What is the definition of excellent customer service and how does one deliver the best possible customer experience?
While these questions have always been important, they demand more attention as the digital age changes not only the technology we use, but also the way we interact with it and each other. Expectations have changed, and it’s necessary to not just follow trends but anticipate them. Customer experience is now the determining factor of success, so what can customer experience leaders do to provide the service that customers want, and which will allow a business to thrive?
Here are some things to consider for 2020 and beyond:
Self-Help vs Customer Service
Technology has allowed for several different ways of interacting with customers. Where once a customer service representative was the only real means of service, today’s customers may find themselves interacting with a live human, artificial intelligence, or some means of self-service.
While there is often an assumption that customers prefer contact with other humans—and many do—Nuance Enterprise reported that 75% of customers prefer to resolve their own issues through self- help methods, and 67% preferred it over agent support. Why? Self-help puts customers in control of their own decisions and problem-solving, leading to a greater sense of customer satisfaction.
When dealing with a customer service employee, businesses are often in the dark about how customers really feel about their experiences. A Bain and Company survey found that while 80% of businesses felt they were providing superior customer service, a mere 8% of customers felt the same. Unfortunately, while the product or service was once the primary determinant of customer satisfaction, the customer experience has now taken the top spot.
Going forward, businesses will need to provide the best of each option to their customers. Self-help should be available, but with human support for issues that cannot be otherwise resolved. AI helps to fill in the space between the two, and it is constantly improving. In fact, IBM has predicted that in 2020, 85% of interactions will be handled without a human agent. The most likely result is that most of the technical side of service will be handled by AI, while live agents will be available to give the human touch and help ensure satisfaction.
Employee Experience vs Customer Experience
It’s been said that happy staff create happy customers, and when reviewing customer experiences, evidence points to this being true. While many customers are seeking self-help solutions, your employees continue to have a great impact when human interaction is required.
Of those companies that provide a superior customer experience, 70% have a significantly better employee experience. Only 24% of companies that provide a moderate employee experience reach the same level of customer satisfaction.
Among customers reporting a positive experience, 85% reveal that staff were empowered to help them, and 83% felt that staff were sufficiently knowledgeable about their needs. Meanwhile, among those that reported a negative experience only 29% felt that staff were empowered, and 55% were pleased with their level of knowledge.
A Culture of Transparency
Today’s customers are much more knowledgeable than in the past, tending to be well informed about not only products and services, but the companies themselves. Honesty and transparency are valued more than ever by the modern customer, who will be much more likely to use a product if they can relate to the ethics and vision of the business behind it.
One simple example of how honesty has an impact lies in wait times. A customer who is constantly told they will be “served shortly” while watching minutes continue to tick by is likely to become frustrated and may move on. Those who are given a realistic estimate of wait times know what to expect and become less frustrated.
Recognize Differences and Individuality
An excellent customer experience is a personal one, tailored to the individual. There is not a single cookie-cutter response to every customer’s needs. In a study performed by Infosys, 75% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when a company knows their name and makes recommendations based on their history. Almost as many (74%) express irritation at website content not being tailored to their specific needs.
Personalized service creates a sense of familiarity, trust, and being valued.
Security, Privacy, and Trust
Trust is a big part of a superior customer experience. This comes not only from transparency, as mentioned above, but from knowing that your privacy and security is valued. When a customer’s data is exposed in a breach, that trust is severely diminished. Even with the passage of a year’s time, a customer whose personal details have been compromised will continue to view the brand in a negative light.
Protecting your customers through a dependable data privacy structure is and will continue to be an important part of customer experience going forward.
Measuring Customer Experience
As with anything, undetected issues cannot be resolved. For that reason, measuring levels of customer satisfaction is vital. This is the age of analytics, and these are the indicators that can help you pinpoint areas for improvement:
- CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score, measuring satisfaction with a business)
- NPS (Net Promoter Score, the willingness of a customer to recommend a business to others)
- CES (Customer Effort Score, rating the ease of service experience)
In the past, companies could afford to get by on the strength of excellent products, but as we move forward, the emphasis in on providing the best possible experience to your customers. These are not the only means of improving your customer experience but will start you in the right direction. Being aware of the needs of your customers and maintaining a proactive approach to meeting them will help take you the rest of the way.
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Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.