Think even 5 years back, and your customers only ever really interacted with your sales team. The Internet and the way we buy things, has changed all that.
The ‘subscription culture’ is the future.
We have started to subscribe to things, rather than buying them outright:
- We stream music from Pandora or Spotify instead of downloading MP3s or CDs from record stores
- We rent cellphones from the ‘phone company instead of buying a home phone (remember those?!)
- We subscribe to our software online and via app stores
- We buy our clothes and accessories online through a long-term relationship with brands that deliver for us
- One day, we might even ‘subscribe’ to driverless cars which come and collect us when we summon them, if Google has their way!
But what does this trend mean? It means our relationship with businesses is changing. It means that what was once the back office, or “support team” is now firmly at the front. In a world where sales are becoming small, continual and incremental, rather than big an upfront, the customer servicing team is the primary deliverer of customer experience.
Keeping your finger on the pulse?
Increasingly customers buy online. So far so good. But what then?
In the past, a CRM system helped the sales team keep in touch and buy more of the same at a pre-determined time. But the subscription culture now means that customers are more likely than not to have questions, need technological help, want ongoing assistance, make a returns or exchanges.
Customer interaction systems like Desk.com and Zendesk are growing rapidly for exactly this reason. Servicing a ‘pay-as-you-go’ business requires an empowered, human-focused team, and that team need to deliver seamless service, during each of many interactions, to keep that revenue coming in. Servicing = reputation. And reputation = brand and word of mouth. The link between customer service and marketing has never been closer.
Individual pieces of communication matter enormously
The importance of measuring satisfaction on a per-communication basis for support, given the likely lifetime value of your customer, is essential in this environment.
With social media (often unfairly) amplifying every small error, subtle nuances in language over email, timeliness of response, tone of voice, discretionary effort – they are what now makes the difference between keeping that customer for life (and them attracting more to you), or the customer ditching straight out of the relationship.
The long surveys of a decade ago, with dozens of questions, sent once a year, cannot keep up in such a fast-paced world. A year’s a long time when you’re paying monthly!
Asking people if they are happy once at the end of a year or project doesn’t allow you to capture and fix issues along the way. Neither does it offer an opportunity to train staff on improving things along the journey – the inevitable highs and lows of long term customer relationships make great training material.
Because even complaints can be good for you
If you get things badly wrong for a customer, that can often be surprisingly good for you! How? So long as you know about it and handle it quickly and effectively. Customer service recovery can actually make a customer more loyal than if they hadn’t had the bad experience in the first place.
But, you need to know if you’ve got it wrong quickly. In real-time in fact. This has the brilliant side benefit of fixing issues before any bad press gets on social media.
6 ways you can use customer feedback to keep your customer servicing operation at the top of its game
- Ask customers for simple feedback as much as possible, and make it easy and fun for them to give you that feedback
- Don’t hide customer feedback away if it’s bad – make sure it is regularly discussed and used in training
- Understand customer service can sometimes be challenging, especially for new staff, so make sure you are aware of any unhappy customers as soon as possible and that you can be on hand to advise when there’s a situation brewing
- If you’ve changed something as a result of customer feedback, let that customer and the person who served them know – so they can see the power of their input in action
- Make sure your team know that ‘satisfaction’ is not their goal – loyalty is
- Put complaints first. Ever called a company to complain, and found it takes 3 times longer to get through to ‘customer service’ than to the sales line? Empowering customer service to put things right means that one sale from that customer turns into many.
Your customer service operation holds the key to your business’ growth and is your best defender of reputation and therefore revenue.