“The landscape for business isn’t changing because of social media, it’s changing because consumer expectations are evolving.” – Brian Solis
In the last exposition, we spoke about the need for consistently improving customer service. The fact is that as businesses change to meet the growing demands of the market, so do the needs of customers. As the needs of customers change and evolve, there are dramatic changes in the customer service expectations from businesses. While the basics, of customer service remain firm – that of understanding customers and providing for their every need – it also means that a company must know how to adapt. It is not possible or feasible for a company to cater to every whim and fancy of its customers, which is why thoroughly understanding customers and its own abilities to meet the demands of customers, is essential to the success of a company.
The digital world has increased competition, which in turn has slashed prices while creating a market akin to a ‘battlefield’. Customers now turn to online portals such as social media to convey their ‘feelings’ about companies – and do not hesitate to express their annoyance if treated poorly by a company. The spotlight is now on their customer service expectations, and customers do not refrain from letting companies know that to gain their favour, companies would need to provide service excellence at all times. With these changing customer service expectations, companies have no choice but to invest in improving service and customer experiences significantly, if they want to gain and retain a competitive edge. What do these new customer service expectations mean for the business world? Simply put – companies can no longer hope to compete on price and product quality – service will save or defeat them.
Companies are coming to realize the fact of changing and higher customer service expectations from customers, as also waking up to the reality that their closest competitors are focusing on improving the kind of experiences and service they provide to customers. Those companies that are unable to scale the level of their service could find themselves facing closure and oblivion. What makes keeping pace with customer service expectations even tougher is the fact that customers expect different things with regard to service and quality. While it may not be possible to meet all the demands and expectations, a company must strive to meet the maximum number and ensure that it is able to meet the accepted standard norms of customer service – such as speed, efficiency, politeness, courtesy, empathy, and other such norms.
The reality is that if a company were not able to satisfy the maximum number of customer service expectations, it would not be able to retain its customers for too long. In addition, the disgruntled customers are sure to share their experiences, which in turn would block off a sizeable portion of future business for the company. It is imperative therefore, for a company to monitor the customer service expectations to ensure that it is doing everything possible to meet and exceed them consistently. Consistency is the key when addressing customer service expectations – erratic service is not something customers appreciate. Does your company know what some of the most important customer service expectations are? Is your company able to keep pace?
With the rise in technology, everything has become a lot speedier. It has become the age of instant gratification, and customers know that they can expect a certain standard of service. To start with, they expect fast service – and this is true of all interactions and all kinds of transactions. To make matters tougher, each customer has their own definition of what is fast, and a company could easily end up displeasing several customers in a single interaction because it may not be able to deliver at the speed expected. Speed applies not just to receiving one’s order but it has more to do with response and resolution times. With the internet, email, social media, websites, and so many online channels, customers expect almost instant responses, and are willing to wait depending on their patience levels. Just like attention span, customer patience has also run out, translating to a rather tall order for companies from the perspective of customer service expectations.
While customers may not be willing to wait, the good news is that they are willing to use the self-help portals and using other self-help tools that a company provides to assist themselves and speed up service. However, within this ‘flexibility’ lies one of the top customer service expectations – consistency and efficiency of the systems to run the self-help portals and tools. Customers are known to abandon transactions mid-way if they find it hard to navigate, understand, or complete a transaction for any reason. These cases of ‘abandonment’ leave a lot of money lying on the table.
Another one of the rather frustrating (for companies) customer service expectations is round the clock service. Customers know that they can get what they want, how they want, and when they want it – meaning that a company should be able to provide for their needs at any time of the day or night. Companies that are unable to comply will find their customers leaving them for competitors who are able to meet their expectation of round the clock service.
As mentioned, technology has made things a lot easier and faster. However, it depends on companies to use the technology efficiently such that customers would not need to repeat their information, or have any kind of inconvenience while expecting service. The company’s centralized database system should work efficiently such that it would support any self-help a customer may try to engage in – such as getting information off the IVR or online.
With most business interactions becoming digital, it remains acceptable until the automated systems are able to satisfy the needs of customers. However, amongst the top customer service expectations is the desire for personal and human efficient interactions. It is imperative that customer service representatives are empathetic, courteous, helpful, knowledgeable, and empowered enough to provide the human touch with a high level of efficiency. Adding to this point is the fact that customers now have a very low tolerance for errors and expect companies to deliver on all the promises they make – under delivering on promises is an aspect that customers are most likely to be extremely unforgiving on.
While a company may be able to attract customers through incentive and loyalty programs, these programs would not suffice without friendly, effective, and speedy customer service. Hence, one of the customer service expectations is that a company must first ensure that it is able to give customers what they want, rather than trying to entice them with these ‘nice to have frills’. Everyone likes free stuff and ‘pampering’ – but for customers getting what they want trumps all.
We are certain that companies would know of several other customer service expectations – conveyed directly by customers or which may be used as benchmarks in the industry. Whatever these expectations are, it is imperative for a company to be aware of them, comply with them, and consistently improve internally, to meet and exceed all the customer service expectations, thereby achieving customer loyalty over time.