Customer service should be the cornerstone of your overall business strategy. No matter how great your product or service is, without great service, your chances of retaining existing customers and acquiring new customers is slim. In fact, customers whose complaints are quickly addressed and solved are more likely to continue doing business with you.
Unfortunately, many business owners make the mistake of assuming the bottom line is the bottom line. A sale is a sale. Right? Not necessarily. Every great business is built on repeat customers and referrals. Just because it’s difficult for an individual business to quantify exactly how much money they lost to a bad customer service experience doesn’t mean there isn’t money lost. A study from NewVoiceMedia found that businesses are losing $75 billion per year on average due to poor customer service.
The fact is, the majority of customers will not return to your business after a single unsatisfactory customer service experience. Furthermore, they’re likely to share their bad experience with several others. To keep your business in good standing (and in good ratings), an effective customer service strategy is a must. Here’s what you can do:
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Create business & customer service plan
First and foremost, your business should have a written business plan. Your business outlines your company’s objectives, mission statements, advantages, financial projections, and much more. It helps create accountability within management and reminds you of your overarching goals. Customize an industry-specific business plan template and work with team members to build out marketing and financial projections sections. Eventually, you’ll likely use this plan to secure funding opportunities from banks and/or investors.
After you’ve created a core business plan, use it as a springboard to create a customer service plan. Your customer service plan outlines how you’ll meet the expectations of your customers and how you’ll gain customer trust. It should include:
- Company mission (as detailed in your business plan)
- Vision statement
- Customer service vision
- Customer service team
- Support leadership and structure
- Scheduling (what hours are you available?)
- Customer service training
- Customer interaction protocol (scripts, escalation workflow, etc)
- Tools and software used for customer service (Help Scout, Zendesk, HelpJuice, etc)
Build a customer-centric culture
As a business owner, entrepreneur, or manager, you set the standard and tone for how customer service issues should be addressed and handled. Create a customer-centric culture by openly communicating how important it is for you to make customers happy. Lead by example and show the team that meeting the customer needs is more important than meeting internal needs.
Customer service training and hiring is integral in building a customer-first culture. During the hiring process, gauge how important customer service is to potential candidates by asking service-related questions. This not only helps you understand their ability to work with customers, but asserts the importance of customer service in your organization.
Cultivating a culture of empathy is also important. Every customer service representative should have the ability to empathize with the customer, even if they don’t agree with them. For example, at Slack, customer support specialists are screened for their ability to express empathy written and verbally, rather than rely on canned responses to help customers.
Multiple points of contact
Your customer should be able to reach you in several ways; through social media, phone, email, and live chat. If you cannot accommodate all four, you should be able to accommodate at least three. Studies have shown that the majority of unsatisfied customers don’t ever contact customer service; instead, they simply do not buy from the company again and may share their negative opinions with others. The more options you give your customers, the more likely they are to reach out and the happier they will be with their experience.
Address the problem quickly
According to a study conducted by Harvard Business Review, customers whose complaints were handled in under five minutes went on to make future purchases. And according to Forrester Research, 77% of customers say that the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service is value their time. Therefore, it’s imperative that all issues are handled in a timely manner.
The first response time is the most important. For starters, set up an auto-responder to all ticket submissions and email requests. Then, be sure you have the resources to follow up within the hour. Ideally, all email customer service issues should be answered within a four hour time period. However, be sure to check the benchmark statistics in your industry to see where you stand.
Create an escalation framework
Chances are you’ve called a company and asked to speak to a manager. In an ideal world, your customer service rep is able to handle the issue independently. But in some cases, the customer will request to speak to upper management. An escalation framework is designed to help customer service agents quickly resolve an issue. An efficient escalation process helps ensure all issues are handled more efficiently and quickly.
Ideally, you can create a chart or other visual aid to include your escalation workflow in your customer service strategy. This is especially important because some issues are escalated through different channels, and you need to be able to monitor each of those channels well. Most customer service platforms have rules you can set up to alert upper management when an issue needs to be escalated. See what features are available in different CRMs to better understand which platform suits you.
Assess pricing model
Choosing the right product/service price is one of the most important business decisions you’ll make. Your price point can make or break a customer’s decision to make a purchase, and it’s important for you to know how to communicate your reason for pricing your product as such. Believe it or not, many companies receive “your price is too high” phone calls (both before a potential purchase and post-purchase).
For starters, make sure your price isn’t too low—the last thing you want to do is try to attract customers with low pricing and cut into your margins. Use a margin calculator to help you gauge a precise profit margin. Low-cost products may also inadvertently create the illusion of “cheaply made” while high-cost products can push customers away.
Never price your product high without justification. If your product costs more than the competitor’s products, your customer service handbook should have a script ready to address “too high” complaints. List the reasons why you’ve chosen to price your product the way you have. For example, you might use natural ingredients that cost more.
Always collect feedback for your customer service efforts. There are different types of customer service surveys you can send, and each should cater to the channel you’re using. The goal is to collect feedback based on areas of your customer service journey that you want to better understand. For example, if you want to gauge how effective the checkout process was, you would ask questions about the checkout process. If you want to know how satisfied a customer is with your company as a whole, you would use a simple CSAT survey.
Keep in mind that, in order to scale your feedback efforts, your feedback solicitations should be automated if you’re dealing with many customers (i.e., an auto phone call survey after a call is completed, an email sent X days after a purchase is made, etc).
Additionally, there are some metrics you should be measuring to ensure your customer service strategy is up to par. This includes your average ticket time goal, customer satisfaction score, customer churn, and first response time. These metrics offer a high-level overview of just how effective your reps are at handling issues.