How to Improve the Quality of Your Customer Service
Have you ever had the delightful experience of dealing with an unhappy customer? If you have, then you know its not an easy or exciting task. But just because it’s not the most exciting aspect of marketing doesn’t mean that it’s not as important. If advertising is like a beautiful heroine meant to attract and entice customers, then high quality customer service is like the brave hero who saves the day by turning negative brand experiences into profitable opportunities.
The value of customer service can’t be ignored. Since it’s often the last line of defense a company has when it comes to protecting the image of a brand, deciding how to handle customer complaints (also known as service recovery) is one of the most important marketing decisions a company can make. Here are some things to keep in mind when you aim to improve customer service policies and procedures.
Encourage feedback with incentives
The best way for a company to achieve its goals is to satisfy customer needs. However, instead of viewing customer complaints as an opportunity to do exactly that, companies often perceive them as a negative sign of performance. As a result, they base their incentives on low customer complaint rates, believing that a reduction in the number of complaints means an increase in customer satisfaction.
If this anti-complaint mentality begins to circulate throughout the company, customer service managers and employees will shy away from disclosing negative customer feedback in an attempt to save their department’s reputation. This could quickly spell disaster for companies because without customer feedback, the company cannot learn how to improve.
Instead of solely relying on customer satisfaction to determine performance, companies should also evaluate what percentage of complaints are effectively resolved and how well customer feedback is being shared across departments. To foster an organizational culture that embraces negative feedback as an opportunity to improve, the company should give employees incentives based on how effectively they resolve complaints and share feedback.
A great way to motivate employees is to recognize those that have gone above and beyond by highlighting their efforts in internal memos, newsletters, e-mails and more. This serves two purposes. It demonstrates what constitutes exceptional customer service and motivates other employees to have their efforts featured.
Empower your employees
The frontline customer service representatives are responsible for bearing the brunt of upset customers’ frustrations. When these employees feel powerless, they become discouraged and have a poor attitude when handling customer complaints, which ultimately means that customer service and satisfaction will suffer.
Some companies treat their customer service departments like a red-headed stepchild, depriving them of the resources they need to implement effective service recovery policies and procedures. Perhaps this is because companies fear that representatives will blindly hand out freebies to appease frustrated customers–which can quickly become expensive. However, with the right training, any employee will be able to diffuse an upset customer’s frustrations in a way that’s also satisfactory for the company.
For example, when representatives ask customers what they think would be a fair solution, they often find that it will actually cost the company much less than what they would have originally thought to offer. If the right guidelines are put in place and tiers of approval are removed, companies will be pleasantly surprised at how much more efficiently their frontline employees resolve customer complaints.
To this end, companies should empower their representatives by providing them with the resources they need to provide high quality customer service. Companies should give each employee a generous service recovery budget that they can judge how to allocate. If approvals are required, make the approval process less timely and more efficient. One way to do this might be to incorporate a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database into your customer service operations. That way, a detailed history of a customer’s complaints and their status can be accessed by anyone who handles the customer’s case. Easy access to this information can help your representatives to make better judgements in the future.
Give representatives the freedom to do whatever it takes to compensate customers fairly; they will end up feeling much better equipped to provide exceptional customer service.
Find a win-win solution
Smart companies view customer complaints as an opportunity to discover unmet needs and use that information to improve upon their operations or find a new competitive advantage. The frontline customer service employees have a unique opportunity to gain more insight into these untapped needs than any other department. With sufficient communication between customer service and other departments, it’s possible to find solutions that solve the problems of multiple customers at once.
One great example of this would be the series of iPods developed by Apple. The first iPod on the market was rather large and bulky. Over time, the developers at Apple realized (likely thanks to data gained from customer service initiatives) that their consumers enjoyed listening to music while exercising. As a result, they developed smaller, sleeker versions of the iPod to accommodate this particular segment of consumers.
Be aware that there is a big difference between offering a quick solution to one frustrated customer and actually implementing solutions throughout the company that will ultimately benefit multiple customers. Finding a quick, convenient solution for a customer’s complaint merely isolates the incident and only fixes the symptoms of what could be larger problems in a company’s operations and marketing plan.
In the cyber realm, what you don’t know will eventually hurt you. The internet is full of websites that welcome customer reviews, whether they are good, bad, or ugly. Instead of waiting for a customer to make a complaint, companies who take service recovery seriously continuously monitor what customers say about them online.
Take a proactive approach and hire a team of employees dedicated to monitoring brand mentions across the world wide web. These employees can use review sites such as Yelp, blogs, and social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, to find out what consumers are saying. Since the internet is such a big place, these employees often set up keyword alerts that notify them whenever the company or a particular product/service they offer is mentioned online. Some great brand and keyword monitoring tools include Google Alerts, Topsy, and Social Mention.
When you come across complaints online, you should address the situation by offering an apology and provide a way for customers to get in contact with a customer service representative who can provide a solution to their dilemma. Taking this approach shows that your company genuinely cares about providing their customers with the best service.
Dealing with customer complaints properly allows companies to create a strong bond with their customers by turning negative brand experiences into positive ones. The customer’s faith and trust in the business is restored and they walk away with a positive experience to share. The company improves its customer retention, becomes more efficient at serving all consumers, and may even see a growth in sales through positive word of mouth. With all of these benefits, there’s no reason not to implement procedures that increase the quality of your customer service.
Posted in Marketing