While achieving consistent, mutually beneficial customer interactions is an optimum goal, the inflexible, cookie-cutter approach to customer service has reached the end of its life cycle. Here are eight reasons why personalized customer service isn’t just the best option, it’s the only option for companies that are planning for success.
- Companies live and die according to their customers’ experience.
Walker Information has reported that, by 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator. And Gartner reports that 89 percent of marketing leaders expected to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience last year, compared to 36 percent in 2010. The reason behind these statistics is simple: Companies that provide the best customer service currently make, and will continue to make, the most money. In fact, the Harvard Business School has reported that increasing a company’s customer retention rate by just 5 percent can increase your profitability by 25-95 percent, depending on your industry.
- No size fits all.
A study by Harris Interactive in 2011 found that 86 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. One big step toward “better” is to reduce the effort required by customers through context-driven data, cross-channel connections in real time, scheduled callback, and other options. These options also allow each customer to make choices about how the interaction goes forward, which also enhances their experience.
- Customers take different paths to arrive at your door…
Consider all the channels that come into your contact center. Do they all require the same amount of time and effort on the part of the customer? Your system should show you the route each customer has taken, and if they have put in the time and effort to reach you through a more circuitous route, make sure they know how much you appreciate them – even moreso than the casual visitor who clicked on one button on your website and started a quick chat to get one question answered.
- … And they arrive in different frames of mind.
While one would probably prefer all customers to be calm, logical, and well-organized, in reality they’re more likely to be rushed, scattered, frustrated, or even alarmed by some issue that is important enough to encourage them to contact you. At this point, their interaction with your team is critical. CEB has reported that 65 percent of a customer’s perceived level of effort is driven by how the customer service representative made them feel during the service interaction; what the customer actually needed to do accounts for only 35 percent of their perceived effort. And when customers come in feeling negative emotions and leave feeling more positive, they remember.
- Customers want different things.
Beyond that, they each want what they want, and they will probably not thank your contact center for putting them repeatedly on hold, for example, or for taking up their time with a canned list of questions that may not relate to the reason they contacted your company. Finally, the companies that are going to be most successful in the future are the ones that can present a product, idea, or service to their customers before the customers even know they want it. They will do this through customer experience departments that develop highly responsive relationships with both customers and their own company’s product development teams.
- Time is money – for everyone.
Anything you can do to limit the time your customers spend waiting in a queue is money well spent. A solution like VHT Callback, which has saved customers more than 1 billion (yes, billion) minutes of hold time in the past 20 years, has been shown to impact customer loyalty and provide a clear increase in company Net Promoter Scores. Furthermore, on the operations end, you know the time of your valuable staff is being used most effectively.
- Play to your team’s strengths.
As customer service and retention rise to the top of company priorities, contact center staffing issues also take higher priority. Agents should be trained to use active listening skills to improve overall communication, to ask probing questions to unearth other relevant information, and to use positive language to help build the positive relationship. Taking it one step further, every customer should be routed to the most appropriate agent; once your staff is given specialized training, does it benefit either you or the customer to have your applications team, for example, take calls on the office equipment line?
- Gain the competitive advantage.
It has been reported that 24 percent of consumers continue to seek out vendors for two years or more after a positive experience. In addition, a Harris Interactive report found that 73 percent of consumers said that friendly customer service representatives could make them fall in love with a brand. Experts seem to agree that flexible, personalized customer service is any company’s best source of sustainable competitive advantage.
How will your company gain and maintain this advantage? Learn how you can enhance the customer journey and increase the flexibility, responsiveness, and personalization capabilities of your customer service team.