Customer Service holds the key to success in many organisations but it can also be the shortest route to failure. Yet it takes just as much effort to win business as it does to lose business.
This week Chris Lowe from Shopper Anonymous shares his Expert Opinion and explains how to improve your customer service in six easy steps.
When was the last time you asked your customer how they felt? Do you know what their needs are? Are you familiar with their perception of your website, your premises and your communication with them?
Thanks to the huge array of customer analytics tools this is easy to establish and, depending on the size of your business and the level of detail you wish to gather, these tools can provide a critical insight into the habits, behavior’s and trends of your customer.
‘Customer analytics is the use of data to understand the composition, needs and satisfaction of the customer. Also, the enabling technology used to segment buyers into groupings based on behavior, to determine general trends, or to develop targeted marketing and sales activities.’
If you are not using customer metrics to track your customers spend habits you are missing out on valuable data which could hugely influence your income. Being able to deliver an experience based on the historical habits of your customer creates a far more personal relationship. When you create a more personal experience you have the opportunity to win trust and loyalty and if you tap into those emotions, you could win a customer for life.
2. Listen More Closely
Tracking your customer’s behaviour through analytics is a great tool for predicting habits, anticipating problems and getting into the purchase mindset of your customer.
But there is still more valuable data you can obtain….
Exit surveys are extremely useful in getting real time feedback. Actually listening to the customer, while their experience is still fresh in their mind is potentially the most valuable data you may glean. Surveying your potential customers through direct questions will give you completely honest and raw feedback which can be used to great effect in creating a dynamic and relevant relationship with your customer.
3. Listen To What You Don’t Hear
Your data metrics may give insight into the customers who have failed to come back to you, but do you know why these customers have chosen to take their loyalty elsewhere?
Have you called your loyal previous customers who don’t seem to be doing business with you lately? Have you followed up on any customers who have had issues or complaints and ensured their problem was fully resolved? What do you offer your disappointed or ambivalent customers to come back to you?
Sometimes it’s what you DON’T hear that could provide imperative information about your customer service. MOST customers who are disappointed with their service will not complain – up to 96% of unhappy customers never complain. However, up to 91% of those unhappy customers will never willingly do business with you again.
4. Listen With Love
If you do get the opportunity to listen to customers, for example in a forum or customer focus group, or during the exit surveys, make sure your customers feel they are being listened to with genuine interest and concern. Too often the listener can act defensively or with a reaction that implies some sort of justification. If you have asked for feedback, LISTEN to the feedback. Do not argue, offer rationale or excuses. Take on board the feedback with grace and interest.
5. Listen Again
Many businesses get swept up in the desire for customer metrics or surveys and implement the appropriate programmes to gain relevant data. The insightful businesses build programmes and develop new initiatives based on the data, hoping to pitch a more personal service to their customer database.
But too often businesses see this sort of project as a one-off. Once the data is obtained and used to springboard new ideas, few companies repeat the whole exercise frequently enough. If you are to truly listen to your customer you should listen again and listen often.
Once is not enough. Let it be known that you are keen to obtain feedback all the time, not just during surveys or focus groups. Embed your plans to listen to your customer within your weekly operations. Make an ongoing commitment to listen to your customer regularly and keep your promise. If your customer knows they will be heard at any stage of the customer journey they will have confidence in your relationship and be far more likely to remain a lifetime customer.
6. Listen To Those You Don’t Know
Spread the net widely and target all contacts and potential new contacts through social media campaigns. Ask the question ‘What is the most pressing matter right now that you face?’ Create conversations with potential customers by expressing an interest in them and a desire to provide a solution for them.
For example, at Shopper Anonymous we recently ran a short social media campaign targeting all leisure centres within a specific area. We simply asked the question, ‘What issues do you face on a day to day basis that cause you headaches?’
Several leisure centres responded to say that staff attitudes to customers were poor and they received regular complaints. We then approached these leisure centres offering our services of team training sessions and motivating incentive programmes. Their response was ‘we thought you only did mystery shopping’. Several new clients gained simply because we widened the net and listened to what our potential customers were struggling with.
So the one common theme in our six steps to improving your customer service is to listen. We have two ears but only one mouth. If you adapt your business practices so that at the heart of every decision and new initiative is a desire and genuine ability to listen, you will increase your customer database and win lifetime customers. So simple, yet so often forgotten.
Expert Opinion provided by Chris Lowe, Shopper Anonymous