to phone must start from scratch in addressing a given service concern. The report recommends that businesses make a greater effort to ensure that the channels offered are seamless and based on customer preferences rather than internal motivations.
Five Ways to Create Seamless and Efficient Support
Customer satisfaction is attainable as long as a business stays on top of the tools available to achieve it. And, fortunately, there are a variety of tools available to help customers and increase satisfaction. Here are five suggestions:
Add automated surveys
Implementing non-obtrusive surveys and encouraging customers to complete them honestly and fully, remains one of the most effective ways to gather customer feedback. Surveys can be issued at point of purchase, in a post-sale email, or in a post issue-resolving conversation.
Embrace social media
There is no question that social media has changed how customers interact with brands, leaving up-to-the-minute reviews, complaints, and critiques of products and services. And since research shows that churn rate can increase by 15% when companies are perceived as non-responsive on social media channels, social media must be made a customer satisfaction priority.
Enable fluid channel switching
While embracing social media is crucial, just as important is how well a business integrates the various channels. This has become a clear customer priority with 43% of participants in a recent survey stating that they expect customer service channels – web, email, voice calls – to be integrated with social media channels.
Introduce self-service support
Help customers get answers and resolve problems in the least amount of time. 40% of customers in a global survey of 3,000 said they prefer self-service to humans for customer support; 70% expect a company to provide a self-service portal. Of course, this doesn’t eliminate the need for customer service staff, but it does suggest that customers desire both choice and efficiency.
Simply waiting around for customers to call or email won’t work in today’s customer centric environment. To be truly customer centric – and establish a clear point of distinction – today’s businesses must be able to identify and reach out to customers who experience trouble long before they contact a company.
Adopting real-time, easy-to-use feedback tools enables a company to be more proactive and either anticipate or immediately respond to a customer’s needs. By no means an exhaustive list of the tools available to help service customers, these five suggestions provide a good place to start. Leveraging the right tools to provide better customer support will help any business stay on top of its performance, making it easier to meet – and exceed – customer expectations.