“Companies spend millions on the land, building the store, and stocking it full of product, all for one thing—the customer. But, when the customer actually appears, they fall down on the job. All that time, thought, and money is wasted if the customer walks out, never to return.” – John Tschhol
The face of customer service has undergone a significant change and the expectation from companies now is complete focus on the customer. Success in gaining and retaining customers is not something that is possible overnight and neither can it be possible through the efforts of a few in a company. One amongst the biggest challenges in customer service is that companies often err in believing that a customer service team will suffice to manage the customers and their demands. The whole process of customer service involves collecting, collating and analysing data that would help the company to understand its customer base and put in place strategies to serve them with the highest levels of efficiency. Another of the biggest challenges in customer service is the difficulty in breaking free from traditional methods and mind-sets. Companies fail to integrate feedback and the ‘education’ they receive from customers into their overall customer service strategy and are thus unable to engage their customers.
Managing customers and the experiences they have with the company is the onus of the company, but this certainly is no ‘cake walk’. Adding to the biggest challenges in customer service, is the fact that customers have become more demanding and as companies grow their customer base grows too. With an increased number of customers, companies face possibly the biggest challenge – finding and retaining the best talent to manage their customer service. With these increased complexities and demands, there is enhanced pressure on companies to provide consistently high quality customer experiences. This is clearly not easy – let us look at some of the biggest challenges in customer service today.
A plethora of channels has opened up owing to advancement in technology. While these multi-channels provide customers with ease of communicating with a company, they have increased the difficulties of the company. It no longer suffices to receive good service or experiences via a single channel – all touch points must provide a uniform high level of service in order for customers to feel satisfied with the experiences they have with the company. Providing this stable and high level of service across all channels is amongst the biggest challenges in customer service. Customers are now smarter and more vocal than ever – they refuse to accept anything but the best and will not hesitate to show their displeasure if they receive anything they believe is not good enough.
Customer service traditionally was the job of a single department consisting of a few individuals and no one else in the company considered serving customers a part of their job. This mind-set increased the pressure on few people and as a result, customer service levels would not remain at a high standard. Changing this traditional mind-set, realigning the company strategy and ensuring that customer service is part of each person’s job are probably some of the biggest challenges in customer service for any company now. It is the onus of the company to make every effort to ensure that the customers receive the best quality – both in service and in offerings. It is a tough call to ensure that all departments work in collaboration and there is no silo mentality. Cross-functional teamwork, communication and cohesiveness are extremely crucial if a company expects to meet the ever changing and increasing expectations of their customers.
Technology now has become ubiquitous and indispensable for everyone. For companies too, it is essential that the technology they use must speed up response times, make the process of customer service more efficient and overall contribute to making it easier for customers to do business with them. Not only is acquiring the most appropriate technology a challenge, getting people accustomed and trained on how to use it, is also one of the biggest challenges in customer service. It is not technology but people – that make the difference and hence it is imperative for companies to overcome this challenge early on if they expect to raise the levels of customer service at par with the expectations of the customers. Technology is only a means for the company to ensure that they enhance customer experiences throughout the entire ‘journey’ of the customer and is able to support them at every stage.
As a company changes gears – putting customers first in every aspect of the company, it may be hard for the employees to adjust to the changes. The company’s priorities would change – employees judged on the efficiency of the service they provide and the expectation would be to go over and above the call of their duty to ensure that customers receive the best. This may not be something that everyone would be happy or comfortable with since the employees would need to adjust their priorities and follow a completely new set of instructions and values. Change is never easy, especially if people are unable to see the immediate and direct benefit to them. Companies too must break through the biggest challenges in customer service by providing more flexibility and empowerment to their employees to expend more time and effort in ensuring that they create memorable and lasting experiences for their customers.
As mentioned and known, customer service is an on-going task that must follow a systematic process. In this process, a key component is putting in place a consistent and robust customer feedback system. Without feedback and suggestions from customers, it would be near impossible for companies to improve customer service and experiences without understanding what customers need and expect – hearing it directly from customers would be the best way to know. Many companies send out customer satisfaction surveys, solicit comments via the various channels and use several methods to receive feedback from customers. However, of the biggest challenges in customer service, the challenge of using this feedback effectively and efficiently is probably one of the toughest. Customers expect that when they ‘speak’ to a company, the company will hear them. In fact, they would also provide crucial hints as to how they perceive the company’s competitors – this is invaluable information, since based on this data a company can better its own offerings and service, thereby ensuring that their customers stay with them.
Lastly, but possibly among the hardest and biggest challenges in customer service, is finding talent with the right attitude and skills to serve the demanding customers of today. The attrition rate in customer service contact centres is probably among the highest. Companies need a shift in their mind-set – looking at customer service as a profit centre rather than a cost centre. Customer service professionals no longer only there to answer customer queries. The expectation from them is that they have in-depth product and industry knowledge, amply display the values and beliefs of the company they represent, engage with and build relationships with customers, in addition to managing customer ire and dissatisfaction. The new breed of customers need a more valiant, knowledgeable and smart set of customer service staff to manage them – certainly one of the toughest and biggest challenges in customer service for any company today.
Companies now realize that in order to combat the biggest challenges in customer service, they must structure their efforts and not only must they please their external customers, they must also continually motivate their employees. It is about proactively organizing their strategies in order to overcome the biggest challenges in customer service and others that may arise from lapses in this realm.