Whether or not customer service has been improving in your particular industry, it has improved over time at enough companies with broad consumer reach that customers have begun to expect better and better customer service across the board—in every industry, every niche, every price point. Customers expect you to provide better customer service because they’re already getting it elsewhere.
After one of these leading companies comes into contact with a customer of yours—when Amazon enables a frictionless product return, or a genius at the Apple Store debugs an iPhone issue speedily and effortlessly—it’s inevitable that your customer is going to expect friendlier, speedier, more intuitive service from your company as well.
How can you meet this challenge? Here’s a short list to help you get started:
- Benchmark across industries. Apple Stores didn’t become great by emulating Best Buy. They became great by borrowing best practices and cultural inspiration from the five-star hotel brands—even though that industry would, on the face of it, seem far afield. Similarly, you may not learn all that much by emulating your direct competitors, compared to what you can learn from expanding your mental outreach to include whoever is getting the customer experience right, regardless of what industry they’re operating in.
- Resist being satisfied with your present state. Just because you’re doing as well as you’ve ever done based on objective measures (response time and so forth), you may be slipping, subjectively, in the eyes of your customers. If all you’re doing is sustaining your longstanding service levels, don’t be surprised if customers are less satisfied with you than they were in the past.
- Improve and expand your self-service options. If you’re offering fabulous human-delivered customer service, I applaud you. But the reality is that, at least some of the time, customers want to interact via self-service, whether due to customers’ round-the-clock, multi-time-zone schedules, or their social anxiety, or because it allows them to multi-task.
- Support your employees with up-to-the-minute technology. Every customer-facing employee should be supported and empowered by well-designed, well-maintained technology that allows them to provide service at the level that customers today expect.
With the pervasiveness of mobile and digital technologies, customer expectations are driving businesses to think and act differently. Customers are demanding options of how to engage with businesses and expect to be able to connect seamlessly via their preferred methods of communication whether it be via phone, email, chat, SMS and/or Social media channels.
Retailers are working rapidly to provide this desired “omni-channel" purchasing experience to sustain a continuous connection with their customers throughout the purchasing process.