Customer service isn’t what it used to be. We don’t mean it’s better or worse than it was 15, 30, 50 years ago — we mean dramatically different. Increased competition, the digitization of our lives, changing values and new technologies have all altered the definition of good customer service.
Businesses can’t afford to ignore the changes and trends. A survey by Aspect and Conversion Research found that more than 50 per cent of U.S. consumers have ceased doing business with a company because of poor customer service. Don’t be one of those companies. Here’s what makes good customer service in 2017.
It happens on all platforms …
… but less and less by phone. Social media and online chat have quickly caught up, and even begun to replace, more traditional customer support channels. As we spend more time texting than we do talking on the phone, forcing customers into a phone call for every inquiry feels outdated.
Not all concerns and problems can be addressed in 140 characters, but businesses need to give customers options when it comes to where and how they can initiate their question or complaint. If you’re still relying on phone and email to handle all requests, consider where else you can feasibly expand to. Maybe it means adding a chatbot to your site, or hiring a secondary social media manager to focus on customer questions that come in through Facebook and Twitter.
In a time of unprecedented interconnectivity, there’s no excuse for generic and impersonal customer service. Put the data you have on your customers to good use, by tailoring your approach in addressing their problem or concern. On a basic level, this means addressing them by their first name and referencing their order, purchase or use of your product or service. On a deeper level, it means using their customer history to personalize how you work with them. If John Smith from New York has only ever communicated with your company by email, then stick to email. If he has requested assistance after each and every one of your product updates, then be proactive next time and reach out to him with help first.
Our culture has become accustomed to instantaneousness, which has had big implications for customer service. It’s no longer adequate to wait days before acknowledging a customer’s message. According to data from Forrester Research, 73 per cent of people say that “valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.” Of course, not every company has the resources to provide solutions within hours. But what every company can do is at least acknowledge that they’ve received the customer’s question or comment, and promise to respond within a specific window of time, no matter which platform the customer used to communicate their issue.
Good customer service in 2017 is, above all, easy to get. Don’t send your customers on a wild goose chase for answers by burying a customer service email address or skipping an FAQ page. Instead, equip your customers with all the tools they need to help themselves and then to seek help from you. Flesh out your website’s help page with guides, tips and troubleshooting guides organized by category, give your customers a choice in how they receive help (online chat, email, phone, Facebook messenger, etcetera) and prominently display your customer service email address, phone number and social media handles.