Customers are "signals" - charting a new course to customer satisfaction

clock • 4 min read
Getting ahead of potential complaints will endear you to your customers
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Getting ahead of potential complaints will endear you to your customers

High expectations and low patience - satisfying customers has never been more difficult, but the key to satisfaction and retention is a seamless experience using collaborative technology.

In the ongoing battle for customer retention, an organisation's customer service representatives are on the front lines - especially when something goes wrong.

According to a Bain & Company survey, a customer is four times more likely to switch to a competitor when there is an issue related to service vs. price or the product itself. Another study found that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to 'make up' for one negative experience. But if brands can provide experiences that exceed expectations, studies by Salesforce found that 72% of customers will share those good experiences with others. 

The challenge for many organisations today is how to take a potentially negative experience and convert it into a positive one for both customer and company. 

Information as ammunition

Unfortunately, customer service agents are almost never armed with the right information to help turn a dissatisfied customer around. But there is a path forward. 

The key? Companies need to ensure their customer service reps have access to the right people to solve customer-facing problems rapidly, and the necessary insights into the work being done to resolve critical issues.

A good place to start is by using customers themselves as 'signals' to discover potential problems. Analytics tools and automation to capture important customer environment information - as well as open lines of communications between customer teams and Dev or  IT - can help identify any common complaints or a new issue that might signal a potential outage - well before it becomes a bigger problem leading to downtime or other issues. 

More than 50% of digital operations issues are often identified by customers first, not by monitoring technology. And no wonder - it's almost impossible for teams to keep up with instrumenting new or evolving services, not to mention ever-changing infrastructure. But whether it's 50%, 40%, 30% or less, the fact remains that the customer is a signal - and the more attentive you are to that signal, the more successful you will be. 

True colours come out in a crisis

Consider, for example, how this might play out in a crisis. While digital transformation has enabled many companies to innovate their service offerings, the pressure on digital operations has made service disruptions inevitable. Regardless of your industry or size, a major incident - like a network going down or a weather event that impacts many customers at the same time - will happen at some point.

The question then becomes: How will you respond? 

According to a Salesforce survey, 90% of customers believe that how a company acts during a crisis reveals its trustworthiness. However, a disconnect between operations and customer service teams slows resolution, and reveals many companies are not equipped to meet their customers' expectations in moments of crisis. Their service teams are not set up to effectively respond to an incident and deliver a great customer experience. 

The 'back office' today is now the front office, and vice-versa. There is little distinction today between the front lines of customer service and the back rooms of IT, engineering, or other teams.

If customer service teams can be informed of an incident early - ideally before the customer is impacted - they can quickly notify all customers of the issue, share details about when and how the incident will be remediated, and prevent a flood of customer inquiries. 

Let's say that a shopping cart isn't working correctly. If a customer service team knows about that right away, they can proactively reassure customers that 'there might be an issue here, we're working on it, and we expect resolution within the half hour.' If you can automate the sharing of that information, even better.

Making the best of a bad situation

Customer service is everyone's responsibility - and by working as one team on behalf of the customer, everyone can benefit from the results. 

All the best intentions and proactive planning in the world won't stop every negative incident, but smart planning is still the best way to ensure a quick and happy resolution. 

Here are some best practices to consider when planning your incident response:

  • Remove the blame: Determining what caused a failure is more important than who - customers don't care, they just want the incident resolved. A blameless culture creates a fast and smooth road toward incident resolution. 

  • Practice makes (nearly) perfect: Simulations help ensure that response teams, from the front lines to the back of house, can work together with relative ease. 

  • Empower your agents with information: Let them take more responsibility and ownership over the process vs. simply transferring a case to a higher tier. 

  • Don't forget the postmortem: Resist the temptation to celebrate success without reviewing the response and finding ways to improve for next time - because there will almost certainly be a next time. 

At a moment when customer expectations have never been higher, customer-centricity is a necessity for successful operations. Following these best practices will give your team the foundation to deliver seamless experiences and best-in-class service.

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