Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How To Deliver A Top-Shelf Customer Service Experience

By: CJ Silva

The customer is always right.  Anyone who’s been in business or worked at a call center knows that the truth can be very, very different.  The secret of successful customer service rests in the customer never being told that, yet being educated about your company’s goals and visions in the process.  Many customers who need help are frustrated because whatever they bought isn't working to their expectations and it's often difficult to channel that frustration into something productive. With a little work and forethought, you can manage to reduce, or even remove, that frustration.

Get to Know Your Customers
The first step in anything is to know what you're getting yourself into. When it comes to customer service, that means getting to know about your customers. How old do they tend to be? Where do they live? What are the most important facets of their lifestyles? Are they mostly students? Families with children? Do you cater to a particular hobby? All of these things may be important in establishing a comprehensive sense of your customer base.

Involvement in social sites is key. Today, just about everyone is on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or any of the other popular social sites. Your company should be there, too. It's not only a great way to interact with your customers directly, it's a way to get to know them.

In a brick-and-mortar store, one way to make customers feel like you care about them is to address them by name when they arrive. You can do something similar even if your business is wholly online by using the information you've learned to personalize your interactions with your customers. When you care about your customers, and understand their needs, that immediately raises the quality of the customer’s experience.

Customer Participation Brings Them Back for More
Using either social sites, or your own website, ask your customers questions. Set up surveys to ask them how they think you're doing. Not all of them will rate your customer service or have ideas about how to improve, but many of them will, and some of their advice is well worth your time.

Consider a place for customer reviews. It's very likely that most people who go to a website to buy something read any available reviews before they make a final decision. Good reviews can make a sale for you better than any ad copy ever will.

Take the time to read all constructive reviews, even (or maybe especially) the ones that aren't so flattering. If you have the opportunity, see if you can find out what went wrong with the poor reviews by contacting those reviewers personally.  Reward them by offering some incentive and talking with them personally.  In fact, reward your customers for being customers, no matter how they have viewed the experience with you.  That interaction can turn even the most jaded ex-customers into brand evangelists.

Offer a Better Web Experience
It goes without saying that your website should be functional. Strictly functional, however, is not a great customer experience. Your site needs to inspire the senses. People respond to appeals to the senses, so if your site is appealing, it will enhance the customer experience.

Another old saying applies here: "A picture is worth a thousand words".  This is especially true when it comes to the limited space available on a webpage. There's only so much space to display what you want your customer to see, so it's important to make that space count. You may not find pictures of your product particular interesting, but most people like to see what they're getting before they take the plunge and buy it.

If you're going to make your website graphically engaging, perhaps even with multiple images per product or different views of what you're offering, you have to make sure your website is up to the challenge. The last thing you want is for customers to move to another website because it takes several minutes for the pictures to pop up.

Do not forget mobile users. Your content should be viewable on any platform, whether laptop computer, desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. There are millions of people who use a phone as their primary access to the internet. Take advantage of that by making your website mobile-friendly. As long as your site is able to load in a few seconds, customers will stay to browse, and when they want to browse your site, that is also a clear sign of a good customer experience.

Staff Matters, Too
A company that is more than one owner is going to need to train staff to better handle customer service. The quality customer experience is directly linked to the person who answers the phone when they call. Taking time out for customer service training is essential, but it doesn't stop there. Offer incentives to representatives who leave the customers feeling better than before they called.

When it comes to top-shelf customer service experience, take some time to think about how you would like to be treated as a customer.  Think about the last purchase that you made and what you’d like your call centers and customer service reps to say if you had to call them.  There is where you can set your own company apart from the rest.

 CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

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