Being able to deliver high-quality customer service is arguably more critical to business success than ever. Our recentEnghouse Interactive survey highlighted that the public often take action as a result of the service they receive that significantly impacts a business’s brand reputation – either positively or negatively.
60% of respondents to the question, “what actions have you taken as a direct result of poor customer service?”, for example, responded “have never done business with that brand again”. On the reverse side of the coin, more than four out of five respondents (82%) said they would usually tell others about a positive customer experience.
Customer service has today become the key determinant of whether or not to purchase from a brand. 42% of respondents said they usually or always based their decision to buy solely on the organisation’s reputation for customer service, a figure that rises among 16-24 year-olds to more than half of surveyed respondents from that age group.
So the quality of the service businesses provide is critically important. Organisations clearly need to focus their attention on sustaining their reputation. But how can this best be achieved? In an increasingly complex digital environment, characterised by a rapid expansion in different kinds of customer interaction channels, it’s no easy call.
Broadening your horizons
The days when every customer would contact a business via a fixed line telephone 9-5 on weekdays are long gone. Today, a one-size fits all approach to customer service no longer ‘cuts the mustard’. Instead, it’s all about tailoring your approach to different customer groups.
If your business model is predominantly online or you’re marketing to a young audience, you’ll want to offer social media engagement and a greater array of online communications tools. Among 16-24 year-olds, the three most popular methods of engaging with a business or a brand were smartphone (cited by 25%); self-service via company website (23%) and social media (18%).
If you are mainly engaging with older consumers you should focus on traditional channels. After all, email is way out in front as an engagement method with 52% of the 55 and overs category favouring it, followed in popularity amongst that particular group by fixed line phone. And if your market is a mixture of both old and young, you’ll need a broad-based solutions offering, encompassing traditional voice-based telephony and the latest online solutions.
In order to meet the diverse needs of such a polarised customer base, businesses are likely to need to broaden the range of communication channels they offer and make themselves accessible round the clock (not just in office hours) so their customers can engage with them anytime anywhere and on any device.
But while expanding the breadth of channels offered is clearly important, businesses must never neglect the demands of the connected enterprise, where workers across a business are linked in a collaborative network and can be brought into play to engage with customers where necessary. The ability to be quickly routed through to somebody within the business who has background information about them and understands their needs is prized by all groups, although perhaps most highly by older consumers who particularly value having quick and easy access to somebody who knows them and understands their needs.
This is the area that can get forgotten in the whirl of updating systems and launching new channels to build an infrastructure that is ready for the demands of the new digital era. Successful customer service is about meeting the needs of every customer and businesses who are serious about protecting their brand and enhancing their reputation need to remember that.
With the ongoing move to digital self-service channels for customer service, which are typically much cheaper to run, many businesses are making savings. There must be a temptation simply to take the money and add it to the bottom line. But no – the savvier amongst them are reinvesting that money to ensure that when people do need to speak to staff directly, they can get connected into the business and access somebody equipped with the relevant knowledge to solve their problem.
Businesses need to have a strategy in place that allows them to respond proactively to the kind of polarisation in customer preferences that this survey shows up so clearly. After all, if they want to protect and build on their reputation for customer service and use it to build business success, they need to know what interaction approach their customers like and be prepared to provide them with a service that delivers just that.
Blog by Jeremy Payne is international group marketing director – Enghouse Interactive.