BUSINESS BUILDER SERIES
Excellent customer service before, during and after a job is critical for long term customer satisfaction, and is one of the top influences cited for offering referrals. Good or adequate customer service just doesn’t cut it in today’s world of high expectations. While it may keep complaints at bay, mediocre customer service does not a thriving referral business build.
That being said, customer service has changed dramatically in recent years. Once relegated to the telephone, customers are now reaching out via email, text message, social media, live chat and smartphone apps. They have also come to expect a much higher level of responsiveness and more immediate answers.
Understanding these new expectations is key to providing the level of service that is rewarded with extremely happy customers that eagerly refer you to their network of friends and associates. According to the 2015 State of Service Report put out by popular CRM software, Salesforce, there are four keys to delivering world class customer service that should continue to fill your books with referrals for years to come.
1. Go Where Your Customers Are
In today’s super-connected digital age, customers expect on-demand, efficient service. Be cognizant that people will share bad experiences online, and there is a risk that particularly bad examples of service may go viral.
People have gotten used to instantaneous responses to communication whether it’s via text messages, chat windows or various social media environments. This is the new normal, and customer service is expected to follow suit. In this regard, meeting customers where they are increases efficiency and customer satisfaction.
While it may not be feasible for the rainmaker of the company to monitor all platforms all of the time and be poised and ready to respond in a heartbeat, it is a good idea for companies to be aware of these truths and investigate feasible ways to facilitate quick response given the resources available. Consider delegating someone on your support staff to responding immediately to inquiries and customer service requests.
Keep in mind that smartphone users spend an average of 3 hours per day on their devices.
Make a point to be present from a company standpoint in various popular media channels and be sure to have appropriate notification options enabled. Let the designated support staffer triage all incoming inquiries and support requests and enable them to take quick action within certain parameters.
We will address this topic more in future issues, like next month’s scheduled review of the best customer service apps. For now, if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the various avenues customers may use to contact you with support issues and take small steps every day to move toward immediate communication via as many channels as you can.
2. Empower Your Support Staff
Train your support staff to work together with your customers in the support process, then give them the tools and the authority they need to provide assistance. At the very minimum, provide them with a list of commonly asked questions, situations and requests, along with the proper responses and actions for each. Remember, the sooner the customer feels the situation is being handled, the more apt they are to be satisfied by the outcome. Even if this is just assuring them that the resolution process is in motion.
3. Anticipate Customer Needs
Granted, this one is not easy. According to the article by Salesforce “providing world-class service starts with listening, empathizing with, and learning from customers”. Sometimes this is accomplished easiest with intuition developed from experience. But, don’t overlook the benefit of conducting customer satisfaction surveys which include exploratory questions designed to uncover potential future needs. Be sure to tabulate the data you acquire both from these surveys and from your long term experience. And, don’t forget to share this information with your support staff so that they learn to anticipate needs and provide appropriate assistance.
Here’s a fun illustrative example of the absolute optimum way to implement this one:
4. Offer Self-Service Options
Thanks to Google, YouTube and the internet in general, DIY is the new norm, even when it comes to customer service. Most customers would rather try to solve their own problems before contacting customer service. And, customers are usually content to help themselves if they know where to turn and how to do it.
Spend some time brainstorming ways to implement DIY support within your organization, even if this means simply a FAQ section on your website. Self-service portals are also helpful to customers looking for information. Consider setting up individual portals for customers to access information about their project, including any maintenance instructions and warranty information from manufacturers. Then be sure to tell your customers about it and give them log in details before they need them. Even if they rarely use the portal, simply knowing it’s there for their future reference can help build confidence and good will. It will also set you apart in a sea of competition.
The old adage used to be that a happy customer tells one person, an unhappy customer tells ten. But in today’s digital age, the reality is that an unhappy customer can tell hundreds or thousands of people. Excellent customer service should be a given.
We’ll build on these ideas in the Business Builder section of our next issue of Roof Riffs.