3 Steps Towards Excellent Customer Service

3 Steps Towards Excellent Customer Service

We're all customers. We've all made customer service calls to businesses. We've all experienced good service and bad service. Most of us have never called a company to make a complaint. Instead, most of us voice our complaints to family, friends, neighbours, co-workers or anyone who will listen.

That's why companies are fortunate (really fortunate!) when dissatisfied customers fall into the first group when they call in with complaints. It's easy to forget that complaints are an opportunity when handled effectively. The vast majority of dissatisfied consumers fall into the second group however. They never voice their dissatisfaction directly to the company - a missed customer service opportunity.

What can a company do to avoid the type of dissatisfaction that leads to hang ups, frustrated silence, and lost customers?

1. Be There: Your Customers Want to Talk to a Real Person

Customers who need help want to be able to talk to a customer service agent quickly and easily whether they have a simple question or a complaint to resolve. Not only do 75% of customers prefer to talk to a person directly when they need service, they also think calling is the most effective way to get a quick response. They want a quick response. It makes perfect sense. And that's why customers will continue to call companies looking for help. The problem is companies aren't meeting customer expectations often enough, or well enough, over the phone.

75% of consumers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent. Most consumers - 67% of them - reported hanging up the phone in frustration because they couldn't reach a live customer service agent. Sometimes they can't reach someone quickly enough, and sometimes they can't reach one at all. Never mind the customers who give up in frustration, a survey by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs also discovered that for every customer who bothers to explain their concerns, 26 others wouldn't bother to complain. Customer satisfaction expert Ruby Newell-Legner has said the same thing. A typical business only hears from a very small percentage of its dissatisfied customers to begin with a mere 4%.

This leaves companies wondering whether or not their customers feel satisfied, how many dissatisfied customers they might have, and whether or not their customers are unhappy but keeping quiet about it and shopping around.

Studies show there is a two-minute window to connect with your customers when they reach out, whether it's over the phone or over live chat. And if you miss that window, odds are your company will never hear from them again. You have to be there. You have to pick up the phone.

2. Listen: Your Customers Want to Feel Valued

When you value your customers, they feel it. When you don't, they feel that too. It's important to remember that customers who call in with complaints are a very valuable resource. In her article Being Human is Good Business, Kristin Smaby explains that, when customers share their story, they're not just sharing pain points. They're actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better. 

Every customer complaint is first and foremost an opportunity to listen actively and respond quickly, positively and effectively to a customer's pain points. The one-to-one connection you develop while resolving complaints with your customers is both personal and meaningful to them. McKinsley customer insights show that 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customers feel they are being treated. And when complaints are handled effectively, you can turn things around. Your most unhappy customers can become your biggest advocates if they feel valued.

3. Take Action: Your Customers Want to Be Heard

Customers want their pain points to be understood. They want agents to offer an effective solution over the phone and begin to take action right away. In a Harris Interactive survey, consumers reported that customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50% of the time. When questions go unanswered and customers don't feel heard, chances are they're left feeling the company doesn't understand or doesn't care or both. This was a source of frustration for half of the consumers surveyed. These are the customers who often quietly disappear.

Customer service agents, who are able to listen, understand and offer answers and solutions, can alleviate customer frustration and dissatisfaction right away over the phone. Those conversations also allow companies to collect valuable customer insights, providing an opportunity to assess customer feedback on a broader scale. When a company identifies common customer concerns and responds over time with improvements across the organization, customers know they have been heard not only at a meaningful personal level, but also at a consumer level. In the long term, investing in really good customer service pays off for everyone.

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