Rapid innovation in technology and across industries over the last decade have created fierce competition for customers. In fact, a 2016 survey showed that 89% of companies predicted they’d compete primarily on the basis of their customer experience.
So, what does a competitive customer service experience look like? While it can take a variety of shapes, there are ways to structure a service experience that will both resonate with customers and stand out among competitors. We’ve broken a few of them down here:
Save for a doctor’s office or restaurant, I call businesses much less frequently than I did several years ago. With an abundance of self-service options available online to quickly answer my questions, there’s too many other options—I can even make dinner reservations online.
Across the board, consumers are broadening their methods of communication with businesses and ultimately opt for most the time-efficient and practical solution for finding answers to their questions at the moment:
- Nine out of ten consumers prefer to use messaging to communicate with a business.
- Using a web chat service (like LiveChat) drives the highest customer satisfaction.
What does this mean for your customer service? Don’t forget: 73 percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important part of good customer service. Give people the option to contact you through as many channels as you can reasonably handle. Remain active and responsive on social media, because it’s likely that a chunk of your market is already active on Facebook or Twitter, so communicating there makes it that much easier for them.
The phone is still important, however. While web chat and messaging are ideal low-effort solutions for brief questions and support issues, customers still prefer to handle more serious requests over the phone. Responsiveness is key: if you’re too busy to handle an influx of phone calls, consider using a dedicated answering service to make sure all of your callers are heard.
Overall, this might not sound like the end-all solution that’ll trounce your competition, but that’s because that solution largely doesn’t exist. The customer service that wins isn’t the one that’s designed to amaze, it’s the one that solves your customer’s issue quickly and easily.
Develop a personalized experience
One of the reasons customers enjoy access to multiple channels of communications is that it puts more control in their hands—it allows them to personalize their experience. There, they feel like a valued customer rather than a name or number, which is proven to improve perception of a brand.
Tailored experiences like these are becoming the norm in all industries and a baseline expectation from customers.
Brands are making impactful changes to their customer relationships with personalization on all scales. You probably know of these examples:
- Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Daily Mix playlists are custom-made for each user based on comparing listening histories to other playlists, creating a unique experience every single day.
- Amazon’s home page is different for each user, reflecting their search history and interests, which makes unplanned purchases far more likely.
These are examples from massive companies, but you can personalize an experience without complex algorithms. Small details with a personal touch count for so much—personalized emails are opened 6.2% more than their standardized counterparts. We can all spot (and ignore) an automatically generated email a mile away, so taking that extra step to use a customer’s name and personally write an email doesn’t go unnoticed.
Harvard Business Review wrote about Sungevity, a company that installs solar panels in homes, that designed its service experience in such an engaging way that their customers never even considered looking at competitors.
Its process of controlling the customer’s journey to a decision highlights an important point: It’s essential to expand our understanding of “customer service” to something that takes place during every step of the customer’s interaction with a business rather than strictly when they have an issue they need resolved. In execution, this can take many forms.
For example, let’s say your business provides any type of B2B service. A direct mail or email campaign to potential customers could include an estimate of what your service would look like as well as a cost breakdown based on your calculated estimate of their usage or needs.
This would take some homework on your part: It might mean gathering as much information about the potential customer as possible, then comparing them to an existing client of yours with similar needs. Presenting this information from the beginning has two strong benefits: It immediately answers the question of price, likely the biggest question a potential customer might have, and it makes the recipient feel valued.
Knowing that you took the time to gather this information about them specifically shows a commitment to learning about them to save them time and effort.
A strong customer service strategy is one based on first understanding, then predicting, the needs of customers. It’s a pillar of your business that needs constant attention and frequent tweaks to keep it relevant and sharp.
Remember: disgruntled customers are more likely to walk away quietly and find another solution to their needs than to go out of their way to tell you how you could improve, so it’s imperative to keep an ear to the ground—it might just be what keeps you ahead of the curve.
PATLive is a 24/7 live answering service. PATLive answers calls for thousands of businesses nationwide using its proprietary software and top-notch agents.
The information and tips we’re sharing in this article are meant to be a starting point for your year-end tax prep, so you can be informed and feel confident when working with your accountant. Be sure to check with a tax expert in your country or region for any specific advice you need, as each business (and tax district) is different. As our lawyers would say: “This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.”