Customer service matters—a lot.
Besides being good for your bottom line (more on that below), 81% of marketers say their companies compete “mostly or completely on the basis of CX.” It’s a key differentiator, so improving your CX should be an ongoing focus and priority.
However, that’s often easier said than done.
How can you convince your organization to invest further in customer service, and what can you do to improve it effectively?
Our team of customer service experts—with over 40 years of experience—has worked together to collect nine ways you can improve your customer service effectively, from quick-win tactics to long-term strategies. Keep reading to see the tactics, and get expert advice on how to implement customer-focus throughout your entire organization.
Why Customer Service Is So Important
If you’re looking to improve customer service within your organization, you probably don’t need much convincing on why it’s important.
However, we know you’re not the only one that needs to be convinced. Discussing the importance of customer service with other teams or C-suite leaders can be difficult. However, the numbers are pretty convincing:
- 54% of customers say that customer service is a deciding factor into their purchasing decisions
- 68% of customers will pay more for products or services if a company is known for having great customer service
- Companies that have excellent customer service have profits 4-8% higher than that of their competitors.
So, customer service isn’t really just in service of your customers—it’s also a profitable business move that drives loyalty and bottom-line impact in the long run. In addition, improving customer service can have an impact on almost all areas of your business, from sales to loyalty, marketing to product and more.
For example, as customer service improves, customers tend to have better experiences. When customers have better experiences, they’re more likely to tell their friends, thus increasing your word of mouth marketing. Since word of mouth marketing tends to be more efficient than other marketing channels, it can make your marketing as a whole more effective.
Aside from the numbers, you may not have to look far beyond your own experiences to recognize the importance of great customer service.
- When was the last time you had to call an airline to change your flight (or perhaps, get a new flight after they canceled yours)?
- When was the last time you haggled with a customer service agent over a fine-print return policy that was frustrating? Or needed to exchange an item that didn’t fit? Or couldn’t figure out how to adjust something important in your account?
- Or, perhaps most frustrating of all—when was the last time you needed to talk to your phone, internet or insurance company to discuss a bill, a recent claim or a service you received?
If any of the above situations are making you groan internally, then you already know the problem with poor customer service. And if you think about companies you are really loyal to, chances are you had a good customer experience with them at some point in the past:
- they made a return easy
- they included a free gift with your order
- they rewarded you as a loyal customer
- they offered fast (and maybe even free!) shipping
- they resolved a problem you encountered effortlessly
Customer service matters for much more than the current problem a customer presents—their experience with your customer service, whether good or bad, shapes their understanding of your brand for years to come.
How To Create a Customer Service Focused Organization
Given the importance of customer service on your business outcomes, it’s essential to create a customer-service focused organization—and that starts from the top.
By leading with a customer focus, you can integrate customer focus into the entire company and each department, rather than just regulating it to CX or customer service teams. By doing so, you can create a stronger customer focus that strengthens your customer experience from every angle.
Integrating your customer focus into every aspect of the company can take many forms, and it doesn’t have to be extreme—but the more effort you put into it, the more effective you’ll find it to be.
For example, Zappos wanted to be known as a customer-service brand that sells shoes. They wanted to integrate customer service into the vision and mission of the entire company, not just the customer service department. As a result, they decided to design a 4-week onboarding program for every employee that not only goes over the company history and philosophy, but also has every employee spend two weeks in the call center talking to customers and working on customer service directly. By asking all of their employees, no matter their role, to spend some time in the call center, they emphasize the importance of customer service throughout the organization, and give employees hands-on time in serving and getting to know customers.
In addition, make sure you intentionally listen to—and implement—customer feedback. Take feedback seriously, solicit it openly, and share it throughout the organization for actioning. Of course, being customer-obsessed like this requires expertise and resources that may not be available in-house—in which case, you should look for an outsourcing partner who is similarly customer-centric and who can provide resources and expertise to help you create a customer-service focused organization.
For a more complete guide to creating a customer service focused organization, read our complete guide on customer focus strategies.
9 Things You Can Do To Improve Customer Service
So, how do you actually improve customer service throughout your organization? These 9 tactics are tried-and-true methods you can start implementing immediately.
Nail the basics
First things first: too many companies get caught up in the latest technology or trends for improving customer experiences and fail to succeed at the basics first.
According to research from PwC, around 80% of U.S. customers cite “speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service” as the “most important elements of a positive customer experience.”
These four elements are core to the customer experience—ensuring that you have them well-cemented will set your customer service up for success in the long-run. So first, focus on these four elements and the technology, tools and techniques that can help you improve these.
Invest in your agents
A key way to improve your customer service is to improve your agents! After all, your agents are the foundation of your customer service, as they’re the ones interacting with your customers day-in and day-out.
As such, any investment in your agents is an investment in your customer service as a whole—and you should invest in them. According to recent research, less than 30% of customer service agents feel that they have the training and resources needed to do their jobs well.
Don’t assume that training is a one-off occurrence when an agent is onboarded. Instead, make agent training and learning an ongoing part of the role, and something that happens both individually or 1-on-1 between agents and managers, as well as in team or group settings. Training becomes more effective when agents are allowed to share gained knowledge and learn from one another as well as from dedicated training materials.
In addition, don’t overlook the importance of QA processes and performance reviews to help agents make steady ongoing progress. When agents are able to have clear benchmarks for quality, it strengthens direction and focus for improvement—thus making your training more effective.
Offer self-service options
What’s easier and more effortless for customers than being able to get the answers they need anytime? Nothing, of course, and that’s why self-service is quickly becoming more and more important for customer service.
With so many self-service options available—from knowledge bases, FAQs databases, chatbots and more—offering instant and on-demand customer service for customers is easier than ever.
However, you unfortunately can’t simply let these self-service options run on their own. You need expertise on how to implement them effectively, update them regularly, manage QA processes on consumer interactions, measure consumer sentiment after using them, and so on. If you don’t have the resources to do this in-house, you can always outsource this to a qualified outsourcing partner, like Global Response.
Either way, once you develop the self-service solutions, make it clear to customers that they can find answers to simple questions or concerns on their own. Doing so reduces customer effort scores even further by allowing them to both find answers easily and fix their problems on their own, whether that’s starting a return, resetting a lost password, updating account information or something else.
Ready to perfect your CX?
Offer omnichannel support
Did you know the average customer uses at least three different types of channels to connect with a brand to get questions answered?
It’s the age of multi-channel support, and companies need to adapt. Offering omnichannel support is a clear way to provide better customer service in the modern marketplace. While omnichannel doesn’t mean you need to be available on every channel possible, you do need to find out what channels your customers already use and then be available on those channels.
By doing so, you can reduce customer effort (thereby increasing customer satisfaction) by allowing customers to easily find you on channels they already use to communicate with family and friends—whether that’s over the phone, by email, on social media, via SMS or more.
If adding omnichannel support to your customer service solutions feels insurmountable with your current resources, outsourcing can help you provide omnichannel support at scale. For example, at Global Response we offer outsourced omnichannel support services that help you understand the customer journey, sync your customer service across all channels, and offer exceptional service with a human touch—at every touchpoint.
Ultimately, omnichannel support shouldn’t just make you more available—it should make the entire journey seamless for the customer. Regardless of what channel they contact you on, every agent should be able to clearly see who they are, what they’ve purchased, and what interactions they’ve had in the past. Omnichannel strategies deliver this level of streamlined systems so customers feel supported throughout the entire journey.
Personalize your service
In addition to reducing customer effort by offering omnichannel support, personalization has a high impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The research is clear:
- 59% of customers rated personalization as “very important” when it comes to customer service
- 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from companies that offer personalization services
- 76% of customers are frustrated when their experiences are not personalized
- According to McKinsey, fast-growing companies “drive 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts.”
Personalized service—and experiences—not only aid in customer satisfaction and loyalty, they’re actually becoming increasingly expected by customers. And, as one might expect, they’re also a big driver of revenue growth for brands, given the importance customers place on them.
Personalized customer service and solutions help customers feel known and valued by your brand—but these don’t have to be big gestures. Something as simple as addressing customers by name, making a small personal connection, or providing personalized recommendations based on a customer’s previous purchase history are all great ways to embed personalization into your service. A good CRM and call center software can collate all of this customer data to make it easy for agents to know your customers and personalize accordingly.
Reward your loyal customers
Rewarding loyal customers is another surefire way to improve customer experiences. Unlike many other tactics on this list, loyalty programs are a proactive way of offering customer service, rather than reacting (in a helpful way) to customers who already need something.
Not to mention, loyalty from customers pays off—so finding ways to increase loyalty through rewards programs, referral programs and the like is essential. After all, loyal customers spend more, purchase a wider variety of items, and refer more customers than newer customers.
So how do you improve loyalty? By rewarding your loyal customers, of course. When customers feel seen, acknowledged and valued, they become increasingly loyal to your brand. These rewards don’t have to come in the form of a formal rewards program either—they can be one-off rewards, such as birthday coupons or special sales for repeat customers, depending on your business model.
In any case, providing personalized rewards whenever possible increases the effectiveness of your loyalty program. This could be points-based systems that allow customers to spend their rewards how they please (such as Starbucks’ “Stars” rewards) or it could be coupons and discounts on items or refills specific to that customer’s past purchases.
A straightforward—but underutilized—technique for improving customer service is to simplify your policies and keep them customer-focused. Doing so ensures that customers can easily understand them and know what to expect.
Whether it’s your returns and exchanges policy, a satisfaction guarantee, or other policies, keep them tailored as much as possible to your customers’ actual preferences. For example, if your customers are busy Millennials, a two-week return policy will likely increase your customer service requests and leave you with dissatisfied consumers.
On the flip side, REI offers a famously-lenient 365 day return policy (only for members of their paid-entry co-op program!). This even includes gently used gear, so long as it is cleaned before the return. Not only does this allow customers to purchase “risk-free” from REI—trying out gear and knowing they can still return it if it doesn’t meet their needs—it also improves customer service, allowing REI to manage 88% customer satisfaction and loyalty.
They maintain this policy by selling gently used gear at a discount to other members in their re:supply shops and member “garage sales.” Even though the policies are customer-focused, they’ve also found a way to make it sustainable for their business as well.
Of course, in the end, when you keep policies customer-focused, you make customer service easier because you won’t be fighting with customers on policies that your agents can’t change. Instead, make the policies with the customers in mind from the beginning, and you’ll find an instant improvement in customer service and satisfaction.
Prioritize customer feedback
Finally, ask for customer feedback regularly, then review it and implement it into your processes, policies and products. Never assume that you just know what the customer wants or how you need to improve—ask your customers directly and make sure you get it right.
This is another underutilized tactic. In a recent survey, 87% of companies said they provided an excellent customer experience, while only 11% of customers said that companies did indeed provide excellent CX. The disconnect is striking—and it’s to be expected when companies proceed without asking customers for feedback along the way.
There are plenty of metrics and key data pieces you can use to measure and collect customer satisfaction and feedback—for example, CSAT scores, NPS scores, online reviews, customer surveys, social media comments and so on. Many modern technologies and AI tools can help provide social listening and sentiment analysis as well.
Work with an expert
Of course, sometimes you’ve simply done as much improvement as you can on your own.
When you begin hitting a wall, where you find it difficult to improve no matter what you try, it may be time to work with an expert to take your customer service to the next level. Global Response can help you uncover new insights that drive results, expand your customer service team to provide faster service, implement omnichannel support or simply bring a human touch to your service through our brand-obsessed customer service representatives, we’re here to support your goals—and deliver results.
Connect with a Global Response expert today to take the next steps in improving your customer service!