By Tunde Osho (with additional reports from financialwatchngr)
Today is the last day in the year 2017. It’s been a year of mixed blessings, depending on how one looks at it. Yes, things got tougher. Many people have lost their jobs, companies have shut down and we had never recorded the number of suicides we did in this country this year but there are still many reasons to look positive, especially as the country exited recession.
Well as we consumers usher in the year 2018, they do so with many expectations, look forward to better and greater customer service from manufacturers, retailers and service providers.
Companies, they believe, should place a great deal of importance on meeting customer expectations; providing a good customer experience, they wish should be a top strategic priority, which could also be used by them as a competitive advantage.
Given that, you would think that it is hard to make a sweeping generalisation about what “all customers” want, where customer service is concerned. Research however, tells us that there are some commonalities we can look at when setting the bar.
Customers want you to meet their expectations
It is complicated, and yet it’s simple. Customer frustration stems from a discontinuity between the expectation of a service interaction, and what is actually delivered.
A customer expectation of service from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] Sloan Review found that customer expectations had two levels: desired (what the customer hopes to obtain) and sufficient (what the customer would actually find acceptable). But of course, there is a third level: unsatisfactory, where companies miss the mark entirely. The difference between these relative levels is significant and is surely something reflected in the corporate bottom line.
The key is to measure and understand customer expectations; only then can you begin to manage them. Many businesses have learned that it is often advantageous to “underpromise and overdeliver” in order to increase the likelihood of exceeding customer expectations. Others take pride in high expectations, knowing full well that they can deliver the goods.
Regardless of the approach, it’s imperative for companies to manage customer satisfaction.
Customers want options in how they contact you
There is a wealth of recent data citing the importance of channel preference on customer satisfaction. In a nutshell, customers expect companies to communicate with them on their preferred channel, be it in person, online, or on the phone.
Studies show that channel preference depends on the type of interaction. For example, for “simple” inquiries (like “what’s my bank balance?”) online self-serve and email are the preferred channel. However, as the inquiry gets more complex, speaking with a live agent becomes the dominant channel choice.
Being where the customer is, wherever that may be is the key to meeting customer expectations.
Customers expect a timely response.
It does not matter if you are in a store, on the phone, or online, no one likes to wait. Accordingly, the response times of channels you provide service on should be reasonable.
What is reasonable, of course, depends on your customers and their channel preference.
Customers want relationships (or, at least, a personalised experience).
Though we live in a seemingly anonymous culture (where “self-service” is so prevalent), customers increasingly want a personalised experience when it matters most. For example, a study by Wells Fargo found that outlook of banking transactions are made by customers who still prefer to do business with a teller (prompting Wells Fargo to tie their various platforms – ATM, online and in-person – together, to create a seamless, personalised experience between channels).
Today, technologies allow businesses to extend relationships with customers to the call centre. For example, agents can greet callers by name and have a complete history of their interactions with the company (purchases, transaction history, etc.), so those customers don’t have to repeat information every time they call.
This approach can also extend to proactively contacting customers, for example, sending electronic communication about relevant promotions, follow-up calls to ensure satisfaction, etcetera.
Fostering relationships with customers can significantly increase the likelihood of exceeding their expectations, turning them in to advocates of your brand.
Customers want you to solve their problems!
At the root of every customer inquiry is a desire for a quick resolution. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that customers do not want to jump through hoops to get their problems fixed and questions answered.
Empowering your front-line agents so they have the ability to resolve customer issues is key. With each transfer, subsequent call or email, customers lose patience with your organisation, resulting in a loss of goodwill which can significantly affect your ability to retain and grow your customer base.
Solving customer problems right away is a sure-fire way to avoid issues from your customers down the line.