The New Qualities for Customer Service Excellence

The current pandemic has clearly highlighted those companies who care about their customers and who provide them with customer service excellence.

If you claim to be customer centric are you sure you’re truly walking the talk and not just talking about customer service excellence? Many companies are and the pandemic has brought them into the spotlight.

A few years ago I was prompted to question this of the local Swiss cable company Cablecom. It had been desperately trying to address a long-term deficit in customer service excellence versus its main competitor Swisscom.

Swisscom has made customer service their MSP (main selling point or value proposition) and they are renowned for putting their customers first. Cablecom, on the other hand, had, until then, been trying to win customers through aggressive price cutting. In today’s connected world, especially when internet connection is concerned, dissatisfied customers will be quickly heard – across the net.

Back to the incident that prompted this post. After a few days of being ignored by Cablecom – my perception at least because my emails and phone calls were not being answered – I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I resorted to Twitter.

It is more than five years ago that Twitter was first referred to as today’s call centre. Social media usually guarantees a quick response whereas contacting customer services through the usual channels often results in nothing.

 

What makes a great customer care centre?

Customers these days expect a response in minutes or hours rather than days. Recent research shows that 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes, while 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less! How good is your own customer service?

Most call centres today are a frustrating if sometimes necessary experience for customers to endure. In many cases, they are automated, with an often long and complex self-selection process of button pushing to arrive at the department one needs – if you are lucky that is!

Usually, the result of all that effort is just a recording that either announces that the department needed is not open at the moment, or that the collaborators are currently busy and to please stay on the line at best, or to call back later most often.

We are next subjected to music supposedly designed to calm our nerves, interspersed with messages suggesting alternatives to waiting on the line: going to the website to find a solution, to check their available FAQs, to complete a contact form, or to send an email. And then, of course, to add insult to injury, we hear the infamous message about our call being important to the company! Really? If so you’re not showing it, you’re not walking the talk.

Companies that have understood customers’ frustration with help-line queues have found alternative solutions, such as arranging a callback or providing sufficient staff to cover the busiest times, or at least to be available when the customer is most likely to need support.

Today there is no excuse for a consumer goods company to not be ready to help their users when they need it the most; for example:

  • Early morning or late at night for personal care products
  • Breakfast, lunch and evening meal times for food manufacturers
  • Evenings and weekends for TV and technology products

Whilst in a few cases, there may be customers who use Twitter to jump the call centre queues, in most cases, it is a customer’s final cry for help after being frustrated by long waits on their careline calls, or self-service selections that led nowhere.  Continue Reading

When Did You Last Really Delight Someone?

Now just to be clear, I am not talking about your spouse or significant other, whom I assume you delight every day! I’m talking about your customers, consumers or clients; the ones whose satisfaction and delight makes your business grow. 

An article last year on Forbes Blogs detailed a discussion with Amex EVP of World Service Jim Bush, where he was quoted as saying “we have been taking them (customer service personnel) off the clock and tossing out the old, robotic scripts”.

He also mentioned that “we believe that great service is about what the customer thinks after every interaction”.

 

Delight or Delete

Did you know that if a customer contacts a service centre and is dissatisfied with the response they get, they are more than twice as likely to not repurchase your product or service as someone who had a complaint but did not contact the care centre? Customers who reach out to a company to complain, become fervent detractors if not satisfied by the response they get.

If they have taken the time to call, you need to do everything possible, not only to respond to their needs, but also to surprise and delight them, by “going the extra mile”, going beyond what they had expected, to solve their problem or answer their query. In this way they then become advocates and will share their experience with friends, family and even strangers over the Internet these days.

 

A personal example of ABCD Service

At the end of last year, I tested a few companies’ customer care services as I did online purchasing of my Christmas presents. One company’s products were delivered by the post office to the wrong address (an empty house) and when eventually found, the package had been completely ruined by the rain and snow.

I called the company, even though it was not directly their fault; they not only replaced the damaged goods, but sent them by first class post to ensure I got the parcel in time for Christmas. Now that is service ABCD (above and beyond the call of duty!) the story of which I happily shared with everyone over the festive season. You can be sure that I will use their services again and choose them over other suppliers in the future.

 

What more can you do for your Customers?

I wish more companies would start thinking like Jim Bush and treat every single customer as vital to the success of their business. Whenever a customer contacts you, by whatever medium and for whatever reason, you have a unique chance to engage one-to-one with them on their terms, and to surprise and delight them.

How are your own customer services personnel trained? Do they have a script to which the must adhere and targets of time or cost limitations to respond to each contact?

Here are some ideas on how to improve your Customers’ experience when they reach out to you:

  • Start by thanking the customer for having taken the time to call or write
  • Listen to everything the customer has to say before responding
  • Solve the issue if possible, or say how you are going to get it resolved, by whom and in what timeframe
  • Ask if there is anything else that the customer would like to ask or share
  • Then and only then may you invite the customer to respond to any questions that you would like to ask, if relevant, but keep it short
Please share this post with all your friends and colleagues; the more people that know how to do customer service right, the better we all will be!
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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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