Customers care more about your quality of service than your omnipresence

Every day, people use mobile devices to look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions. In these micro-moments, marketers can be there to help, but are they?
Data shows that many brands are missing this opportunity.

For brands, mobile is creating more moments to connect with people than ever before. Moments that matter are I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I want-to-do, and I want-to-buy moments. These are micro-moments, and every day as users look for answers, discover new things, and make decisions. These are the moments when brands should be there to help.

Why it’s so important to simply be there when consumers need you?

As marketers, we all want our brands to be there when consumers are looking for us. But maybe we’re obsessing over the wrong things. We grade ourselves on impressions and not impact. Frequency, not utility. Maybe we should be looking instead at our share of intent—the percent of time we are there to answer people’s needs, questions, and wants. Sometimes in marketing, the least sexy stuff is often most important.

Being there and being useful in these moments won’t only improve your customers’ lives; it’ll improve your bottom line.

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In the path-to-purchase cycle, companies are working hard to succeed as “omni-channel” marketers. But it is one thing to be in a non-traditional channel (such as self-service, chat, mobile, or social media) creating awareness and engagement.  It’s quite another to be in there providing customer care.

Problem:  By trying to provide customer care across too many channels, they are failing to provide good service in any of them. As I’ve said before,

Among, Company respondents, majority of them (more than 60%) are not capable of handling customer issues in one contact via self-service, mobile, and social media. Most inquiries through these channels involve at least a second contact, in which the customer is sent to the telephone channel for resolution.

Proved by Research: The quality of customer experiences has a direct impact on their loyalty and advocacy, with customers who receive a first contact resolution nearly twice as likely to buy again from a brand and four times more likely to spread positive word of mouth about it.

Solution: Focus – to identify your customers’ needs for the most frequent tasks and most valuable segments, understand your own capabilities, prioritize development of channels that meet those needs, and then guide customers towards the channels that will meet their needs for the specific reason for contact.

Case Study: Netflix is an example of how a company can take a more focused approach to providing good service. It decided that it cannot provide a quick and easy resolution on first contact via email, so it does not offer email as a channel.  Instead, it has developed a robust self-service help center online, with easy access to either a live person via chat or phone.

How to deliver best in class Customer Service experience?

1. Start at the top. The Founder or CEO’s attitude towards customer service is the primary determinant of the quality of service that a company delivers. If the CEO thinks that customers are a pain in the ass who always want something for nothing, that attitude will permeate the company, and service will be lousy. So if you are the CEO, get your act together. If you’re not the CEO, either convince him to change his mind, quit, or learn to live with mediocrity–in that order.

2. Put the customer in control. The best kind of customer service happens when management enables employees to put the customer in control. This require two leaps of faith: first, that management trusts customers not take advantage of the situation; second, that management trust employees with this empowerment. If you can make these leaps, then the quality of your customer service will zoom; if not, there is nothing more frustrating than companies copping the attitude that something is “against company policy.”

3. Take responsibility for your shortcomings. A company that takes responsibility for its shortcomings is likely to provide great customer service for two reasons: first, it’s acknowledged that it’s the company’s fault and the company’s responsibility to fix. Second, customers won’t go through the aggravating process of getting you to accept blame–if you got to the airport on time and checked your baggage, it’s hard to see how it’s your fault that it got sent to the wrong continent.

4. Don’t point the finger. This is the flip side of taking responsibility. As computer owners we all know that when a program doesn’t work, vendors often resort to finger pointing: “It’s Apple’s system software.” “It’s Microsoft’s ‘special’ way of doing things.” “It’s the way Adobe created PDF.” A great customer service company doesn’t point the finger–it figures out what the solution is regardless of whose fault the problem is and makes the customer happy. As my mother used to say, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” (By the way, as a rule of thumb, the company with the largest market capitalization is the one at fault.)

5. Don’t finger the pointer. Great customer service companies don’t shoot the messenger. When it comes to customer service, it could be a customer, an employee, a vendor, or a consultant who’s doing the pointing. The goal is not to silence the messenger, but to fix the problem that the messenger brought so that other customers don’t have a bad experience.

6. Don’t delay in responding, until reported problem is fixed. One of the most common justifications for delayed response to customer complaints is, “Problem is still being worked upon, What do we tell customer? So lets wait until it gets fixed” For example, when customer reported a problem with the product, he was assured of being notified when it will get resolved, but if it has taken longer to fix, instead of long silence, keep your customer posted with regular status updates, that assures customer that progress is being made. Being upfront and transparent with customer is better, than to wait till last minute to update.

7. Hire the right kind of people. Customer service is not a job for everyone, ideal customer service person derives great satisfaction by helping people and solving problems. This cannot be said of every job candidate. It’s the company’s responsibility to hire the right kind of people for this job because it can be a bad experience for the employee and the customer when you hire folks without a service orientation. In a nutshell, if the candidate is not passionate about customer’s delight then your chances of delivering great experience through him/her is slim.

8. Under promise and over deliver. The goal is to delight a customer. For example, the signs in the lines at Disneyland that tell you how long you’ll have to wait from each point are purposely over-stated. When you get to the ride in less time, you’re delighted. Imagine if the signs were understated–you’d be angry because Disneyland lied to you.

9. Integrate customer service into the mainstream. Let’s see: sales makes the big bucks. Marketing does the fun stuff. Engineers, well, you leave them alone in their dark caves. Accounting cuts the paychecks. And support? Do to the dirty work of talking to pissed off customers when nothing else works. Herein lies the problem: customer service has as much to do with a company’s reputation as sales, marketing, engineering, and finance. So integrate customer service into the mainstream of the company and do not consider it profit-sucking necessary evil. A customer service hero deserves all the accolades that a sales, marketing, or engineering one does.

10. Put it all together. To put several recommendations in action, suppose a part breaks in the gizmo that a customer bought from you. First, take responsibility: “I’m sorry that it broke.” Second, don’t point the finger–that is, don’t say, “We buy that part from a supplier.” Third, put the customer in control: “When would like the replacement by?” Fourth, under promise and over deliver: Send it at no additional charge via a faster shipping method than necessary. That’s how you delight your customer and create a great customer service experience.

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