Updated: Feb 11
At BMC, we're EXTREMELY passionate about ensuring the customer is considered in every decision that you make. After all, they're the reason that your business exists in the first place.
Too often, we see businesses like your purchase shiny new technology products in the hope that these new tools will mask the true underlying problem - poor customer service.
We cannot stress enough that it should be your number 1 priority to establish a strong foundational framework around customer service before you invest into any types of technology that can further enhance the customer experience.
To assist you with the foundational customer service framework that you should be building, we've highlighted 9 key customer service principles every organisation should consider.
1 - Set expectations with your customers early
Customer expectations are evolving due to the digital world that we live in.
At BMC, we have studied a number of customer cohorts and have found that customers become extremely aggravated when response timeframes are not clearly articulated at the point of contact.
There are two types of scenarios where customer's can become particularly aggravated;
Scenario 1 - When your organisation doesn't provide an estimated time to respond to the enquiry. The customer subsequently applies their own expectation to this situation which can be wildly different to what is reasonable for your organisation.
Scenario 2 - When your organisation commits to responding within a certain timeframe (e.g. 2 business days) and fails to achieve this response. This is the first sign that your organisation cannot deliver on their promises, and creates distrust between both parties.
Ensure you establish relevant timeframe expectations up front with your customers.
When establishing internal KPIs to measure whether you have met these expectations, include customer's in the conversation to see if they agree with the timeframes.
If you know that you're not going to meet the customers expectations, tell them as soon as possible. We can guarantee you that they'll be less angry because you've given them a heads up!
2 - Do the right thing
This principle sounds straight-forward and somewhat philosophical but you'd be surprised at how many organisations fail to do the right thing by their customers.
It's 5x more expensive to get a new customer than it is to retain a new customer.
At BMC, we often find it interesting when analysing the ratio of marketing:retention costs that are spent in a business. We're firm believers that this ratio should be no more than 3:1 however this is very rarely the case.
An insufficient budget to retain customers often means that the customer service representatives dealing with your existing customers are not empowered enough to "do the right thing" when dealing with mistakes, or inconveniences that your organisation may have caused. Let's face it, customer's love being told they're right and will likely see it as a good experience if they're compensated for the "poor" experience that they had.
Your organisation should be providing similar budgets for customer compensation and marketing as providing compensation to customers can often be a cost effective way to retain customers, and to drive a better customer experience.
Look at your marketing:retention budget. Consider whether you're spending enough on retaining your customers!
Empower your customer service representatives to make positive decisions for your customers. Allow them to "do the right thing", even if it costs your business a little bit more.
3 - Be proactive, not reactive
Inevitably, there will be instances when your organisation stuffs up. These mistakes could affect one customer, or it could affect many customers. But in the majority of instances, your organisation is likely to know that you've stuffed up before the customer is informed of the mistake / error.
So what should you do?
There's really only one option - OWN the mistake.
Customer's appreciate honesty and humility, particularly from organisations. It would be easier to hide behind the brand that your organisation has built however this will often have dire consequences in the long run. Conversely, proactively acknowledging the problem at hand will often lead to a timelier response and a less negative reaction from your customers.
Actively communicate mistakes where possible. Try to use as many channels as possible to do so e.g. website banners, outbound calls, SMS, email.
Own the error. One of the best social media responses to a mistake was KFC when they ran out of chicken. Customer's often appreciate humility and ownership of problems.
4 - Build rapport - it doesn't have to be serious
We understand that customer service representatives should have processes & guidelines to adhere to BUT it becomes so damn obvious when an interaction is scripted. This applies for all channels of customer service communication e.g. email, webchat, phone etc.
Have you ever wondered WHY customers become annoyed with offshore contact centres? It's not necessarily about the language barrier, nor is it about the inability to resolve. It mostly comes down to the fact that offshore customer service representatives really struggle to build rapport in Australian environments. This is because the Australian culture is extremely sarcastic in nature AND also because the offshore resources are generally strictly advised to keep to a procedural script.
Customer service should not be about procedures, nor should it be scripted. It should be about providing the best possible service you can to your customers. And often that means having a chat about how their day is going, and what they've been up to in life.
Encourage customer service representatives to learn about your customers. If it's a repeat customer, try to link them in with the same staff member as last time.
Get rid of irrelevant email templates / procedures. Customers can live with a few spelling errors. Conversely, they become extremely frustrated when their enquiry is not answered properly due to a generic templated response.
5 - Make it easy for the customer to get help
Customer needs are evolving. They want answers, and they want them immediately. Email correspondence is now the equivalent of snail mail. Your organisation has possibly already acknowledged this and has tried to build up a repository of information on your website to answer questions immediately. There's just one problem with this approach ...
The FAQs that you have created often don't answer the question in it's entirety, nor do they provide an option for customers to get further assistance. We understand why this is the case - because managing a contact centre is expensive - but it generally leads to an extremely poor and disjointed customer experience.
Customers should always have the ability to make their own decision on whether they want to self-serve or be-served. Don't focus on one element just because the other is too expensive. The long term consequences could be severe!
Customers should be able to locate a contact feature (phone number, email or webchat) on the first page of your website.
Don't sacrifice customer service for self-service. Offer both options to customers to understand what the uptake of both is.
Continue to utilise data to understand how you can improve self-service functions to reduce contact volumes.
6 - Respond quickly
This principle may seem pretty self-explanatory, but you'd be surprised how many businesses still utilise email as their primary communication method.
Think about how you communicate with your friends these days - it is generally via SMS, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Why should it be any different for your customers?
Implement Webchat, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp as a primary communication method in your business
Explore how you can replace email interactions with real-time chat alternatives. It will be more productive for the customer, and for your employees.
7 - Personalise the experience using data
At BMC, we often go and listen to calls in our clients' contact centres. We are always surprised with the high expectations that customers have - "I called yesterday - you should have my details already".
It is extremely important to be one step ahead when speaking to your customers. Where possible, you should be anticipating what the customer's concerns are by reading through historical notes about this customer. There's nothing worse than customers have to tell the same story over & over again - trust us, they'll tell you about it!
Create a unique ID which measures all of your customer interactions. Check out our blog about the importance of Unique Identifiers for further information.
Invest into a CRM which proactively identifies customer information at the point where they make contact with you via phone, email, or webchat.
8 - Publicise improvements you are making
How frequently have you heard your call centre operator thank the customer for feedback and assure them that their feedback will be used to improve future services? Probably every single call.
How frequently has your organisation ACTUALLY told the customer about service improvements that were made due to pain points, or feedback provided by customers? Probably not as often...
Every day, your business is likely working towards building a better service for your customers but often fail to tell the customers about these improvements. This is because you get too stuck in delivery mode, and forget to "sell the dream to customers". Don't be humble when you've enhanced experiences - customers will appreciate that things have changed because of the feedback they've provided to your organisation.
Get into a habit of communicating with customers bi-monthly about improvements that have been made to the service due to feedback they have provided
Where possible, get in touch with customers who provided negative feedback. Give them a call to advise what changes you have made to address this feedback. You'll be surprised what impact that can have!
If you would like to have a chat with our team about implementing any of the above principles, get in touch with us below:
The Bearded Man