Many companies invest a significant amount of time and money on fancy bells and whistles or flashy marketing campaigns to win customers, but research shows this isn’t necessarily the best use of resources. These days, an exceptional customer service experience trumps product features and even the lowest price as the key differentiator in the eyes of consumers.
According to a report by business intelligence consulting firm PwC, 80% of American consumers said the most important elements of a brand interaction were speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service. And these offerings weren’t just things customers appreciated. They were willing to pay a premium for them–up to 16% more in some industries.
It’s clear that customer experience is the new standard for companies looking to differentiate themselves. If you want to cash in on a great experience, customer service should be at the top of the list for where to focus your efforts.
How to differentiate using great service
Invest in your people
An excellent customer experience starts with an excellent agent experience, yet it’s something many companies fail to invest in.
82% of U.S. consumers say they want more human interactions as technology improves, but just 38% of them say the brand representatives they interact with understand their needs. This tells us we need to focus on bolstering the interactions between agents and customers, equipping agents with the technology they need to make those exchanges simple and seamless.
Where automated solutions like chatbots and virtual agents are employed, those tools should “learn” from live interactions to produce more human-like conversations. Solutions that leverage both humans and technology–rather than one or the other–should be prioritized to help agents deliver the best possible service.
Customer service training for every agent is essential, not just to help them refine their skills, but to internalize a customer-centric mentality. It’s not something that can be accomplished in a single onboarding session; instead, it requires ongoing initiatives like using call recordings for targeted coaching and providing e-learning options for remote agents.
Excel at omnichannel communication
Today’s consumer transitions instinctively between technology mediums, sometimes dozens of times per day. Let’s take going out to dinner as an example.
To get an idea of their options, the customer might use the web browser on their desktop computer at work to search for dinner spots in their area. Once they see a place they like, they pick up the phone and call to ask for the day’s specials. To skip the line when they arrive, they use the restaurant’s mobile app to put their name on the waitlist and use GPS navigation to get there. Finally, they speak to a live host, who directs them to their table, and a server who takes their order.
That’s a lot of different steps, but chances are you follow a similar process when dining out without thinking twice about it. If your organization wants to make a great impression, your customer experience should be no different.
You probably already offer several different channels where customers can reach you. But are you providing excellent service on all of them, or do some function less as a two-way communication portal and more as a black hole where inquiries disappear into the abyss?
On social media, a channel that’s often broken down further by different platforms like Facebook and Twitter, 31% of U.S. consumers expect a response to questions or complaints in 24 hours or less, and 20% expect a response immediately. Are you delivering on these high expectations?
It’s no longer sufficient to offer one “core” communication channel, like voice while treating other channels as secondary. Instead, companies looking to differentiate themselves must plan and execute exemplary service strategies on all available channels via a fully blended omnichannel agent desktop.
Speed is paramount. Even with the best agents in the world, the experience will be a negative one if customers have to wait too long to communicate with them. On every platform, have a system for acknowledging the inquiry and offer alternatives to waiting in a queue, like requesting a callback, browsing self-service options, or interfacing with a virtual agent.
Delight the customer
Attracting a new customer is primarily about solving a problem–providing a service they need, for example, or a product that eliminates a pain point in their life. Over the life of the relationship, however, customers will come to expect this. So, to retain them long-term, it’s more effective to change tack from serving as a problem-solver to a source of delight.
Unexpected surprises are a great means for customer delight. These might be small surprises, like greeting the customer by name when they call without having to ask for it, or bigger ones, like sending personalized greeting cards for holidays or birthdays. A CRM that unites data from all available sources puts the information you need to surprise and delight customers at your fingertips.
On the flip side, delighting customers means eliminating negative surprises, like unexpected price hikes. 86% of consumers say it’s more important than ever to them for the companies they do business with to be transparent. Be straightforward in your communications, even when delivering unpleasant information, and your customers will thank you for it.
Some customer service interactions are spontaneous, like unexpected service outages or new customer inquiries. There are many service interactions, though, that you can anticipate, like when it’s time for a software update, time to renew a contract or time to make a recurring purchase like an anniversary gift.
For these types of calls, don’t wait for the customer to come to you. Set yourself apart by using automation to go to them with the resources they need to complete the necessary action. You’ll not only drive more repeat purchases but create delight via an unexpectedly easy and convenient interaction.
Many companies say they care about their customers, but in an ever-more-crowded marketplace, it’s those who invest in providing truly excellent service that will have a competitive advantage.