THE DECLINE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE AND HOW TO FIX IT
Marketing Communications, Brand Strategy, Marketing Analytics, Marketing Data, Communications, Customer Relationship Management
I think we all can agree on one thing; customer service isn’t what it used to be. Think hard about the last time you actually were impressed with a company’s customer service given to you as a customer. I know, it’s not very often.
Across the USA, there is a steady decline in the customer service levels of nearly every type of business. Companies just aren’t providing enough attention to giving adequate levels of customer service by phone, online or in person. For the American consumer, substandard service has become the new normal.
What’s happened that’s leading this decline? It’s not a one-time thing, many companies seem to be making the same mistakes repeatedly and making little or no investment in training their employees in basic consumer service skills while setting super-high sales expectations to judge employee worth/value.
Often time companies, when called out on what is just lousy customer service practices and poor service in general, blame it on the tight labor market, or shortage of qualified employees. But it usually comes down to not taking the time or the effort to instill core service training for all customer-interfacing employees. These businesses do not recognize that the cost to acquire a new customer is always, always higher than simply taking better care of and retaining your current customers.
Getting Customer Service Right
Making a strong commitment to customer service is not easy, but here’s some things you can do to help.
- Put it front and center. Make outstanding customer service a top priority and make it part of your company’s strategic plan, vision statement, and marketing for all employees to know.
- Find out what your customer thinks. Utilize quick surveys or just ask customers for their feedback. Make it easy for customers to respond, and make them feel honored you asked.
- Invest in your employees. This sets your company apart immediately from your competitors, by simply investing in employee training to cultivate customer service skills.
- Really understand the customer journey. Technology, or too much of it, might actually make the customer’s journey worse. Don’t just throw technology at customer service as a blanket cure-all without first understanding the customer experience.
- Let your customers know what you’re doing. Be part of the solution by raising the bar for customer service. Let them know what you’re doing to help make their buying experience better.
Today, customers expect bad service, and they accept it. In many ways it’s the consequence of the impersonal nature of our online world. Think about the never-ending phone menus “which change to serve you better”, or getting stuck on hold in voicemail jail, or the inability to have the right option to handle your specific issue. It’s become more difficult for customers to speak to a live person who cares about service. And when you finally get one, they are probably a contract service rep in another country, who may not have the authority to handle your request.
Exact Opposite of the Past
As customers we have become used to having less interaction with a live person, only defaulting to a customer service rep if we encounter a problem we cannot handle with a menu. This is the exact opposite of how it was in the past when the customer journey would start with engaging another person immediately.
Businesses can respond by using online technology to increase the power of human interaction instead of seeking to replace it. Make it easier for customers to get answers they want while providing your employees with the information they need to better serve them.
Customers deserve better service, even if they don’t expect it. And this one feature truly gives a business an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors by surprising and delighting customers with a high quality level of service. And isn’t standing out today what any business wants to do?