The Ultimate Guide To Customer Service
Did you know that 86% of people who receive an exceptional customer service experience are likely to become long-term consumers? Prioritising customer care ensures that your business maintains an unrivalled reputation, allowing your business to grow exponentially. At the forefront of every business, your approach to customer service represents everything a company claims to be. Put simply, the higher the quality of your customer service, the better your business will be portrayed and perceived! Whether you’re a sole trader, SME or multi-national, customer service matters and whether it’s one of the many hats that you wear, or you have dedicated individuals or teams handling customer service – it’s a vital function at the core of any business.
It is imperative that representatives are displaying a high level of attentiveness, emotional intelligence, understanding and industry knowledge. All in all, if you aren’t meeting (or exceeding) customer expectations, plenty of business opportunities may be missed and a high quantity of revenue may be lost.
In instances where business owners are preoccupied with growing their business or are overwhelmed by customer enquiries, outsourcing customer service responsibilities is the best option for their company.
Here at alldayPA, we work hard to transform businesses through our premium client services, operating 24/7 365 days a year. For us, providing the highest standard of customer care is at the heart of everything we do. Through the perfect combination of competent, friendly support with advanced technology, we ensure that your calls, emails, social media enquiries and live chat messages are handled masterfully. We tailor our extensive services and packages to meet the requirements of a variety of businesses in different industries. alldayPA works alongside organisations in providing bespoke Telephone Answering Service, ensuring incoming calls are dealt with both professionally and efficiently. Integrating our highly skilled customer service packages into your business not only saves time and money, but also alleviates a lot of the associated stress of getting back to your customers! We also offer multiple other comprehensive packages and services such as our Virtual Receptionist package, CRM Integration and Diary Management. If you are looking to revolutionise your customer service offerings through amazing technology and amazing customer service representatives, talk to us today to find out how we can help you.
What Is Customer Service?
Customer service is the backbone of any business, no matter how big or small it may be. Essentially, no matter how fantastic your products or services may be, the way in which you sell your business and respond to customers must be of a remarkable standard. So, how is customer service actually defined? Customer service is the ongoing support given to customers to ensure they are satisfied with the product/services paid for. Good customer service involves taking the necessary actions to make sure customers are well informed, always responded to and consistently considered throughout every interaction. Representatives working in this department action each and every enquiry and concern raised with an effective solution, ensuring that customer satisfaction is always achieved. The high level of assistance and guidance provided by customer service agents should not only help a customer make purchase decisions but should also enhance the customer’s experience
Customer Service in the Modern World
The quality of customer service given is incredibly important as it can be the difference between a customer returning and a customer never coming back. Historically, customer service would be provided in-store (in the case of retail and hospitality) or by telephone. This meant that any negative feedback from your customers was less likely to be seen by the masses, and the damage caused to your business would be minimal. However, there is a lot more involved in today’s technology-focused world and customers now expect a prompt response to queries and concerns via social media, email, live chat, WhatsApp and text message. Therefore, the consequences of providing poor customer service can be catastrophic to a business these days, particularly when it’s possible to complain at the touch of a button – one negative comment posted on Instagram or Twitter can open the flood gates to many others and can permanently damage your reputation and your sales.
The Different Types of Customer Service
In an ever-evolving technological world, the platforms in which customer service can be carried out are always expanding. The world of customer service has developed dramatically since the introduction of online chat servers and social networking, maximising the ability to utilise various channels to communicate with consumers. In addition to modern platforms, in-person, post and telephone support are still significant methods of assisting customers and resolving any potential problems. Although there are various channels for businesses to directly engage with customers, there are also numerous types of approaches to customer service that a company can employ.
It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service, as every business operates differently from the next. Understanding your business, sector, competitors and target audience is fundamental to your success in providing top-level customer service. Although, in its simplest form, customer service exists as a tool to optimise customer satisfaction and retain customer loyalty, certain forms of customer care will benefit your business more than others. Depending on what your company offers and how large your organisation is, it may be advantageous to invest in automated functions or a team of technical support specialists. However, the possibilities in how you choose to engage with your consumers are endless!
Reactive Customer Service
Reactive customer service is a traditional yet effective way of resolving problems and answering customer queries. In most cases, customers are hoping to obtain additional product or service information when they contact customer service departments. For this reason, it is essential to have knowledgeable agents on-hand to inform, educate and, most importantly, sell! When customer service agents interact with customers, the agent should be understanding, empathetic and forward-thinking, ensuring they offer a satisfactory solution and maintain, or build on, the established reputation of the brand.
Automated Customer Service
The act of automating your customer service involves utilising the capabilities of technology to its maximum potential in assisting with customer queries. Whether that is by creating an in-depth knowledge base and FAQs or incorporating a chatbot into your website, automation can save a lot of time for your agents. Automated customer support works to reduce the involvement of your staff by enabling a purpose-built system to provide customers with assistance. However, it is vital that businesses strike a balance between computerised interaction and human interaction. A company should never become completely reliant on automated customer service, as this can be detrimental to the relationship between your business and your consumers. Instead of relying on automation completely, this process should be employed to complement your traditional customer service and assist your staff with their various workloads.
Why Is Customer Service Important?
It’s no secret that there is a direct correlation between happy customers and revenue growth, as brand loyalty is a huge contributing factor to any successful business. Fantastic customer service should be executed throughout the entirety of the customers’ journey, from the beginning of the purchasing process right through to post-transaction. As a business looking to generate revenue, it is crucial that customer service is never disregarded as part of your business plan. A positive customer service experience has the potential to retain customers in the long term, whereas 86% of customers choose to avoid a company completely as a result of a bad experience. By having a robust customer care strategy in place that caters to all types of customers, the percentage of customer complaints will be substantially reduced. In addition to the complications that good customer service can prevent, the deliverance of strong and memorable customer care can also positively impact your business in countless ways.
Brand Image Representation
The relationship between brand image and customer service is extremely important for how well your business is perceived by customers. These two aspects are completely interconnected, which is why demonstrating great customer service serves as a catalyst to positive brand identity. A company that invests heavily in building and maintaining strong customer relationships is a company that can expect to see fantastic results, gains and reviews. For bigger businesses, customer service teams are the driving force behind your business, serving as the direct link between the company and the consumer. Believe it or not, customer service – when done correctly – can be the cheapest yet most powerful force to boost customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue. If your customer service staff are approachable, client-focused, enthusiastic and compassionate, your customer’s perception of your brand will heighten by miles.
The Customer’s Experience
According to recent research, over 80% of customers find more satisfaction in a good customer service experience than in a product itself. Similarly, half of consumers claim that they would purchase from a retailer or service again based solely on a superb experience the first time round. So, with experience being a major influencing factor to brand reputation, regularly reviewing your customer service methods is paramount. When it comes to exploring the ways in which customer service contributes to brand image, it is essential to look beyond the friendliness and helpfulness of your agents. From the moment a customer calls your customer care line, the experience of the customer should be at the forefront of your call processes. Put it this way, a long-winded, automated answering service will instantly provoke feelings of frustration as the customer attempts to navigate their way through to an actual human being. Sometimes, simple tweaks to your technology and customer service KPIs and strategies can leave a positive lasting impression on your customers, boosting your brand’s reputation.
Development and Growth
It has been uncovered by researchers that, of the 80% of brands that believe they deliver high-quality client care, only 8% of clients agree. A considerable portion of your resources should be spent on examining existing processes in order to reassess and evolve your services. Customer support teams can gain insightful data about what customers are asking and/or complaining about day to day. Additionally, incorporating a concise review feature to your live chat, telephone and social media platforms allows customers to provide constructive feedback after interacting with an agent. A company can be transformed by just simply listening to customer feedback and using it to evolve your practises and processes. It is crucial to approach every interaction between customers and your business as an opportunity to progress methods and improve your services.
Reduction in Negative Reviews and Complaints
Having a proficient and knowledgeable selection of agents on hand is a powerful mechanism for deterring bad feedback and minimising the percentage of tickets raised for complaints. In addition to delivering strong customer support and communication skills, there are internal structures that can be implemented to best prepare for queries and problems. Customer service comes in many forms, some actions can be taken before a customer even picks up their phone. Proactive customer service requires predicting which queries may come in and responding to them, in advance, with FAQs or forums. This will inevitably reduce the volume of incoming complaints.
On the contrary, in the likely event that complaints are received, there are numerous ways to combat them smoothly. It has been assessed that around 13% of unhappy customers will share their negative experience with at least 15 other people. That said, only 1 in 26 dissatisfied customers will express their poor customer service experience with the business. When complaints are reduced through good-quality products coupled with amazing customer care, it becomes easier to quickly resolve situations. If you ensure that the average resolution time is short, unhappy customers can quickly become loyal, brand advocates!
Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer Lifetime Value, in its simplest terms, is a metric that describes the net profit contribution of a single customer to an organisation. Although growing a customer base in any business is obviously beneficial, customer retention (or brand loyalty) is a priceless asset in the long run. There are plenty of strategic methods that can be carried out in order to retain customers, but getting this right can be challenging. Customer retention can be obtained through marketing, tailoring products and services to specific audiences and offering something that is completely unique. However, customer service is a precious commodity for increasing CLV. Here is how your business can gain loyal customers:
- Listening to feedback: Businesses should pay attention to customer feedback, reviews and complaints. Your consumers should be at the core of your evolving services, with their feedback propelling constant improvements. Customers that feel listened to are much more likely to grow attached to a brand and repurchase from the business.
- Being available to help: Being present on social media accounts and having multiple channels for customer interaction is highly appreciated by customers. Customer service representatives should be approachable and professional, ensuring they always provide the most detailed information and solutions.
- Providing fast response times: Even in your busiest periods, having a systemised approach and strategy in place is crucial to keeping customers content. Understandably, there are only so many hours in a day, which coincide with a set number of staff being available to help. For this reason, providing clear expectations and minimum response times will give your customers clarity.
By planning and implementing a suitable customer care strategy, your business can expect to reap the benefits of retention and higher revenue growth year upon year. Bear in mind that the requirements of your target audience and your sector change rapidly. Business owners should always stay ahead and take a forward-thinking approach to customer service, thoroughly researching upcoming trends and taking the appropriate action.
The History of Customer Service and How It Has Evolved…
It can be difficult to imagine a world without customer service. How on Earth did customers survive without that point of call? Prior to the competent support methods that we often see today in our ever-evolving world of technology, getting support from businesses used to be lengthy to say the least – often requiring an inconvenient trip to make your complaint in-store, and without a delegated representative or knowledge of what your customer entitlement was in advance. We have come a long way over the last few decades, with many customer service departments looking ahead towards an even more efficient way of communicating with consumers. That being said, it is worthwhile looking back at how methods of customer service have developed in accordance with societal changes and technological advancements.
The Birth of Customer Service
The concept of customer experience was born out of the industrial revolution around about 3000 B.C. Proper customer service was essential to meeting the needs of the industrial age. International trade brought people from different places together, and businesses needed skills in how to deal with them. Early on in the history of trade, traders realised that the way they treated their customers influenced their business success. The beginning of trade and the foundation of customer service laid the groundwork for what we have today.
The phenomenon first began gaining worldwide attention in 1760, when it began carving its own niche. Traders began to use terms like “scale” and “customer care” between the years 1760 and 1820. We enjoy today’s multichannel customer support, but a cursory glance at the past reveals many ups and downs of the customer service evolution. The 1750 BC Complaint will forever be etched into history books as one of the greatest milestones in human history. In the British Museum archives, this complaint represents the first-ever customer service complaint. Since then, complaints have bolstered the way in which businesses respond to issues and resolve them.
Before the introduction of the telephone, returning items to stores and retrieving information from suppliers were incredibly difficult, as contact options were limited. Face to face complaints and returns were the only way to find a resolution for faulty products. Even then, refund policies were non-existent. However, the hassle was soon somewhat alleviated once telephone communication opened the door to a speedier form of customer interaction.
A telephone was a rare commodity within the first few decades of its existence, and because of the technology that connected it only to its pairing, it had limited uses. As a result of the invention of the telephone switchboard in 1894, telephones across the country could be linked together, allowing wealthy clients to contact store owners about their products. Throughout the 20th century, customers were generally served in this manner for nearly half a century.It was not until the 1920s that the automatic switching capabilities of the rotary dial system were fully realised, although the system was implemented in the late 1800s. Since early telephones needed operators to connect callers, rotary dials were devised to act as operators, using phone numbers dialled to connect callers to the appropriate telephone. By accepting this technology, customers could more easily reach stores and businesses to receive customer service.
The Introduction of the Call Centre
The introduction of the call centre pioneered the concept of telephone customer service. The term ‘call centre’ was only coined back in the early 1980s; however, the call centre environment was discovered around the mid-1900s. Now that calls could be directed and rediverted to various locations across the country, the call centre filled the void that businesses and consumers so desperately needed. In the 60s and 70s, businesses began to understand how telephones could be used to their advantage. It was around this time that companies began dealing with enquiries from potential customers over the phone, enabling people to make contact in a faster way. Primarily, call centre staff were given the key role of promoting sales and onboarding new customers. Off the back of these calls, major businesses began receiving an influx of inbound calls from marketing campaigns, with many consumers looking to locate additional service information.
In 1989, call centre outsourcing became a significant aspect of many companies’ formal customer service strategies. Passing on customer service matters to a dedicated outsourced business became the norm for a lot of businesses, as this decision was considered both cost and time-effective. Moreover, despite this seeming a logical decision and strategic move for business owners, it was imperative to consumers that the quality of customer service was not compromised.
Whilst most companies continued to experiment with new-found technologies, there were various drawbacks and backlash experienced as customer service departments found their feet with balancing call and email communications. The ongoing, unmanageable flow of incoming calls made it difficult for businesses to respond to clients, causing mass frustration for both employees and customers alike. Call centres struggled to fight back the poor reputation they continued to maintain. Something had to be done to solve the constant issues of long wait times and automated phone trees.
The Impact of the Internet
Fast forward to 1991, the launching of the internet had taken the business world by storm. It soon became apparent that the facilities made available online could be employed by customer service centres as an alternative, simplistic avenue of communication. With consumers and companies now gaining access to a new channel for one-to-one interaction, the demand for customer service agents and contact centres grew massively. Both instant messaging channels and email features allowed consumers to contact a business without having to engage with operators, cutting out the middleman that previously burdened the process. This new diversity in contact centres meant that an increasing number of businesses could now transfer their services/products to the web.
The Shift to Omnichannel Customer Service
The internet plays an integral role in the history of customer service, as this technology would propel the transition from ‘call centres’ to ‘contact centres’. The term ‘call centre’ became less well-known once the internet continued to grow and the telephone became less popular. Contact centres began to recognise the positive impact of embracing all channels of communication as a means to best interact and please their customers. By giving consumers a variety of contact options, the waiting times would soon decline. In addition to the plethora of contact choices available, such as SMS, email, live chats, phone calls and snail mail, contact centres could become the main hub of customer service.
Modern CRM systems were soon integrated into customer service strategies to streamline, develop and log interactions back in the 2000s. Renowned companies such as Salesforce and Microsoft became essential partners to the industry, providing businesses with both cloud-based solutions and CRM software that would strengthen their services.
The Popularisation of Social Media
The power of social media has completely revolutionised customer service and the way in which consumers interact with brands. The entire experience of customer service has been altered through social networking, due to the open aspect of social media that allows users to freely share their opinions. The interaction between an unsatisfied customer and the business in question is no longer a private matter, as public posts enable an entire following to view posts directed to the brand. When complaints are openly left on social media, this shines a spotlight on the brand that serves to encourage a swift response. On the contrary, social media has transformed customer service in a way that makes providing solutions much easier. The visibility of interactions between consumers and brands means new customers are likely to use the experience or visible feedback of others to assist with their queries before customer service gets a chance to respond. Additionally, a large quantity of happy customers take to social media to post about their positive encounter with a brand, boosting brand awareness and driving traffic to their website.
All in all, over 60% of consumers interact with brands in some way either before or after purchasing a product or service. This evidences just how prominent social networking has become in the evolution of customer service.
What Is Good Customer service?
Good customer service can radically improve your reputation and revenue, and it doesn’t take much to create a positive experience for your customers. Many of us will have experienced poor customer service before, but what exactly does good customer service look like?
When attempting to lure in prospective customers, the way that you treat them and respond to their questions is paramount to ensure their continued custom. If you are lucky enough to win that customer’s patronage, ensuring that quality service is still provided to your customers will keep them coming back for more. But, even if you don’t manage to land the sale, courtesy, patience and knowledge could lead to that customer coming back to you some time in the future. Good customer service leads to loyal customers. The root of good customer service comes down to the core values of your business and the ability to meet the values of your current and prospective clients – this is because if people think they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand. Everyone values patience, kindness and loyalty, but what else makes good customer service?
Implementing a Stringent Customer Service Strategy
Devising a company-wide strategy is what sets the expectations for your customer service. Outlining policies, procedures and KPIs ensures that consistency is always maintained throughout the entire business. The strategy should contain in-depth guidelines on how interactions with customers should transpire, offering details on how to tackle every situation. Agents should always be closely observed to ensure that all expectations are achieved consistently throughout all customer contact. By setting strict standards for what is expected from your customer care team, your business can truly excel and exceed the expectations of your consumers. Adhering to such strategies is paramount to providing customer service that is coherent and professional.
For any large-scale business, it is essential that customer service representatives are aware of their requirements. It is crucial that a strategy is developed to ensure that complaints and problems are resolved in a systematic manner. The resolutions provided to customers should remain consistent for every possible scenario. If one agent delivers compensation for the same issue that another agent ignored, there is a higher probability that further complaints will be made. Consequently, everybody’s role within the business should be defined and processes should be followed to ensure that all interactions are efficient and persistent.
When a customer contacts a customer service department, they tend to be seeking a resolution to an issue, answer to a query or an update on their purchase. It is the duty of the agent to not only console or reassure the customer, but to also provide detailed information regarding the next steps that will be taken to resolve the situation in hand. No matter which channel a customer may engage with your business, the end result must always satisfy and provide the results that the customer expected to achieve. Ultimately, the job of a customer support agent is to offer the most comprehensive advice and suitable solutions to a customer’s queries. Moreover, where problems cannot be immediately solved, communicating to the customer exactly what they can expect to happen next is vital to disputing any complaints. A fantastic customer service agent will understand how the business works, how a problem should be approached and exactly what steps to follow to conclude a successful interaction.
A highly skilled customer service representative will take the necessary steps to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. Regardless of the circumstances, identifying a way to relate to the customer’s frustrations will help in leading the best responses throughout the conversation. Firstly, customer service staff should recognise and acknowledge the feelings of the customer. Secondly, the agent should repeat the query back to the customer to ensure that they have understood the context, as well as to reassure the customer that they are truly engaged in the conversation. Being empathetic towards a customer will immediately have an effective calming effect on the other party, encouraging them to feel appreciated, listened to and recognised. Remember, your brand’s reputation is always on the line. For this reason, it is fundamental to the business that customer service agents remain calm, collected and understanding.
All too often, customer service staff take a robotic, stiff approach to communicating with customers. This can make customers feel uneasy and under-valued, due to the agent’s lack of human emotion and empathetic attitude towards them. Regardless of the stringent strategies in place that may provide loose guidance on how staff members should behave and interact, it is important to be relatable and approachable to all customers. Nothing retains customers quite like a personal experience. A little conversation goes a long way in obtaining your customer’s admiration for your overall service and brand image. Personalisation can also work in online interactions, particularly when businesses send out regular targeted vouchers or rewards. Personalising your customer’s experience initiates a relationship and eases customers into feeling involved and valued on a personal level.
Staying Calm and Professional
Delivering top-quality customer service can be particularly difficult when faced with a challenging customer. However, remaining calm, cool and collected is perceived as key to professionalism in any business. Sometimes, adapting to the tone that is being received on the other end of a call, text, email or message can be tricky, particularly when confronted with rude language. However, by mirroring a customer’s negative behaviour, problems are rarely productively solved. Additionally, stooping to this level can have a knock-on effect when it comes to customers leaving reviews – it is important to any business that customer service staff obtain a good rapport with customers. Not only does staying calm build your brand’s reputation without tarnishing your business, it also aids your angry customer in relaxing to match your tone. This can be an extremely effective way of getting your customer to comply and agree to a solution that works for them.
How Good Customer Service Can Impact Your Customer Relationships
Life today’s fast-paced, so any experience a customer is expected to have with your business needs to be considerate of the time limitations on people’s days. Prospective customers may only have their lunch hour to speak to one of your representatives and so the experience must be quick and productive. For existing clients, the same is true, but remember, as Vince Lombardi said, ‘It takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one.’ A recent article found that the average wait time for customers trying to speak to a customer service representative to discuss their broadband has increased by over one minute in the last year, resulting in Ofcom demanding improved services. Research also shows that poor customer service is the number two reason for customers changing their broadband or mobile phone provider, second only to financial deals.
Every year, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index carries out an online survey to over 10,000 adult consumers in the UK to ascertain their experiences during the previous three months with a range of businesses across different sectors. Each customer rates one organisation in each sector, including those in retail and utilities. In January 2021, businesses in the UK scored 0.1 points lower than the previous year. It’s likely that this statistic was impacted by the pandemic, as it stands to reason that, if more people were at home, there were more opportunities to complain, or even just to notice areas for improvement.
Fantastic customer service is about going that extra mile to ensure that your customers are fully satisfied, that they will continue to be loyal patrons, and that they will tell their friends and colleagues about the efforts your company goes to for its customers. Richard Branson says that wonderful customer service begins at the top, and no matter what size your business is, you should always spend time, money and effort ensuring that your customers are happy.
Different Methods and Channels for Providing a Good Customer Experience
The tools that are used by customer service agents in order to best approach customer queries and complaints can hugely impact the customer’s experience. In a world driven by advanced technology and a growing dependence on the innovative capabilities of the internet, businesses may feel overwhelmed by the endless possibilities available to them. The most suitable channel for interacting with customers is hard to determine, as different business types and target markets have unique needs and preferences. However, a company should always conduct thorough research of their target customers in order to understand which channels they may prefer to engage with. All in all, a successful business is most likely to offer an omnichannel of support to best tackle each and every query. By catering to phone users, live chat users and social media users, your methods of customer service will be able to provide optimal support for all customers, no matter which method they choose to contact you by.
Phone Call Support
Out of all the available methods of communication, telephone calls are still the most effective way to resolve an issue and reassure customers quickly. Despite the introduction of live chats and social media interactions, 85% of consumers prefer to use the phone to contact a company to get a problem solved swiftly. Not only does phone communication provide the customer with immediate acknowledgement of the issue in question, it also enables the customer to feel directly connected to a representative of the company.
This channel offers customers a simplified, streamlined customer experience. For any consumer, interacting with an empathetic and attentive human being is reassuring. Not only does this one-to-one communication technique deliver authentic and invaluable customer service, telephone services tend to solve problems at the first point of contact and help brands to increase customer loyalty.
Social Media Interactions
Unfortunately, feedback from customers that have shared their negative experiences with brands on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook continues to have a detrimental effect on brand image. It has been assessed that 94% of people will avoid a brand based on an online review, be that through a search engine or social media platform. With this in mind, it is crucial that businesses remain vigilant online, ensuring that social media posts and comments are monitored.
Although email communication tends to be one of the longest ways to receive a response and tackle problems, they are also a great way to keep track of the process. Around 64% of small businesses utilise email servers to interact with their customers, making emails a prominent focus point for delivering quality support. In situations where complaints have been raised, emails are easily tracked for the customer service agent’s reference. This helps the customer support team to reflect on past messages, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances and the steps that have already been taken. Not only does this ensure there is no vital information missed, it also gives the agent the time needed to construct an informative, knowledge-based answer that accurately responds to the customer’s query.
Employing an Expert Customer Service Provider for All of Your Support Needs
Running a growing business can be time consuming and stressful. Often, customer service can become a neglected aspect of a business, despite the fact this element contributes to a large portion of your company’s success. It is for this reason that a large quantity of businesses in all sectors seek to collaborate with an outsourced service provider. Here at alldayPA, we possess the skills, knowledge, patience and time necessary to alleviate the stress from business owners. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide high-quality customer service around the clock, working hard to answer all queries and solve as many problems as possible. Want to learn more about how we can help your business retain customers and gain an unrivalled reputation? Contact us today to find the solution you’ve been looking for.