Five Ways to Improve Customer Service Today, Tomorrow, and For Years to Come

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The modern business landscape is more competitive than ever before. Traditional differentiators for brick-and-mortar shops including seasonal discounts, storefront accessibility, or product quality are less relevant as everything from price match guarantees to ubiquitous access to quality products via the internet have leveled the playing field, limiting the differences between companies.

As a result, customer service plays an increasingly prominent role in customer acquisition and retention. According to a Verint study on customer centricity, lower prices played an influential role in determining customer loyalty, but customer service priorities including service accuracy, demeanor, and engagement combined to have a more significant impact on customer retention.

Of course, excellent customer service isn’t a given, and many companies invest significant sums in training employees in customer-facing conduct. For instance, in 2017 companies increased training expenditures by more than 30% and overall spending exceeded $90 billion. However, this broad-brush approach, which applies to several types of employee training initiatives, only accounts for a small portion of the customer service demand. As McKinsey & Co. concluded, “Focused investments will be needed to improve the skills of customer-care workers in both service and sales and to hire new ones who can handle increasingly complex interactions.”

Fortunately, companies don’t need to be overwhelmed by the demand for quality customer service. When it comes to creating a compelling customer experience, some things matter more than others. By focusing on just a few tangible factors, any organization can dramatically improve their customer service experience.

Tips for Tackling Customer Satisfaction & Retention

#1 Strengthen Customer Service Skills

There are specific customer service skills that companies can prioritize, educating employees on their nuances and deploying them through continual reinforcement. According to SurveyMonkey, employees prepared to offer a compelling customer service experience require empathy, adaptability, clear communication, work ethic, knowledge, and a thick skin.

In many ways, these are intrinsic qualities, built into a company’s moral fabric. Even so, companies can teach them, and they should. Direct instruction, modeling, mentoring, and various online tools can equip employees to improve their skills, becoming more intentional representatives in the process.

#2 Value Every Touch Point

A compelling customer experience doesn’t just occur at checkout. Instead, customers routinely interact with all facets of a company’s customer-facing cohort. Especially in the digital age, this broad group includes everything from the packaging on a shipped item to a social media campaign, and they can make or break a quality customer experience.

In short, everything and everyone matters.

Valuing every touch point cannot be achieved with a top-down approach. Rather, organizations need to empower their employees to individually improve the customer experience. As marketing consulting agency CMG Partners notes, “All employees can help deliver a great [customer experience] with a focused strategy.”

This requires both a directive from management and a mindset shift among employees who may not see their roles as impactful to customer satisfaction and retention

#3 Improve Interactions

In 2019, companies encounter their customers everywhere. Not only do they shop in their stores, but today’s customers are also interacting with brands online, and smart companies are intentionally engaging customers at every level.

To facilitate customer interactions, SalesForce encourages employees that “When a text message comes in, the phone rings or a social media post pops up, it’s kind of like a customer coming up from behind and tapping the agent on their shoulder. Turn around and face them, at least in your mind.”

The best brands face their customers in a personal way, even on the internet. From Taco Bell’s incredible social media presence to compassionate chats with demanding customers, improving customer interactions is a critical component of customer loyalty.

#4 Ensure Representatives Are Engaged

Most companies place staff in positions to be responsive to customer needs and demands. Therefore, their engagement with the clients is pivotal. Whether it’s a customer service phone representative or a company rep responsible for periodic check-ins, these relationships matter.

Employees with direct relationships with customers are the best line of defense when a problem emerges, and they are most equipped to make strategic decisions to ensure customer satisfaction.

#5 Respond to Feedback

Customer service is a dynamic pursuit. It’s continually in flux as customer desires change and different communication methodologies and platforms come in and out of vogue. Consequently, it’s critical that companies are responsive to the feedback that they receive from their customers.

Rapid changes can mean the difference between salvaging a customer relationship and losing them forever. What’s more, by staying attuned to evolving customer demands, organizations can help ensure that they remain relevant and responsive.

In this case, the retail cliche proves pivotal: the customer is always right. Know what they think, and respond accordingly.

A Data-Driven Path Forward

To gauge employees’ progress in these traits, regularly survey customers and evaluate employees to ensure that they are becoming more competent at implementing customer service priorities. For organizations that interact with customers in-person, this can include quick surveys at checkout that can provide valuable feedback for future training. In addition, nuanced employee monitoring software offers an inside glimpse into the organization’s progress in these priorities. With many survey and employee monitoring products already on the market, improving customer service skills occurs continually and dynamically.

Employee monitoring software carries some negative connotations, but its practical purpose is much more optimistic. For instance, it can serve as quality control for customer support interactions, providing meaningful insights into the speed and efficiency of communications that can improve future performance. Moreover, it can provide real-time analytics on customer interactions across various channels, alerting companies to possible problems before they become disasters and allowing managers to step in if necessary.

Since customer service is quickly becoming the most significant differentiator between companies, getting this facet right is incredibly important, but don’t be overwhelmed by the task. By focusing on a few critical areas of the customer service experience and by implementing some easy-to-use tools like surveys and employee monitoring software, any company can be on the road to crafting the ideal customer experience, one that leaves them happy, satisfied, and ready to come back for more.

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