Customers and the service that businesses provide are fundamental in ensuring in ensuring long-term relationships and the success of any business.
How we communicate with customers has continued to evolve with several communication channels now available including phone, SMS, internet, social media and live chat - each offering businesses the opportunity to talk easily with customers.
However, some businesses are still afraid of how to effectively use social media and try new channels of communication, preferring the ‘old and traditional way is best’, or ‘why change what already works’.
Every business has had to or will deal with a negative tweet or comment from a displeased customer at some point. However, understanding why the customer has vented their frustration after receiving bad customer service is also important in ensuring that the same thing doesn’t happen repeatedly.
So what steps can be taken to avoid some of the most common customer service mistakes and to ensure that your business isn’t the one failing? Let’s look:
Not listening to the customer
The internet is a powerful tool to help businesses promote brand awareness and sales messages to customers. However, communication needs to be a two-way process.
Businesses are all too quick to push a sales message, but without any effective customer service, this can leave customers feeling negative and that their or reason for getting in contact hasn’t been answered.
The same can be said of website communications. Many companies only allow contact through phone or contact forms. But customers want instant results. The site that doesn’t provide this will lose out to the ones that do.
Live chat has continued to increase in popularity as it has proven to be a useful tool for all kinds of customer queries. Most commonly it’s used for quick questions and answers to support a buying decision, and it avoids the need to sit on a queue to speak to a representative over the phone. Also, plenty of people cannot bring themselves to call and explain their issues, especially when it is a negative situation.
Using social media to complain
More and more frequently angry customers are tweeting or posting their comments on social media in a desperate attempt to highlight their frustrations. Companies that choose to delete these negative comments, prior to responding, could be making a big mistake.
Deleting comments gives the customer the impression of not being valued and that their views are not important. No company should act in that manner. Customers will always have the advantage when it comes to comment quantity. So, when you respond, make sure your present a response that shows real customer value and proves that the customer is at the heart of your business. Even a request for a private message or email address to further discuss the matter is better than deleting the comment completely.
Using outdated methods
The internet and social media platforms are must-haves for any business in today’s world.
With customers actively searching the internet to research information, you need to ensure your company stands out from the crowd! Those companies that don’t have a social media presence will lose out, as will those that keep relying on outdated modes of communication.
Some customers will always want to communicate by phone and are not willing to change their habits to suit you, and that’s fine. You should offer a rounded means of contacting you that covers and meets all customer needs. However, you should offer several channels for customers to contact you and ensure that they are properly manned always. If this means keeping someone on the phones, whilst monitoring email, SMS, live chat and social media, this needs to be done.
Make it easy for your customers to contact you - phones are fine and create a personal contact. Emails are more discrete and can be reviewed before sending, but they don’t really offer a quick response. Live chat offers businesses the best way to respond to customers answers when they are needed quickly. This is especially true when it comes to questions that customers have when they are on the site, as they are likely to make a purchase.
Ignoring the customer
If businesses want to retain customers, a golden rule must be that every query received is answered, if not, this can be fatal for a company. This problem arises for businesses who have a lack of customer service staff, and since no one person can man the phones/email/chat on a 24/7 basis, it’s vital that you make it clear what hours your business keeps and timescales with regards to responding to customers.
Technology has given businesses all the tools needs to effectively communicate with all customers. The exact same tools are available for customers, who are using these channels more and more as they are less intrusive and time consuming.
If you can’t offer 24/7, 365 days per year dedicated support, sending customers an acknowledgement to confirm their message has been received and will be answered within a certain timescale, will provide a sufficient response to satisfy the customer. But always ensure if a timescale for responding is provided, to keep to it. If you can’t, notify the customer of this and keep them up to date with progress. A great customer experience will ensure they return time and time again, even if the response has not been received within the set timescale, but they have been kept informed and updated.
If you have a chat function on your website, then it’s extremely important that you cover as much time of the day as possible to answer questions. Of course, it isn’t always possible to have enough chat agents for being available always. In this case, the best approach is to focus on the peak times of your business and to make sure that your chat widget states when it’s manned on the front of it.
Not empowering your frontline staff
Customer Service Advisers are the people right at the heart of your business, providing dedicated support and the initial point of contact for customers. They are also the ones that must deal with all manner of enquiries and complaints.
It is important that customer service advisers have the necessary authority to deal with all the enquiries or complaints. If not, then it’s likely they will deliver a poor service and have an unhappy customer on the line.
Also making sure your customer service advisers are fully trained and understand all aspects of the business, so that they are well-informed and can answer any enquiry. A customer wants to know that when they call, they are going to speak to someone who can help with their query.
Ensuring the customer service adviser can easily and quickly access customer records is also key in how effectively you deal with enquiries. This is most commonly done through a CRM tool and provides the customer service adviser with a complete history of the customer, enabling them to deal with the query efficiently, and providing assurance for the customer that they are speaking to someone who can help.
Having the right communication tools in place is vital to any company wanting to provide the best customer service possible, always. To discuss your company’s requirements and how Exchange Communications can help, call us on 0800 008 7600 or visit www.exchangecommunications.co.uk