When it comes to customer service experiences, consumers are not looking for perfection. They are, however, looking for competence and professionalism from the employees they interact with – and if they don't get it, they'll walk.
A recent study released by the CMO Council and SAP Hybris indicates consumers are more than willing to abandon preferred brands and establishments if they feel frustrated or their needs are not met. It is increasingly important for businesses to engage with consumers quickly and know their stuff.
According to the survey, a big frustration for consumers is when they feel they were not treated like the loyal and valuable customers they are. Part of making consumers feel more valued lies in personalization, said Liz Miller, senior vice president of marketing at the CMO Council.
"Consumers don't need personalization at every moment," Miller said in a statement. "But what this research amplifies is the requirement to get relevant, personalized experiences right for an audience of one in their micro moment of need."
How to improve customer relationships
The best way to keep customers happy and from moving on to one of your competitors is to improve their customer experience regardless of where that experience is.
Consumers want the freedom to engage with the companies they patronize, whether that is through email, phone or a digital channel. They want control, so it is important for companies to respond to consumers' needs through whichever communication channel customers prefer, rather than what the company prefers.
In improving customer relationships, knowing your audience is also a must. Consumers do not expect companies to be present in all areas, but they do expect to be competently served in the channels where service is offered.
If a company doesn't have the resources to deliver excellent service on multiple platforms, it's better to scale back and offer it in the areas where they excel and where their customers are most likely to look for engagement.
In-person customer service is still preferred for physical stores. But for those businesses with a greater digital presence, consumers are most likely to approach them through their website or email. However, this is truly dependent on the individual company, so tracking customer engagement sources is imperative for creating a strategy to improve customers' experience.
Author's note: Having been in social media marketing for several years, I've seen that consumers do choose the channels. For example, your company may not have a Twitter page, but that does not mean your customers and prospects won't try to reach you there, so using social media listening tools is key.
Quality over quantity
Based on the CMO Council study, it's clear that what consumers want is consistent, high-quality service. How can companies leverage this to improve their quality? Below are two recommendations:
- Increase response time throughout whichever customer engagement channels you utilize. This could mean limiting the number of hours customer service is available or increasing the number of representatives who handle inquiries.
- Thoroughly train staff to answer questions and research solutions quickly. Giving them the authority to offer consumers resolution in the first interaction empowers employees to more effectively represent the company and improve consumer satisfaction.
Finally, your brand can improve the consumer experience by simply regularly expressing your gratitude to customers. Train all employees who will work directly with the public to thank the customer for their loyalty, using specific information such as the length of time the customer has patronized your business. These verbal signals reveal to your customers that you notice the little details and, importantly, that you value them.