The new year is under way, and while you might have already given up your promises to eat better or hit the gym more often, there's one resolution you should make -- even belatedly -- and stick to this year: a commitment to customer service.
Why? It's simply good business.
With experts estimating it costs between four and 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one and the Canadian dollar taking a dive, you want to avoid churn at all costs by ensuring your customers are satisfied and will recommend your product or service to others.
Additionally, according to a recent study, customer experience will soon overtake price and product as the number one brand differentiator, so how a company delivers customer service to meet the rising threshold of customer expectations is more important than ever. Here are three ways to help bring your customer service to a whole new level in 2016:
Build a customer service roadmap:
In a recent survey, only 29 per cent of Canadian businesses indicated that they have a robust workforce-planning process. It's not a stretch to think that many of these businesses do not have a plotted customer service roadmap. Since customers are your most important asset, why wouldn't you have a plan to support them?
Consider the following questions: what channels are you planning to support, understanding that customers expect to be able to engage across every channel of service -- anytime, anywhere? Are your agents specialized in managing a broad range of issues, including sensitive ones? Are most of your company interactions with customers about service?
If they are, your agents are on the defence, not the offence. Empower products to communicate in advance and alert users of possible issues before they arise, because the best customer service experience is always one that never has to happen.
Are you planning to expand geographically and if you already have, did you hire local support agents? What systems do you need to integrate? Can your customer support scale as you grow? If you have a clearly defined plan, you'll be able to provide your team with a better vision and direction, which will result in better customer service.
Build your own app:
Customers are increasingly becoming more mobile and therefore their customer service experience needs to be, too. In fact, more than two thirds of Canadians now own a smartphone, and the vast majority of their time is spent using apps. From pricing information to promotions to general account management, mobile apps not only allow you to provide relevant information to your customers but also engage with them anytime and anywhere.
Thanks to resources like the Salesforce AppExchange, thousands of business apps are available to help you better run your business. And if you can't find the app that you need, it's never been easier to build a custom app with pre-built components using Lightning Exchange.
These kinds of services are invaluable to SMBs as you don't need a programmer a full IT staff to access apps that are tailored to small business needs and growth.
Don't 'pass the buck':
We've all had to call a customer service support line at one time or another -- then placed on hold, only to be transferred over to another customer service agent who you have to explain the reason for your call to all over again. We all know how frustrating this could be.
What could have been a quick fix has now taken up 15 minutes of your time and a great deal of your patience. With new technologies replacing the old call centre model, you can offer your customers a much better experience. Customer relationship management tools put all relevant customer data into one place, allowing for a single customer view. This includes everything from the customer's history, their preferences, past interactions with the customer, past sales and even the customer's social media presence.
By having all of this on hand, the information is readily available to any of the customer service agents managing the case (the customer then does not have to continue recounting their issue when new agents are introduced). CRM allows for a quicker, more efficient resolve and, consequently, a happier customer.
With so many tools and processes available, there are a number of ways to improve your customers' experiences this year. What will you do to make 2016 the year of the customer?
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Over 80 percent of respondents ranked Lowe's as "excellent" or "good," in part because of the company's commitment to honoring customer service requests both in-store and through their online channels. The company has also made it easier for DIYers to ask questions in person about projects they've found online by equipping stores with wifi and associates with iPhones reports the Los Angeles Times.
Trader Joe's doesn't carry the biggest selection, but it earns a spot on this list thanks to its drive to stock stores with products requested by the local community. The company also values staying ahead of the curve by taking steps like using allergy labels before they were required and stocking shelves with local goods before they reach a national market.
After repeated consumers called Samsung "the worst customer service ever," the electronics retailer made a serious investment in improving its reputation. In the last year, the company has wooed customers back by launching a worldwide customer service campaign and offering a free app that provides online support, troubleshooting guides, and how-to videos you can take anywhere.
Three out of four respondents believe that like a good neighbor, State Farm is there—and they're not the only ones. In a survey of insurance companies by the Temkin Group research firm, State Farm was recently ranked the No. 2 firm for customer service, just under USAA, because of their accessibility, ability to solve customer problems, and the emotional connection consumers had to the brand.
With their mantra of "Focus on the user and all else will follow," Google goes to borderline insane lengths to test how even the smallest decisions impact user experience. For example, when faced with a choice between two shades of blue for a Google toolbar, the company tested 41 shades to see what tested best reports the New York Times. Fans can expect that level of attention to detail in all Google products.
Despite the recently leaked video of a FedEx driver throwing packages, the air freight company has long held a reputation for delivering goods ranging from typical packages to a 320-pound sea turtle on time without damage. Over 40 percent of those who interacted with the brand in the last year ranked FedEx customer service as "excellent."
UPS garners a 41 percent "excellent" rating by anticipating what customers need before they need it and helping customers through social media. UPS plans to expand those efforts to workers soon. According to the Wall Street Journal, UPS will soon unveil a social networking platform where workers can address safety hazards, concerns, and company criticisms in an effort to make the firm run smoother.
Of course businesses care about their customers, but Hilton outlines its philosophy for exactly how they'll take care of you. For example, Doubletree, a franchise owned by Hilton Worldwide, maintains a CARE committee within each of its hotels that includes workers from every department and exists to monitor hotel performance and ensure that guests are satisfied. The tactic is working, at least according to Zogby's study where four out of every five respondents reported an "excellent" or "good" interaction.
This company is filled with buzz about suite attendants who leave personalized notes and door attendants who provide local homeless people with transportation to the nearest shelter. Details count at Marriott and so does rewarding repeat customers. The hotel chain has taken home numerous accolades for its loyalty program including a top spot on US News and World Report's Best Hotel Rewards Programs list.
With an initiative to hire up to 7,000 new workers, approximately 2,000 of which will be in customer service, the online giant plans to bolster its already robust service wing, reports The Washington Post. The company has long been a pioneer in e-customer service by offering policies like automatic refunds when service standards aren't abided by, free shipping on orders, and price guarantees on pre-ordered items, all of which make it a perennial No. 1 in Zogby's study.
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