Customer experience is the experience that a customer has with a brand. It includes many different areas, such as web design, ease of ordering, and speed of delivery. Customer service experience focuses on one specific area: service. It is about a customer’s opinion of the support they have received from a company. Like customer experience as a whole, it is an important part of ongoing business growth.
The term “customer service” covers a massive range of support options. A customer might have a pre-purchase question about a specific product. They might have a question about payment or billing, or need to return an item after buying. These are all examples of customer service. There is a need for customer service through all stages of the buying process. Our customers want a good customer service experience, and we need to deliver.
Customer service can mean different things to different people. For a business, it’s a way of securing a sale. It’s a way to interact and engage with a customer to boost loyalty and encourage further sales in the future. For a customer, it’s a bit more open; it can be about research, about determining value, about having their needs met.
In sum, customer service experience connects everything. It’s the connection of all the service interactions. It’s what defines the bottom line for businesses.
The Importance of Good Customer Service Experience
Customer service experience has undergone huge changes as buying and selling have evolved. The rapid growth of commerce — particularly e-commerce —has boosted competition in the markets. Today, brands need to stand out from the crowd, and customer service is one way to do this.
In the UK, 28% of shoppers will reduce spending or leave a brand completely if they have a poor experience. In such a competitive environment, business can’t afford for this to happen. A good customer service experience sets a brand apart from the competition. Look at United Airlines. Many won’t fly United after their poor customer service made headlines recently.
Social sharing through Facebook and Twitter means we now share our experiences online. In real time, of course, and what we share has the ability to go viral. Good customer experiences are more important than ever, but some are still struggling. That’s because there’s no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. It’s not an exact science, and that’s frustrating. There are actually many different ways to provide good customer service.
Here are a few ways that businesses can provide a good customer service experience:
#1. Self-Service vs. Automation vs. Agent Service
Customers are becoming web-savvy, and more and more now prefer ‘self-service’ methods. Customers don’t want to call you for support. It is still important to provide alternative options though. Automation can work, but so can personalization. We can’t pick a single option. We need to find balance, and use all options together in unison.
These options should be available at the right stage of the buying process for best effect. Self-service works best when a customer has a question about the company or its products. This is usually the pre-purchase stage. A detailed and accessible FAQ can work wonders here. Automated processes are generally best suited to common issues surrounding the buying process. Agent-provided service may be effective for post-sales support. This is when issues will surround a specific product or service.
#2. Scripted vs. Unscripted
Scripted vs. unscripted customer service means thinking about established processes vs. customized solutions. Which is better? It’s not about choosing one over the other. It’s about finding the right balance to provide the best experience. Scripts, while not exactly the most personalized of options, are actually very important. Scripted service is beneficial in obtaining initial information. This can help to point the customer in the right direction.
But a scripted service won’t carry us through to the end. It won’t take us from initial contact to a suitable solution; we need to deviate from the plan. Customers are different, with different requirements, needs, and concerns. Canned responses make it appear as if representatives are hearing, but not listening. We know how important it is for a representative to listen to us. Sometimes it is necessary to go off script to provide a positive experience.
#3. Single Channel vs. Multi-Channel
Customer service is often available in one of two ways. This can be through a single channel, such as your own website, or through many channels. There are definite advantages to single channel solutions. They’re ‘clean’. It’s easy to keep track of who’s done what, and what stage the customer is at in the process. Multi-channel customer service is the messier of the two. It can be easier for customers to fall through the cracks between the channels. But we need to consider expectations.
Google talks about ‘micro-moments’. These are small windows of opportunity when customers decide they need a solution. They need help whenever, wherever, using whatever platform is most convenient. Usually, this platform is some form of social media. It’s vital that we’re present where our customers are, when they are. One of the biggest takeaways from the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index Study? That customer expectations outstrip brands’ capabilities to deliver. It’s time we stepped up.
More Tips for Providing a Positive Customer Service Experience
Delivering excellent customer experience does take effort, but it’s not impossible. Have you considered the importance of training? Irate customers happen, and they happen to everyone. Understanding the best way to handle emotions is a vital factor. This can help to lead angry or upset customers to a suitable outcome.
Training can also cover other important aspects, such as playing within the protocol. To provide good customer service, it can be tempting to offer the customer what they want. Sometimes, this is a responsible option. Other times it can result in promises or guarantees which we cannot meet. This may be due to time, ability, or going outside of permitted protocol. We can’t always make a customer happy. What we can do is ensure that their experience is as positive for them as possible.
How’s Your Customer Service?
If you’re unsure how your customers feel about the customer service they receive, ask them! Customer service surveys can provide valuable insights into the impact of your processes. They can also highlight areas for improvement. You can capture data using a visitor management system for walk-ins.
You can also use feedback collection through chat software. Bad experiences will always take place. What we can do is minimize bad experiences that are our own fault. We can do everything we can to ensure a good experience from start to finish, by following a few simple steps.
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