There is a reason that smart businesses value customer service, and it goes beyond good citizenship and a sense of responsibility to their local neighbors. Customer service improves your retention. A business is typically very concerned with being able to retain customers because it costs them 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain a current one, according to figures from Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy E. Gallo. Businesses are certainly likely to see more churn if they have poor customer service. According to customer service industry research, 70% of customers leave because customer service was lacking.
What is good customer service, exactly, though? Let’s look at a list of principles that define high-quality customer-service, according to research on the subject.
Robots are not your customer service friend.
Robots can be fascinating to watch, but that doesn’t mean you want to have a conversation with one when you are trying to get a problem solved quickly. Make it clear to your customers that you are NOT a cyborg. Personality is all right as long as it reasonably professional. Of course, people want their problems resolved, and you want to help them. However, it is not just about speed. It can help increase rapport immensely to simply introduce small talk to the conversation – about sports perhaps, or the weather. Any friendly comments will help shift the sense of the interaction to broader topics, resulting in a more human connection.
Speed is fundamental.
The speed with which you respond to customer issues, often phrased as responsiveness, will have a huge impact on how well people rate their customer service experience. Researchers at Warwick University found that whether customers said they were satisfied or dissatisfied with a business interaction, the #1 factor determining their perspective was the speed of response.
The majority of US consumers (53%) responded to a 2013 survey that they spent 10-20 minutes on hold weekly, which equates to 13 hours per year.
According to live chat firm Userlike, key metrics for customer service – especially when it’s remote (phone, live chat, etc.) – include first response time, average response time, problem resolution time, and first contact resolution ratio. These figures are of course more important for businesses that process a lot of complicated customer service issues by phone — but any business, regardless of size, should be aware of them since they have such a strong impact on perception of service level.
It is worth stating the obvious: a business can respond much more quickly to problems when the staff is broadly knowledgeable and knows how to solve as many of them as possible. Not only will a competent and skilled employee typically not have to go ask for help but will be able to help you resolve your problem (assuming it’s not too granular) without having to ask you a laundry list of questions.
Focus on relationship-building.
A business that is serious about success wants to have solid, sustainable, long-lasting relationships with its customers (a cornerstone of retention – and the reason 90% of our auto repair is repeat business). Building relationships can be confusing since the business world can seem so functional and separated from personal concerns. A four-point plan that businesses can use to improve their relationships with clients includes:
- Welcoming them and starting a natural interaction with them.
- Listening to them and indicating that you understand what they need.
- Recognizing that only some people are going to want what you have to offer and building relationships with those who are receptive.
- Be helpful, even at the level of simply giving people information, such as informing them of an event they might find useful.
Ensure the quality of your services and products.
A business needs to understand its customers’ expectations – i.e., what they understand as incredible service within your industry. Thoroughly understanding what the expectations are of those you are servicing means listening carefully upfront (which has clear engagement benefits as well).
Not meeting expectations is a core way that a business will “achieve” poor customer service ratings (markers that are extremely effective at driving away customers). According to statistics highlighted by Teradata Applications chief marketing officer Lisa Arthur, failed customer care leads to skipped sales, refunds, and departures to competition, totaling $83 billion of annual losses for American businesses. Looked at another way, nearly 4 in 5 customers (78%) have stopped in the middle of buying something because they decided the customer service was not up to par. The source of those later numbers, a 2011 survey of 1000 US 18-and-older consumers, was not all negative though: it also revealed that nearly three-quarters of people (70%) will spend more (13% on average) with businesses that they believe have customer service that is exceptionally good.
The first step for achieving high-quality service is to simply clarify what exactly you mean in terms of quality; then, in order to deliver your understanding of quality consistently, encapsulate these expectations in service level agreements and standards. You can express these standards publicly through certifications to meet sets of parameters and privately within your internal policies.
Be certain fair expectations are met.
You must ultimately hold yourself responsible to your standards if you want them to have meaning. Impress the importance of these standards on your staff. Your personnel should know what the expectations are and how to meet performance expectations (essentially, meeting needs quickly), according to consultant Matthew Harrington. Solving any ways in which service is inconsistent should be a high priority for all employees and management.
Do not try to cover if you do not know an answer.
Probably everyone has been in a situation in which they have a know-it-all person at a business “answering” your questions without really answering them. Worse yet, you may have experienced someone giving you the wrong advice, which you applied and made the problem worse than it was before. A business should know that all employees are confident going to their supervisors or other colleagues if they don’t immediately know how to answer a customer correctly. It is perfectly acceptable service to go get the answer and come back to the client when you have it; the key thing, really, is communication, as indicated by Salesforce.
Especially since Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is such an advocate of compassionate capitalism, it is no surprise to see Salesforce also suggesting that a business should step into the shoes of its customers. It would be in the best interest of businesses to get a handle on this notion of empathy since Salesforce notes that it is a way to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Empathy will not go unnoticed; your customers will sense the concern and caring coming from your staff – and this tone should be central. “A company cannot be successful with a culture of apathy,” explained Salesforce. “Your service agents especially must master the lost art of empathy to deliver effective customer service.”
Do you want great customer service for your auto repair? At Independent Motors, we treat our customers the way that we want to be treated: fairly and honestly. That’s why 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our philosophy and meet our staff.