“Kindness and courtesy are at the root of a positive customer service experience.” – Shep Hyken
Raising the standard of customer interactions is now a business imperative since customers no longer sit back and listen. They ensure that they give their opinion and carry on discussions with other like-minded customers. Customers will talk – whether a company chooses to listen or not. Companies that actively listen, would benefit, while the ones that do not hear what customers may be trying to tell them, customers would be sure to soon ignore them. Customer interactions happen through the myriad channels of communication available today, and how companies respond would form the basis of the relationship that customers have with them. These interactions take place all the time, making them an on-going feature, which effectively means that companies must take notice and play an active part in the ‘conversations’. As mentioned, customers are no longer mute spectators, but are extremely vocal, responsive, and expect equality in the communication with companies. However, it is the job of companies to ensure that communication remains a two-way street, or they could find themselves at the losing end of the spectrum with customers.
Adapting to the new standard of customer interactions and expectations has not been an easy ride for companies. They have had to let go of ‘traditions’, unlearn all that they knew, and begin ‘learning’ in a new way. Maintaining a high standard of customer interactions is something that companies now realize is critical to their business and market reputation. The fact is that every company is spending resources to ensure that its customers receive service, but many fail to ensure that their customer service representatives know exactly how to raise the standard of customer interactions. They believe that interacting well, building rapport, and creating emotional connections would be an obvious part of customer service jobs, the reality however, is that service reps do require help for these aspects. Does your company know what to do to ensure that the standard of customer interactions remains top class?
Standards for any realm of business must obviously start internally first. In order to set the standard of customer interactions, a company must ensure that it inculcates and drives service to customer, as part of the culture of the company. The example must come from the leadership of the company, such that every level of employee embraces and commits to providing high standards of customer service. The good news is that setting a standard of customer interactions is not that hard, and usually is a factor of simple things such as using common courtesies, smiling pleasantly, and using bodily expressions that make customers feel welcome. These may be small and seemingly irrelevant gestures, but any company can make a huge positive difference to customers through their use.
Among the factors that raise the standard of customer interactions is for a company to use every single one as an opportunity to identify and understand the needs and expectations of customers. As mentioned, during a ‘conversation’, customers convey a lot – not just through their words, but also through the tone and pitch of voice, and body language. By listening actively, service representatives would be able to identify easily what the customer would need now, and what the company can do to ensure that it meets that need / needs. Each such positive interaction would serve to raise the level of customer satisfaction, and an accumulation of such high standard interactions, would earn customer loyalty and advocacy.
In their daily jobs, customer service staff possibly receive several queries and questions that would be similar or even same, but from different customers. For a customer, her or his query is unique and important, and service representatives must have adequate training to ensure that they make each customer feel special. The agents must be knowledgeable enough to handle routine queries and manage most of the needs of customers, without constantly referring them to ‘someone equipped’ to deal with them. The faster and more efficiently that service representatives handle such queries and expectations, the higher would they be able to raise the standard of customer interactions, keeping customers happy and coming back.
While it would be best to aim for a high number of first call resolutions (FCR), there are times when the issue may require consideration and time. In such situations, any company would be well advised to keep their customers informed of what the company may be doing to resolve their problem, and provide timelines by which a customer could expect a final response. In addition, a company must always keep customers informed of any internal policy changes, new product launches, upcoming promotional events, and other such things that could be of relevance to them. Staying proactive and passing on information to customers even before they ask is a great way to raise the overall standard of customer interactions. Customers hate it when companies withhold or hide information from them and this becomes one of the top reasons for customers to leave a company.
Consistent speedy and efficient transactions keep customers with a company, since they save effort and time for customers, which is something that customers value highly. Slow and shoddy service, rife with errors is no longer tolerated by customers, who now want ‘instant gratification’ and expect that a company would understand their needs and expectations before and during the association. Customers do not have the time or want to make the effort working with companies that do not seem to have the basics of customer service in place, and or who are not concerned about raising the standard of customer interactions. Fast and effective interactions save time, money, and effort for customers, and the company, which becomes the ideal way for any association to move forward.
Another important thing to be kept in mind in trying to raise the standard of customer interactions is to avoid negativity, and putting the customer down. Asking negative questions, or repeatedly saying things that reflect that the company would not be able to help or that the customer service representative would not be in a position to help, really bugs customers. They want to speak to intelligent people, who would solve their problems, rather than create problems for their customers. One of the most important things towards raising the standard of customer interactions is to remain sensitive to the fact that customers would not understand company and or technical jargon. Not everyone has technical knowledge, and hence the service staff would need to remain patient and calm, and should be well equipped to explain any technical issues to the customers. It is never a good idea to make customers look foolish or make them feel that they lack knowledge. Customers would view this as a talking down, and would not only leave the company but also ensure that everyone became aware of the manner in which the company treated them.
There are several other ways too, to raise the standard of customer interactions the premise is that customers stay with the company, become loyal and profitable. It is these customer interactions, which would make or break an association. As companies gain cognizance of the ‘customer’s voice’ and the fact that the balance of power has shifted to customers, they would need to put strategies in place to not only raise the standard of customer interactions, but ensure that the interactions remain consistently high and relevant for customers. In the current competitive marketplace, no company can afford to lose customers.