By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service
With UK Customer Satisfaction at it’s lowest point since 2011 what can you do to make sure customer service helps your business to succeed?
Our research shows that where organisations deliver good customer experience they focus on being easy to do business with, resolving customer problems promptly, delivering on promises made and training staff to ensure they are able to cope with a large range of customer issues.
So, are you easy to do business with? Do you make it easy for your customers to make contact with you, at a time of their choosing? Do you get back to them quickly? Do you leave them with a way of getting back in touch with you? Can customers make contact with you in different ways, website, mobile, text, email? This includes the way enquiries are answered, quotes provided and invoices sent.
These are important questions that if answered appropriately will help you to build a better customer experience and supply opportunities to increase business performance.
Engaging your employees
This depends on the size of your business but if you have employees. We have found that where customers perceive that employees are highly engaged and appear to be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic, they are much more likely to recommend or buy from an organisation. But where employees appear to be less engaged, customers are much less likely to recommend and more likely to take their business elsewhere or even discourage other customers.
What are the key drivers of complaints and complaint handling?
Research from the Institute which looks at complaints suggests that the most annoying issues for customers are: an organisation not keepings its promises or commitments; staff attitude; and staff competence.
So, do you deliver on your promises and commitments? Do you set clear expectations and timescales about who and when service will be delivered? Do your services live up to expectations? How do you check that your customer has received the goods, services or information they expected?
Care also needs to be taken when managing customer expectations about the timescale in which products or services can be delivered. It is absolutely critical to match and manage customer expectations, explaining each of the steps you are taking and what this means for customers. This will help to avoid confusion and help build trust.
Are your staff well trained and professional and are they genuinely empowered to do their jobs?
Whether you work on your own or are part of a larger organisation, being professional, knowledgeable and expert within your subject area is essential.
Combining this knowledge with good communication and listening skills as well as demonstrating empathy with your customers, who are often in stressful situations, can help to build mutual confidence and respect, especially when showing you are acting in their best interests. Where you employ staff it is essential that you equip them with the skills to make the right decisions at the right time, particularly when they are in the field and will often have to make appropriate judgement calls without assistance.
How can you improve your service?
Look out for recurring issues. Examine the root causes and identify ways of preventing the problem occurring. Ask your customers for feedback and encourage them to say what went well and not so well. Keep track of your feedback so that you can see any patterns. Make sure you respond to feedback and update customers on how you are fixing the problem. Take responsibility and be empathetic.