It’s a common phenomenon and one you give us feedback on regularly. Whether you run a large or a small business, most of your customers are more demanding than ever. These 21st century patrons of yours are armed with more information than they’ve ever had before. They communicate, share and comment on that information through rapidly expanding social media communities. They also have more options, more choice, and their expectations of the service you provide are rising all the time.
At the same time, it’s probable that the budgets you have available to improve your customer service are at best plateauing or maybe even dwindling. So if you do really want to improve, there are two important questions we think you should ask yourselves:
How do you make best use of limited resources to deliver the best possible service today? balanced against….
How do you invest wisely to adapt to rapidly changing customer behaviour whilst keeping a long term focus on the aspects that really matter to your customers?
It’s a dilemma that faces organisations of all sizes. But with careful planning, it's one that you can start to solve. Here are five handy tips to get you started:
Get back to basics
You may have heard the term ‘connected consumers’. Both large and small companies are likely to respond to this with yet more emphasis on social and digital communication. However, research shows that a large proportion of people still want to communicate by phone, email or with a real person. So make sure your customers are always able to contact you on their own terms (ensure your contact details are highly visible on all offline and online marketing materials).
Ask for feedback
Above all, customers want their issues resolved satisfactorily. Companies that do this well know their customers inside and out. They solve problems successfully because they know what both delights and irritates their customers at every single stage of their journey. To help you achieve this goal, it’s well worth considering investing more of your time gathering customer feedback. This can be achieved no matter how small your business; take a look at Survey Monkey, which provides businesses with a quick and easy way of surveying their customers online – you can ever use many of their customisable tools for free.
Do more with less
Could social media help you to drive new efficiencies in your business? Used as part of your overall service mix, your Facebook and Twitter pages (and others) have great potential to cut costs within your customer service operation: for example, by diverting some people away from your phone lines. If you run a small business, you can consider taking this a step further, using social media to build an in-depth customer service capability that will help you work around your limited capacity to take calls.
Breaking down barriers
Great customer service is carried out by those who feel they have full responsibility for resolving issues. If you’re a company doing this well you are bound to make sure all of your employees are focused on the customer experience. Equally, great customer service is characterised by a seamless experience regardless of whether it’s delivered in a shop, on a computer or over the phone. Consider how you’re going to do this better by breaking down the barriers that exist within your company. Sharing knowledge across departments perhaps, or maybe getting managers to understand real customer service issues are a great place to start…
One step at a time…
Whether you are thinking about using social media for your business right now, or simply have it on your to-do list, the key thing to remember is to take it one step at a time and to learn from your experiences. The social media world in particular is very accepting of trial and error. Make a small start, gather feedback along the way, measure your results and then use them to refine your efforts as you move forward.
And remember, just like your offices or your phone lines, social media doesn’t necessarily have to be a round-the-clock operation. It’s more than ok to set expectations. Some of the biggest companies in the world confine their social media customer service to business hours. If that’s the way you prefer it, then that’s fine!