Published on September 11, 2018
Customer service is not supposed to be reactionary. According to Gannett CMO Andy Yost, “2018 will be the year of servicing consumer needs before they even arise. Brands leveraging the right data and analytics to deliver impactful customer experiences will rise to the top.” If you didn’t get that memo until now, don’t worry. You still have time to build the kind of support that anticipate customers’ needs rather than reacts to them. Here are five essential things customers expect from their customer service interactions—and what you can do to make sure they’re satisfied..
5. Customers want to be heard
When customers reach out to your business, it’s because they want to be heard. Whether they have a question regarding a process, are curious about a product, or are unhappy with an experience they had, it is extremely important that your team takes the time to listen to what your customer is telling you. While you may think you already know what they’re talking about, interrupting your customer in the middle of their explanation isn’t only rude, but it can lead to mix-ups and more problems down the line. Additionally, by assuming you already know what your customer is talking about, or by not adequately listening to the details of a customer’s situation, you’re setting yourself up for failure. When agents lack vital context of a situation, the quality of your customer support naturally degrades, leading to more time wasted in resolution and unhappy customers.
To prevent negative outcomes, try this: instead of listening for keywords that send agents down a rabbit hole of irrelevant “solutions,” tell agents to frame their interactions with context. When listening to customers, don’t try to pin them down to one specific situation. Instead, let them tell their stories—and write notes in the process. Taking diligent notes about customers not only helps agents retain details better, but it also aids other agents interacting with the same customer in the future. This, combined with reading a customer’s conversation history, is essential to understanding one’s situation. If you read a customer’s notes and history and see that they’ve already explored options A and B, you can skip straight to C instead of wasting their time.
4. Customers value acknowledgement
Empathy and kindness go a long way in customer service. Hand in hand with listening to your customers is acknowledging their feelings. As Dale Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” While we don’t believe customers lack logic, it is important to emphasize the value of your customers’ feelings in any support interaction. People want their feelings to be validated. While you may not always have the perfect solution for their issue, it never hurts to acknowledge a customer’s feelings, apologize for any issues they’re encountering, and stay humble.
The worst thing you can do to a customer is ignore their grievances. No matter the interaction, whether it’s an email, live chat, or even a phone call, customers deserve to be acknowledged. If a customer emails your company, they should get an immediate response notifying them their email has been received and will be responded to shortly. If you’re interacting in real-time, agents should use tact and patience throughout their interactions. If your customer leaves a message on your phone line, be sure to call back in a timely manner; don’t keep anyone waiting. Throughout all interactions, be sure to remain kind, attentive, and understanding of your customers’ feelings. You never know how a few kind words can comfort a customer in distress.
3. Transparency and accountability are key
There’s nothing worse than feeling deceived. When it comes to customer service, it’s not uncommon for customers to come out of a conversation feeling fine and then soon realize that they weren’t told the whole truth. Transparent communication is a great equalizer. When companies and customers are honest with each other, the best resolutions arise. That’s why it’s so important for companies to provide transparency to their customers.
There are plenty of ways to achieve this: providing transcripts, having agents clearly say their name, and giving customers reference numbers are all easy and cost-efficient ways to show that you are accountable for what you do and say.
In addition, being honest when you make a mistake or have a glitch is paramount to gaining trust. Customers know no one is perfect; rather than brushing mistakes under the rug or pretending they don’t exist, acknowledging errors and being transparent has shown to improve a customer’s trust in your business. According to a study from 2016, 94% of customers said transparency was important to them and influenced their purchasing decisions.
2. Ample time should be provided
We know companies are under a lot of pressure to perform well under limited time, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality for quantity. For many customers, a major cause of frustration is the lack of time given to adequately address their issues. It’s not uncommon for a customer to be rushed off the phone with an unhelpful solution—for the mere sake of keeping resolution times short and “efficient.” In reality, rushing customers out of interactions hinders support quality and wastes time. A customer rushed away is more likely to get in contact with you multiple times to resolve the same concern. That means more time spent on an issue that could have been solved the first go around.
According to John Tschohl, president and founder of the Service Quality Institute, rushing customers takes a toll on your bottom line as well: “73% of dissatisfied customers cited incompetent, rude, and ‘rushed’ service as the #1 reason why they abandoned a brand.” In order to combat this, it’s important to look at your company’s resources. Is your support team adequately staffed? Without enough people, your customers may be receiving less attention than they deserve. Do your agents have the right tools to successfully engage with customers and fulfill their needs? If not, you may want to consider an all-in-one customer service solution (such as the one provided by Help.com).
1. A plan of action is necessary
No customer service interaction is truly complete without an established resolution or plan of action. Ideally, all customer service interactions would end with an easy fix wrapped in a bow, but we know this isn’t reality. That’s why it’s so important for service agents to provide customers with the next steps. In conjunction with actually telling customers what they should do or expect in the coming days, it is just as essential for agents to write down exactly what they told customers and give future agents a summary of what still needs to be done for their customer’s case. This type of communication creates clarity between agents and provides context for the next person handling the customer’s case.
Most importantly, it is imperative that companies actually fulfill their list of obligations in these steps. Without this, your company’s communications become empty promises, and your customers’ trust in your business will erode. Conversely, companies who fulfill their duties come out on top. Providing top notch customer service isn’t only beneficial to your customers, but it’s the foundation of your brand and your company’s reputation.
What would you add to this list? What do customers expect when they are contacting customer service? And how can companies improve their practices for all involved?