Customer Contact

Today’s industry buzzword is ‘agile’.  Businesses need to be quick to respond to change, or risk being left behind.  They need to know, and use, the latest systems and social media platforms, or will end up being seen as out-of-date. In such fast-moving environments, where business objectives are continually evolving, how do you know if you’re still doing a good job?

The critical measurement of success in the business relationship is purely and simply the one that you have in place with your customers; this is largely based on your ability to request, and act upon, genuine feedback.  Without taking the time to review and analyse customer comments effectively you’ll never actually know what sets you apart from the competition whilst you’re striving to improve.

Customer feedback today is often little more than a ticked box on a generic feedback form which delivers next to no value when all is (un)said and done.  Identifying the need for more feedback than this is driving visionary businesses to introduce robust customer-focused methodologies, which ensure that the customer service element of their offering remains at the heart of the business.  From onboarding, through to contract renewals, you need to take responsibility for reputations – yours and that of your customers.

The first critical component in reinforcing this is the unwavering commitment you must show towards service excellence and continual improvement, which should be driven from board level.  Customer Service forms an integral part of a longer-term business strategy.  We know it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘we just need a fully trained and knowledgeable Customer Service team’, but the reality is it goes well beyond that – from first view, to first contact, to pitch to contract win.  Everyone in the business is a potential point of contact for prospects and customers, so take the time to look beyond the typical routes ‘in’ to your organisation and develop a training programme which ensures all other departments in the business receive the same high level of knowledge and training. Ultimately, it’s all about embedding the customer service culture that you want to promote, as early in the process as possible.

As a result, the language and approach we use for each customer is dynamically adapted but with one fundamental connection – all our team members have become experts in our business.  Asking first point-of-touch team members to take responsibility is invaluable; but you also have to ensure that they feel empowered to deal with the customer.  This comes from feeling confident with their level of knowledge, and being supported by the executive team.

In a similar vein to using different language when speaking with customers, businesses operating today need to understand the customer demands that are driving multiple communication channels.  Live Chat features are increasingly popular, but can’t be expected to replace a phone call into a business or an in-person visit to a customer premise if a problem is in need of particularly urgent resolution.  In a business world increasingly focused on the customer, it is the antithesis of customer friendly to dictate how a customer must contact a business it is dealing with.  It is key to cater to different customer generations and behaviours – starting with understanding what those are.

Interestingly, a past research report by Satmetrix claimed that “companies are continuing to lose customers often unnecessarily because they have not listened to feedback…”  In parallel, satisfaction and growth of existing customers had a positive impact on customer retention.  Very simply, when customers are satisfied with the service, they are more inclined to continue using it.

So, what processes and protocols can you introduce to improve your understanding of just how happy your client base actually is?

Look at how regularly you actively seek customer interactions, ask for detailed feedback or complete surveys that offer the opportunity to understand the here-and-now but can also act as a tool to inform customers of your longer-term business strategy.

Don’t just gather comments; action them.  We have, for example, taken steps to enrich our omnichannel customer service, which includes a personalised service with webinars, a ZenDesk community centre and full onboarding training sessions.

High customer retention and positive results do not mean, however, that businesses can risk becoming complacent.  Don’t underestimate the increasing power of the customer; be able to adapt to changing customer expectations often driven by more knowledge and more choice.

Making continued investments – financial and time – to understand your customers’ opinions is good business sense.

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