Customers want a good experience. A big part of that is exceptional customer service. Don’t confuse the two. The experience is everything from navigating a website, to how easy (or difficult) it is to reach a salesperson, to the way a product is packaged (think about how cool iPhone or iPad packaging is), to the availability of parking spaces, to how friendly the employees are, and beyond. It includes everything. And while many people think of customer service as a department that reacts when the experience goes wrong, my definition is much broader.
Customer service is philosophical. It’s part of the culture. Everyone, from the CEO to the most recently hired employee, is part of customer service and, for that matter, the customer experience. Every single employee has impact on either the outside customer, an internal customer, the experience the customer receives—or all three. I thought it would be interesting to get a deeper understanding about what customers want—and don’t want.
In the 2020 Achieving Customer Amazement research report, more than 1,000 people surveyed and asked about what influences exceptional customer service. First and foremost, people want to be treated like a valued customer. That was the top response with more than 65% of respondents in agreement. That means treating people with respect and dignity. A customer is not just an account or transaction number. Customers are people.
When it came to contacting what people often refer to as the customer service department, respondents appreciated when agents demonstrated knowledge and expertise. We’ve learned that there are two levels of knowledge. The first is that customers want agents to know about the products and services the company offers. They want answers to their questions and a quick fix to any problems or issues they have. In addition, customers want agents to know who they are. With all the technology available today, there is no reason that every agent—or any other customer-facing employee—can’t have access to basic information about the customer that would enhance the experience. Just knowing a little history about customers’ past purchases, buying patterns, issues, etc., can go a long way in giving agents information they can use to give customers a better experience.
The survey also asked what influences poor customer service. It’s highly unlikely you’ll disagree with any of these. From high to low, the responses were as follows:
· Rudeness and apathy
· Not being treated like a valued customer
· Lack of knowledge and/or expertise
· Slow response times
· Having to repeat information
· Being put on hold
· Slow transaction speeds
· Not being able to use their preferred communication channel
Finally, on this survey, the 1,000-plus respondents we asked to share three words they felt best described a good customer service experience. The winners were fast, helpful and friendly.
Fast is about convenience, which is something customers love and even crave whether they know it or not. Convenience will set you apart from your competition.
Helpful is about getting answers to questions and problems resolved. In the sales process, it’s about being helped and not sold. There’s a big difference. A customer saying, “They are always so helpful,” is far better than, “They never stop selling.”
Friendly is soft but important. We don’t have to be best friends with our customers, but we do have to create a friendly and inviting experience. A big word that comes to mind—especially as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic—is empathy. That’s a powerful part of a friendly experience.
So, now you are armed with common sense information on the basics of delivering an amazing customer service experience. Share it with the people you work with. Take time to thank your employees who make sure your customers are taken care of. This is a year-long and lifetime focus. Without customers, we don’t have a business. Without employees, we can’t serve our customers.