There’s a business you run: an office with employees in it and a product or service that people want. Customers… everything you do is for them and they are the most precious value you have. Right?
Customers vote with their wallets
The relationship between you is simple – they vote for a product/service with their wallets. Whenever they approach you, it is totally up to you whether that affection for the product you sell is sustained or does it simply go “puff”, and it’s gone!
There are things about customer service that most of the businesses already know: support agents should be helpful, polite, show appreciation, respect and value the customers. The question is: why doesn’t it always look like that? Why are the customers put on hold, even though over 50% of them hang up and 34% never call again? Why support agents don’t care about customer’s needs, even though 3 out of 5 customers take their business to the competitors after poor customer service experience?
Change of orientation in seller-buyer relationship
There are several anwers to the questions above. Even only several decades ago, business owners were in a much more comfortable situation – they always had an attention of the customers. They were the center of the market and there was always a demand for their product. At this moment however, in the so-called “New Economy” or an information economy, everything turned around and markets became customer-oriented.
Apple knows how to create demand for products – one of few places where customers wait in queues
Product life-cycles keep getting shorter, demand for products is unpredictable and wide customization options made consumers masters of the situation. Adjust or die – there’s no other option for businesses. It’s also time for customer service to catch up and fight for customers, not fight against them.
Customers becoming brand ambassadors and referrers
Easier said than done, right? Kristina Evey, president of Centric Strategies, customer service management company says people no longer buy products or services – they buy relationships:
“The No. 1 reason that people leave a place of business is based on how they were treated. Smart companies understand the value of their current customer base, and recognizing what they need to do in order to keep them. By focusing on the customers, the smart companies are really broadening their customer base by increased referrals.”
An investment in customer service can later turn out being a source of new customers. It can become an efficient, very credible and free advertisement, but managed improperly, can also cause a lot of trouble.
According to White House Office of Consumer Affairs satisfied customers share their experience with 4-6 people, while a dissatisfied customers tell 9-15 people about their negative experience. Moreover, about 13% of those unhappy customers will tell more than 20 (!) people about their problem (yes, unfortunately people tend to talk more about their bad experiences).
Numbers reflect the true power of word of mouth – stats mentioned above clearly show how customer happiness brings an additional value to a company and how bad experience turns out to be an additional, unnecessary cost.
Know your customer by heart
Some customers keep coming back. They like the company, its products and enjoy the way it is doing business. How often do you come back to your favorite pubs or restaurants, where a waitress or a bartender know your name, favorite dish or drink? They will change a channel on TV for you without asking – because they know that you are really into football, but not a big fan of hockey.
Bartenders use interpersonal skills to provide great customer service. Sometimes they even make friends out of customers.
Asking ‘How is it going?’ opens up a chance of creating that special kind of bond, a series of contacts that later turn into a relationship – where knowledge about customers usually goes far beyond their names – where selling is not an ultimate goal. Returning customers love it and they will keep coming to get more of that and to buy something too.
The key and the ultimate goal is to get to know them as people, not as buyers.
This is a first of the articles about customer service best practices. Read part 2 that covers phone support.