Is your company’s customer service as good as it needs to be to increase loyalty and surpass competitors?
There’s a reason more and more companies are turning towards customer service consulting, and signing their employees up for customer service classes. Customer service is one of the most important tools in building a successful business. 61% of Americans say that customer service is one of the most important things to them when choosing who to do business with, and will spend up to 9% more if they feel like a company is delivering excellent service.
Customer service also builds brand loyalty, often more so than a quality product. As humans, we crave interactions that make us feel valued. We want to know that we’re dealing with someone who understands our concerns and caters to them. We want to feel like we’re cared for. We want the comfort of knowing that if something goes wrong, someone will be there to fix it, someone who cares about us. Just tweaking a few customer service techniques can add this feeling of value for customers.
Quality service creates a good reputation. People will tell their friends if they’ve had horrible service, but they’ll be just as eager to share if it was excellent. Not only will investing in good customer service keep your customers, it will also create new ones. On the flip side, leave your customers feeling unwanted and uncared for, and your reputation will be tarnished. A couple of bad reviews can sink even the sturdiest of ships.
With 55% of Americans believing that most companies either have decreased their level of customer service or have remained stagnant, making sure that your customer service techniques are on point will give you a leg up on the competition!
Customer Service Standards: What makes good customer service?
It can be tough to please every customer. Some prefer no-nonsense, to the point service while others enjoy small talk. Some like hearing about your other services, while others only want what they called for.
That being said, there are certain skills that apply around the board, and investing in customer service skills training will make your days run smoother and keep your customers coming back.
What is it that people look for in customer service?
Imagine you’re walking into a shop, bank or restaurant. What’s the first thing you want to see your customer service representative do?
Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, you probably want to be greeted with a smile and a warm hello. As we spend more and more time dealing with machines, the smallest bit of human interaction can do wonders. Many German banks have noted that customers who use remote banking services are significantly less loyal than those who operate with the tellers. The disloyalty is generally attributed not to the low quality of the offering, but rather the lack of an emotional connection. Humans are rarely loyal for purely technical reasons, and will be more likely to keep coming back if they felt, at any point, an emotional connection.
This emotional connection grows more important in periods of stress (missed flights, damaged products, etc.). While friendliness and helpfulness in everyday transactions are certainly important, these are the moments the customers will remember, and what can make or break their loyalty to your brand. People are more easily influenced when emotions are running high, and this is your time to show them that you have their best interests at heart. By showing genuine concern and doing as much as possible to solve their problems, you are showing them that your company cares about more than just high profit margins. Use these moments to make genuine human connections, and your company will be remembered.
People also want to be served in an efficient manner. That means having a team that really knows your products and services, and can explain them fully to your customers. Give your employees ample training before unleashing them into the world. Don’t be afraid to assign reading material and to test them rigorously. The more prepared they are, the better! Nobody wants to waste their time with an uninformed customer service representative, and the time and energy you invest in your employees will pay off in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Now, let’s look at how to turn a knowledgeable employee into a customer service superstar!
Customer Service Training Programs: Are they important?
It’s believed by many that it takes a special type of person to deliver quality customer service. You want a motivated employee, who will go above and beyond the call of duty without resentment. You want someone with good language skills, who can communicate your message clearly. And of course, you want a patient employee, who can transcend any frustrations that come up.
However, these aren’t just personality traits. They’re all skills that can be developed.
More and more companies are turning towards customer service seminars and customer service courses to teach their employees little tips and tricks that will turn good customer service into an excellent experience for both your team and your customers.
Customer service training activities are crucial in the workplace. Not only do they serve as teaching material for your team, they encourage each team member to recognize the importance of providing quality service at all times. They foster a sense of comradery in the workplace,
Take advantage of the free customer service training material provided, and learn to maximize your employees’ skills!
Customer service training tips to take away
With the right customer service training material, almost anything can be taught! Customer service training courses have many benefits for your team, your customers and your company.
But how to implement these techniques?
Here are some customer service training ideas that are easy to implement, and will benefit your team in the short and long run!
First, let’s look at motivation.
If you feel like your employees aren’t motivated, like they are only pretending to care for the sake of keeping their jobs, look at your own interactions with them. What could you be doing better? How can you make them care?
1- Hold frequent meetings.
The first step to having motivated employees is making them care about the company’s core values and goals, both short-term and long-term. You should have an open platform where all employees can state their thoughts and concerns about how things have been going, and where everyone can bring up ways to make your company stronger. By offering an environment in which employees of all levels are welcome to share their thoughts and contribute to your goals, you will give your team personal interest in your company’s success.
There are many advantages to holding team meetings. For one, your employees feel listened to, and like their opinions hold some weight within the company. Investing their own thoughts and energy will increase your team’s loyalty, which will make the process of selling your services and encouraging customer loyalty a lot easier. Also, brainstorming ideas always works better as a team. Collectively, you will have noticed more issues and have better inspiration on how to fix them than a single person could. Bounce ideas off of each other, let everyone voice their opinion, and you’ll leave both with a better idea of what direction to work towards and a genuine feeling of satisfaction and appreciation in your team.
Of course, you don’t want to bore your team with endless meetings that get little done, nor do you want to take up time that could be better spent working towards your projects. Getting your team to meet once a week or every other week in a relaxed setting (for example, over lunch) should be sufficient for maintaining focus. You want to keep the atmosphere informal and comfortable, while maintaining a solid structure. Always start on a positive note, highlighting successes and excellent performance since your last meeting. Let employees share things they have noticed are going well too! Afterwards, move on to any problems your team may have encountered, and brainstorm potential solutions. Have a very strict no-blame policy in place so nobody feels attacked. Focus on finding solutions, not on finding who may have caused the problem initially. Always leave a little bit of time at the end for questions and concerns that may have been glossed over earlier.
In maintaining a fun and open atmosphere in your meetings, you will encourage your team to speak up more frequently, and to look beyond their personal tasks at the greater picture.
2-Focus on personal development.
Though it is important to focus on the bigger picture, never lose sight of your employees’ personal development. Having a solid team that is forever improving is a far better investment than a stagnant one. Have frequent one-on-one check-ins with your employees (once every three months should be sufficient) where you will discuss what that employee’s strengths are, what areas could use improvement, and build a development plan that you will review upon your next meeting. That sort of personal focus reminds employees that their actions matter, and that they are working for a company that is willing to invest in them.
You can bring in a customer service trainer if this task seems out of your reach. On top of freeing up some of your time while working towards the excellence of your team, a customer service trainer also knows what customer service training activities are available, and which ones will be the most effective for different team members.
The most important thing is the constant evaluation, and a problem-solving approach. By emphasizing this, you’ll create a transparent work environment where your employees will always strive to better themselves.
3- Use positive reinforcement
Your team needs to know you appreciate the hard work they do. Celebrate your team’s success. Organizing company parties or trips will help your employees bond in a fun environment, while showing them that what they do is important to you. Even simply mentioning an employee who has been doing a particularly good job at the team meeting can have great effects. People love recognition, and it works as a better incentive than most. Offer perks or bonuses to employees who have been doing a good job. You can even turn it into something of a healthy competition (for example, offering a weekend getaway to the employee who makes the most sales, or has the best customer feedback).
Of course, the monetary reward is always appreciated, but it goes beyond that. Most people don’t want to work hard for no recognition, so even the smallest of acknowledgements will inspire your employees to continue bettering themselves.
While doing this, remember to always use positive language! Point out what has been going right, not wrong. Encourage improvement instead of pointing out failures. Create an atmosphere in which your team is working towards the same goal as you.
Think of how your team uses language.
Language is powerful. It can entirely change a person’s perception of a situation, and using clear language will eliminate the need for future corrections. Making sure your team uses language in as efficient a manner as possible will make all interactions with customers flow that much smoother!
How can you optimize the way your team communicates with customers?
1- Encourage positive language
Always give good news first. Avoid negatives like don’t, can’t, won’t, etc. For example, instead of saying “We don’t have any suites available,” say “I’m very sorry. All our suites are occupied.” The bad news is the same, but the perception is bound to be different. In the first delivery, the lack of suites sounds like a failure on behalf of the hotel, and the tone is rather uncaring. The second delivery sounds more empathetic, and would push the customer to believe that the lack of suites is simply an unfortunate event, and that you are truly sorry.
Another minor shift in language that will work wonders is to eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary. Let’s look at these two examples.
“I’d love to answer your questions, but I’m really swamped. Could I call you back in an hour?”
“I’d love to answer your questions! Unfortunately I’m really swamped right now. Could I call you back in an hour?”
Simply removing the “but” changes the message. The positive message (“I’d love to answer your questions!”) is lost in the first delivery, as it just sounds like a polite way of prefacing the rejection. However, in the second delivery it stands on its own, meaning that even if the customer didn’t get what he or she wanted immediately, they still left the interaction feeling valued. Encourage your team to use as little negative language as possible.
2- Focus on clear communication
Think of a message your team will frequently be communicating to clients. Is vague language being used? Words such as “like”, “sort of” and “kind of” should be eliminated. Sounding unsure will kill your customer’s confidence in your company. If your employees are not entirely clear on something, teach them to be certain in their uncertainty. Phrases like “We don’t have that information” or “We’ve been working on this, and are hoping for results soon” will inspire a lot more confidence than an employee who appears not to know what they’re talking about.
Your team may also deal with customers who aren’t as savvy about the technical aspects of your product or service, or for whom English is only their second or third language. Make sure they are being understood by these people. Use the same message as in the previous exercise, and get your team to work on it until they’ve found a way of delivering it that can be understood by everyone. Get them to practice it over and over, breaking it down to its core. Are they using niche words that the customer may be unfamiliar with, or words that are simply too complicated? Do they explain concepts as though they expect the customer to have some background information, or do they start from scratch?
Workshop their language together, recognizing problematic words and terms, until you’ve found a way to break even the most complicated concepts down to a kindergarten level. Remove as many superfluous words as possible, and replace the trickier terms with more basic concepts. You never know who you’ll be dealing with, and it’s safer to risk dumbing something down too much rather than having a customer leaving an interaction feeling confused and unsatisfied.
Exercise your team’s patience.
Of course, you can’t eliminate all unpleasantness. That would be too easy. That’s where exercising patience comes in.
Patience is one of the most important skills you can transmit to your team, and also one of the most difficult. While dealing with pleasant customers is incredibly easy, an angry or frustrated customer can ruin someone’s day.
How can you teach your team to transcend that?
1- Give perspective.
No matter how unpleasant an interaction with a customer is, it’s not a lifelong commitment. It will come to an end, and probably a lot quicker if the customer feels listened to and appreciated.
Get your team to think of the most unpleasant interaction they’ve ever had with a customer. Now ask them how long it lasted. Chances are, it was pretty short. Get them to think about that portion of time compared to the rest of their lives, and how unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things. Encourage them to keep that perspective with every interaction. Reminding them that there’s an end in sight will help them power through the pain.
2- Maintain a state of relaxation in the office.
If you can, give your team time in the day to practice yoga, meditation, or engage in physical activity. This will reduce stress levels massively, and your team has a better chance of entering each interaction without all the built-up anger they’ve been carrying around. Your team will have a better focus and work more efficiently afterwards, which means the time they “lost” while engaging in these activities in gained back in productivity. Furthermore, setting this time aside for your team shows that you care about their personal well-being, and will increase motivation as well as company loyalty.
These activities should always be optional. Find a yoga studio nearby that offers company discounts, or hire someone to come in and lead meditation circles a couple of times a week to those who are interested. You can also invest in an office gym where your team can blow off some steam during their breaks, or simply allow for “mental health breaks” during the work day, when your employees can go for a quick run or brisk walk to clear their heads before returning to their productive state. Not only will your team get more done, they will appear calm and relaxed in front of customers, which will create a better interaction.
3- Teach positive self-talk.
An employee’s inner monologue can make or break their interaction with a customer. Encourage thoughts like “This is a challenge, but I’m ready to face it, and it will soon be over.” rather than “This is so unbearable, I wish I could be anywhere else right now.” Negative thoughts have an annoying habit of spiralling downwards until it throws your employee into a place of rage and frustration- and it’s hard to get anything done once those feelings have trapped you. Once again, workshop language. Ask your employees how they feel after a challenging interaction with a customer. If their thoughts are primarily negative, work at rephrasing them.
Use positive language with your employees at all times. Recognize and celebrate successful days, and always focus on what can be improved rather than what went wrong. Once your team has grown accustomed to positive language, it makes it easier for the employees to implement it themselves, both with themselves and with customers.
4- Encourage understanding and empathy.
Sit your team down, and get them to think of two interactions they’ve had as customers, one positive and negative. Together, break down what made these experiences so. How can they implement the positive traits in their own service, and eliminate the negative? What actions can they take to make the customers feel comfortable?
On top of allowing your team to assess their own interactions, this permits them to look at each situation from a customer’s point of view, which increases empathy and understanding. This, in turn, will remind your team that the people they’re dealing with are only human, and will encourage them to do what they can to fix problems and increase satisfaction.
What else can you do?
Keep encouraging your team.
There’s always room for improvement, and the second you stop improving is the second all your hard work is lost. Have frequent meetings with your team to discuss what is going well, and what could be done better. Remember to always use positive language- you want to encourage your employees to work well, not reprimand them on their shortcomings. Brainstorm ways in which you could improve the overall customer experience. As always, listen to what they have to say. Take on challenges as a team.
Don’t be afraid to bring in new customer service training materials on a regular basis! There are many free customer service training materials online, and your customer service trainer can provide you with different games and activities to keep your team interested. Maintaining good customer service is an ongoing job, but one that is incredibly rewarding. You will increase profits, reduce complaints, and generally increase company moral. Happy customers often make for happy employees as well.
Putting a strong focus on quality customer service is one of the best things you can do for your company, your customers and your employees, and with these tips, you should be headed on the right track.
Customer Service Job Description
The current market scenario and need to re-prioritize your goals
In the current ongoing period of global recession, slowdown in demand and macroeconomic instability, you need to stay competitive and profitable to ensure the survival and growth of your organization.
It can be ensured by differentiating yourself from the competition by winning the customers with targeted and cost effective marketing campaign, superior experience of your primary offering and high quality customer service. It will help you to tap and retain the limited customers who have varied choices with competitive price offerings in the present customer deficient markets.
In this volatile economic situation the focus on increasing your customers’ satisfaction level and reducing the customer churn should be the major goal for your organization to sustain in these troubled times.
Wading through the troubled times
The real goal for you is to excel in your core competencies which can be a product or services along with a properly implemented customer acquisition and retention strategy to enhance your revenue growth.
A sound customer centric strategy, strong client service structure, dynamic customer service team and clearly defined and demarcated customer service job description is bound to make your customers loyal to you and ensure sustained revenue growth and profitability for your organization.
This will act as a Noah’s Ark for your organization to wade the rough waves of macroeconomic disequilibrium and slowdown across the nation and the world.
The Customer Centric Approach
The success of your organization can be ensured by following the customer centric approach and building a strong customer service delivery structure to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.
Customer centricity is not just about offering great customer service to your customers, it means offering a great experience throughout the customer life cycle from the awareness stage to purchase stage and finally post purchase stage. It is a strategy that is based on putting your customer first, at the very core of your business. Becoming a customer centric organization is the Holy Grail towards tapping the true potential of your customers.
A customer- centric approach will enable your organization to differentiate itself with the competitors who do not offer the same experience to the customers. Amazon is a prime example of customer centric approach as it has evolved its culture to put its customer first. However the customer centric culture cannot be developed over night.
Developing and implementing the Customer Centric Strategy
A development of a well chalked out strategy by you to develop a customer centric vision, customer service delivery structure and dynamic as well as efficient customer service team with well defined customer care job description is required to achieve this goal. This strategy will help you to put yourself in the shoes of the customer which will minimize customer effort and maximize customer value which will increase his loyalty towards your organization.
In the current dynamic high-tech e-commerce startups environment, customer service is the key to achieve sustained growth for your organization. Customer care or service is the most critical part of customer centric approach. Most of the successful entrepreneurs are of the opinion that satisfying the early stage customers is the single most important aspect of growing their brand and achieving an early success. That’s why it is a top priority for every business especially the startups.
At the Heart of Customer Centric Approach is Customer Satisfaction
At the heart of customer centric strategy is pleasing your customers. Particularly for startups it provides a mechanism for early customers’ retention and the feedback about new products to flow to the management and necessary changes are made to the offering for better market targeting. It provides for a mechanism to service the client before, during and post purchase.
The customer care and support includes assisting your customer in making cost effective and correct use of your product. Assistance in planning, payment, installation, training, trouble shooting, upgrading and disposal of the product are part of customer care. The valuable feedback that is provided by your customer at each stage will help your organization to know if it is moving in the right direction.
The feedback provided by the customer can be used by your organization to evolve your products or services according to the customer requirements. This again enhances the customer satisfaction and overall brand image of your organization. To ensure this service delivery and feedback mechanism, well structured customer service delivery structure needs to be built by you based on customer centric vision and approach.
Customer Service Delivery Structure
The objective of customer service delivery structure is to create a service culture, improve brand image, maintain service quality, enhance employee engagement and overall ensure high customer satisfaction for your organization. It lay at the core of your several business functions like product development, finance, marketing and brand management from where the service requests and feedbacks flow to each department from your customer.
In the customer delivery structure, the entry level position of customer service representative is the first point of contact for any customer with your organization. He is generally monitored by the customer care manager who is responsible for result delivery of many representatives. The operational hierarchy is also headed by the customer service manager who develops plans and strategies for better result delivery.
A senior member of the core management like Vice President or customer service department head is responsible for the customer service managers of different verticals like new customer business, existing customer servicing, payment collection, complaints.
The head of the department provides strategic feedback and direction to the top management to adapt themselves according to your customers’ inputs. The positions of employees in your customer service department can vary from entry level to top management level depending on the requirements of your customer service delivery model.
By providing the detailed customer care job description of each member of your customer service department, the roles and responsibilities and the workflow gets streamlined. Moreover, a system of checks and balances is also in place with a properly laid out customer care department structure.
Customer Service Job Description: Assigning roles and responsibilities
A clearly defined job description for customer service delivery is critical for successful functioning and efficiency of your customer service department. It gives an overall picture of the tasks, responsibilities and skills involved in customer service job.
Although a customer service job varies according to the sector, company and the level of the job, the fundamental tasks and responsibilities remain similar for the customer service functions for an organization.
Interacting with Customers
The general purpose of the customer service job is to interact with the customers and process the information in response to their queries, issues and requests about the product and services offered by your organization. The customer service job description includes dealing directly with your customers over the phone, email or face-to-face.
On the product side, the customer service job description entails collecting and evaluating all the necessary information to reply to client’s queries and providing pricing and delivery information.
New Customer Hand holding and On-going service
New customer hand holding tasks like creating a new account, performing customer verifications, processing orders, forms, applications and requests are part of customer service job description. The task of organizing workflows to meet the time frames of service delivery is also performed by your customer service team.
Ongoing tasks like maintaining records of your customers’ transactions, maintaining customer account, recording details of complaints, inquiries and requests and maintaining databases remain critical task that needs to be performed by the customer care representative.
Conflict resolution: A critical part of customer service job description
Conflict resolution mechanism is a critical part of customer care job description. The complaints have to be swiftly resolved by contacting the concerned department which is involved in the issue.
For instance your customer calls and complains about the non-functioning of the payment gateway after deduction of money from his account. In this situation after checking on his end, your customer care representative needs to send the message to the concerned department asking them to streamline the payment process.
Conflict resolution in an effective and timely manner is the benchmark of an efficient and dynamic customer care team.
Keeping abreast with the market and customer feedback
The customer service team is responsible for sending reports and feedback to your management. This enables them to take strategic decisions like implementing key changes in your current product, developing a new product to meet the market’s need, correcting the price points and corrective measures to enhance the brand image of your organization.
Without the feedback from your customer service team the top management of your organization would be direction less like a ship sailing the sea without a global positioning system. The key members of the customer service team like the customer service representative and the customer service manager play an important role in providing services to your customer.
The Front Line Soldier: Customer Service Representative
The most critical part of the customer care team and the customer service architecture is certainly the customer service representative. This position is responsible to be the front end of your organization and is the first point of contact for your customers.
Customer service representative job description includes responding to the customer queries, registering, reporting and resolving customer’s complaints, request for account information, negotiating collection arrangements, coordinating service requests and maintaining customer accounts. The responsibilities of the person in this position also include conflict resolution and providing feedback to the reporting authorities about the customer behavior.
A dynamic, efficient, polite and skilled person in this position is imperative for your customer service system to succeed in the first place. Being the front end of the organization the services provided by the customer care representative leaves a lasting impression of your company in the mind of your customer.
The pre-sales and after sale support of an organization and account management of your customer is heavily dependent on customer service representatives’ efficiency, emotional intelligence and problem solving capabilities.
Case Study on critical role played by Customer care Representative
The importance of the position of customer care representative can be explained by the hypothetical case a new launch of a product or services by your organization. During the launch of the new product or services the contact number of customer care would be mentioned in all the market communication mediums for further details and inquiries.
The Customer Service representative will work as a front end providing all the information and answering the queries about your new launch to the in- bound customer calls. After the information sharing and query resolution the customer care representative will assert the customer to take a decision and will ensure the conversion of the customer lead.
He will play a critical role in closing of the customer leads which are not directly handled by your sales staff thus reducing cost of marketing. If a meeting is required to close the deal the customer care representative will transfer the hot lead to your marketing staff for face-to-face deal closure.
As a part of hand holding process the customer care representative will guide your new customer in account creation, training on product usage and payment procedures. The customer care representative will also take customer feedback about the satisfaction level and will escalate to the concerned department if any issue persists. This will complete the smooth hassle free integration of new customer with your organization in accordance to your product or services and is bound to create a positive image of your organization in his mind.
The customer care representative will call your customers each month to remind them about the payment schedule and guide them to make the payments. This will ensure assured cash flow for your organization. The customer service representative team will resolve the issues or complaints of your customers pertaining to the product and services and will escalate complex problems to the specialized departments.
In the above given hypothetical example it must be noted that the customer service representatives are involved in pre-sale, during the sale and after sale relationship management of your customers during the crucial time of a new product or services launch. This ongoing process of customer relationship management is highly critical to achieve success in current scenario where the customers want least effort and maximum value from a product.
Your customer centric approach and strategy spearheaded by your customer care representative is bound to create a lasting impression in the mind of your customers and will promote brand loyalty, repeat business, word of mouth publicity for you and reduce customer churn to the minimum.
In long run the revenue and profitability of your organization will grow through a satisfied customer base. Hence your happy customer would ensure that your organization remains healthy and successful.
Customer Service Manager: The Bridge between the Team and the Management
The team of customer care representatives plays a crucial part in enhancing the happiness index of your customer and in turn makes your organization successful. The team of customer care representative is supervised by a customer service manager.
The position is held by a senior person who has substantial knowledge in the field of customer service and is capable to handle complex situation, can provide dynamic solutions and can prepare plans and strategies to develop and enhance your customer service quality standards for your organization.
Role of Customer Service Manager
The job description of the customer service manager includes developing and updating your customer service policies and procedures, handling more complex inquiries and complaints, authorize refunds and other compensations to your customer, making accurate records of communication with your customers and analyzing the key management information to see how your customers are being served.
Recruitment, training and supervision of staff
The customer service manager is responsible for recruiting, training and appraising new staff and ensuring high quality service delivery from his team. He is also responsible for supervision and of the existing staff.
Keeping the Top Management updated
The customer service managers’ responsibility also includes keeping your top management updated of your customers’ feedback by providing them with regular information in the form of management information systems (MIS). This provides your top management with directions and insights to make strategic decisions to evolve the existing product, developing a new product, managing brand image and enhance your customers’ satisfaction level.
The role of manager is crucial for providing a direction to your management to improve on the above given parameters which in turn is bound to increase the profitability and revenue of your organization.
Conflict resolution in critical cases
The manager is also responsible for handling important face-to-face meetings with your customers and conflict resolution in highly complex situations. High conflict cases which can lead to high compensation payment and approaching the courts for conflict resolution are to be handled and resolved by manager through his experience and emotional intelligence before they snowball into a big loss for your organization.
Case Study: Role of Customer Service Manager in high conflict situation
The same hypothetical case of launch of your new product or services can be sighted to emphasize the strategic role of the customer service manager in customer relationship management and conflict resolution for your organization.
Consider the situation where the customer of your newly launched product or services faces a serious quality issue. Your aggrieved customer will call your customer care number to register his complaint and will be attended by the front end staff, the customer care representative who will carefully understand his problem and will try to solve the issue at his end.
The issue being technical in nature and outside the purview of the customer care representatives’ domain it will be escalated to the quality/ technical team. The technical/ quality team will visit your customer and finds out that the quality of the product or services offered to the customer is of lesser quality or is faulty due to some unforeseeable cause.
Your quality/technical team states their finding to your customer care department and the quality/ technical department. They cite the high cost involved in improving the quality of product or services provided to the customer. Meanwhile the customer calls again and threatens with action in consumer forum and law courts as he feels cheated by your organization.
In this case your customer care manager will step in to resolve the matter. He will talk to the customer to understand his concern and devise a suitable action plan. Then he will hold a telephone conference or face to face meeting with the quality/ technical team and the senior management to evaluate the pros and cons of the situation.
Since the matter of your customer approaching customer forums and courts is highly detrimental for the brand image and financial health of your organization the customer care manager will recommend to refund the whole amount charged to him or replace the product sold to him.
The manager will make sure that the solution provided to your customer by the organization is acceptable to all the stakeholders and hence the issue is resolved before it snowballs into a controversy. Hence his role is to resolve the conflict and to create a win-win situation for all the parties involved.
Findings from the Case Study
From the hypothetical example stated above you can clearly deduct that the services provided by the customer service manager is responsible to create an environment that is conducive for your business to grow and prosper. Your satisfied customers ensure repeat business, sustained profitability, word of mouth publicity and development of positive brand image for your organization.
Strategy Formulation to Achieve the Goal of High level Customer Satisfaction
To achieve highest level of customer satisfaction and sustained revenue growth it is critical for your organization to have customer centric vision and strategy to implement customer service delivery standards. A carefully crafted strategy for customer service delivery structure should be developed by the customer service industry experts and your top management including the best practices in the customer service domain adapted to the needs of your organization.
Clearly defining and demarcating roles and responsibilities or the job description for customer service for each member your customer service team will be the next step in this process. The total team strength for your customer service delivery and the levels of hierarchy in the team needs to be finalized by your top management and customer service industry experts.
The objective should be to ensure that the global standards and the best practices in customer service delivery industry are followed and implemented by your organization.
Focusing on Core Competencies
In the present times, the competitive and dynamic environment of the corporate world requires you to be the best at what you do. The core product offering of the company needs to be developed through innovation and R&D.
The products and services offered by you along with interaction and the customer service standards have to meet the global standards. This will ensure you would be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Balancing the spending between Marketing and Customer Service functions for maximum profitability
In today’s scenario companies have been reducing their spending on the customer service delivery as it is seen as a cost centre. This in turn leads to low customer satisfaction as the information in not properly conveyed and issues are not resolved.
The resultant customer churn or inability to tap new customers due to under investment in customer service delivery system is an opportunity cost for your organization.
The amount spent on advertisements and customer care has to be strategically balanced to ensure that leads are generated, converted in to customers and retained for long term association with your organization. This will create a sustainable business ecosystem required for survival and success of your organization.
The Strategic decision: In-house or Outsourced customer service team
The strategic decision of having an in-house customer care team or hiring the services of a highly specialized customer service organization to which the customer service delivery responsibility can be out sourced needs to be finalized by your core management. This decision should be based on your organizations priorities, core competencies and cost to benefit ratio analysis.
The customer service team whether in-house or out sourced needs to be headed by a highly specialized and experienced person who should be a part of the core management of your organization. This will make your customer service delivery system robust as well as dynamic from the strategic point of view.
The Holy Grail for achieving success in current scenario
Achieving all the objectives of customer service job description and enhancing your customer’s experience with your organization will ensure that you sustain and remain profitable in the current scenario of macroeconomic instability and slowdown in demand. The key to achieve success for your organization lies in implementing the Holy Grail of success which is certainly the customer centric approach
To quote the famous management guru, Peter Drucker (1973), the sole purpose of a business is “to create a customer”. However, creating a customer base only spells the start of end-game, which concludes in generating the maximum Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), which will be discussed in detail later.
Importance in Sustainable Growth
Customer retention has been a topic of debate since the mid-1990s, mainly due to its significant influence on the financial performance of organizations. Customer loyalty is an affordable and viable business strategy, which ultimately leads to repeat business with existing base. According to many successful entrepreneurs, its importance cannot be overstated in today’s competitive environment. Customer retention is imperative for growing a sustainable business, but it will serve you well to understand the core concepts before incorporating the strategies in your business model. Customer loyalty begins with the first contact and continues throughout the duration of the relationship. As per current researches on business bulletins, retaining loyal customers can increase profits by up to 95 percent. Focusing on your customer retention pays off across every aspect of a business. Sometimes, the results can exceed expectations in terms of financial and non-financial benefits reaped. Customer retention should thus become a part of the strategic marketing planning process you are looking forward to for your business. A customer retention strategy is about keeping the customers a business has invested in to acquire. As per Harvard Business School report, on average, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25%-95%. This substantiates the importance of finding new customers, but keeping the old ones and turning those new customers into loyal buyers is even more important. Customer retention is integral to corporate success because it increases your profits, explains Entrepreneur magazine. Satisfied customers become loyal customers.
Benefits of Customer Retention:
Customer Retention Rate
Calculation of your customer retention and the attrition rate of the company are directly linked to customer retention as these provide significant influence on revenue and success stories.
To quantify the customer rate, your marketing department has to do a technical analysis of the customer reviews, not only digitally but manually too. The facts about where and when a customer left are going to be critically analyzed to figure out the retention rate of your business. This involves a thorough and detailed research from the point your business got awareness to the point you had an enough margin to retain them. In order to calculate retention rate all of your business data needs to be submitted to the marketing department, figures and graphs need to be maintained not only on weekly or monthly bases but daily routines too. This will help you to determine sales and purchase rates.
To check the loyalty of your customer, you can issue, for example, special cards to award points so that data can be maintained to note variations in the trends of existing customers as well as gathering their preferences. This can allow your marketing and sales team to set their weekly, biweekly and monthly goals in order to meet customer expectations and satisfaction. All of your calculation should start on immediate bases as soon as all critical data is collected and analyzed.
A powerful and commercially successful business like yours needs to implement strict measures to ensure that the goal of retention is monitored and safeguarded in terms of turnover. You do know your business is unique in its own manner and to ensure yours stands out in a crowd, maintain all data of loss and recovery and work along with your marketing and sales department to meet business set targets and beat the competition with a standing out revenue and customer win over. To satisfy your customers it’s important for your organization / employees to see the bigger picture and contribute their best efforts accordingly.
To support this statement for your vision we can discuss the success story of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, which comprises of 400 companies. Branson not only ensured customer retention but also made certain to have the best team to grow his empire. He very confidentially took extra measures and not only ensured that his turnover met his employee and customer satisfaction, but also set new records globally. All his efforts are globally recognized and his biography can set new examples and milestones for businesses that are notating on client and customer retention with a powerful team to maintain and achieve goals.
Customer Retention Techniques:
Richard Branson – A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.
A customer retention program is the best way to increase retention, reduce churn and grow revenue for your business. You need to discover the right mix of strategies that work and increase revenue along with customer base. The easiest way to grow your business is through repeat customers. The average business loses around 20 percent of its customers due to not being able to differentiate their needs and wants. Bringing in new customers is hard, but losing them is easy (and costly). That’s why customer retention is critical if the business needs to grow. Developing programs to increase customer loyalty will play a crucial role to enhance business. Small businesses are increasingly focusing on customer rewards and loyalty programs as a retention strategy. Identifying how to retain customers is one of the most important tasks a business faces.
Customer Retention Marketing
The primary objective of Retention Marketing is to keep customers engaged and interested in your products and services. Retention Marketing should become a part of the strategic marketing planning process for your firm. It is important to define your customer retention and also to make sure a proper guideline is set for marketing analysts of your business so that they are able to monitor and improve it from all aspects. Customer satisfaction should be at the basic core of your business planning. Having an extensive customer retention strategy in place will help to expand and create new opportunities to grow and generate revenue for your company.
The concept of customer value is the most important factor which contributes toward the prosperity and success of your company and it should be under consideration as an important source for a competitive advantage over any sort of organization (Woodruff, 1997). For any marketing activity we should understand that customer value plays a vital role in attracting and retaining customers and it has been widely realized that equipping yourself with the proper strategic tools is an important one (Wang et al., 2004). Customer loyalty and customer retention are closely related factors that have some general rules.
Customer trust in a brand has a very positive relationship with brand trust (Sahin & Kitapci, 2013). Hence, to make monetary gains, customer satisfaction plays a very important role (Hauser, Semester and Wornerfelt, 1994)
By keeping track of a few factors, your retention marketing can be easily improved and worked upon:
Marketing strategies should focus on asking your team of professionals to actively monitor your CUSTOMER
REVIEWS. Bright Total had a local consumer survey in 2015 which shows that 92% of the customers now rely on online review before any sale /purchase. Keeping a close tab on your competitor’s offerings and services and maintaining online presence plays a significant role in this regard. Post Millennials are familiar with mobiles, tablets, laptops etc. and these smart devices are providing competitive edge for your businesses to grow. Furthermore, it is also offering customers a choice to select from a range of vendors available online.
Targeting customer concerns and ensuring on-time delivery not only spreads the word-of-mouth but retains old customers and generates new leads for your business to outshine. Building trust in this manner creates a strong influence towards the targeted customers.
A through and through analysis of bright local for 2015 has confirmed 88% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before they form an opinion about a business. Overall ratings of your business, qualitative reviews, and sentiments of the reviews and business responses matters the most if your customer retention programs are making through the headlines.
Positive ratings and reviews matter the most when the traffic needs to be generated through online marketing strategies as 44% people visit the website/business after going through these reviews.
(Source: http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics )
Developing an online presence and maintaining the reputation will generate more leads. Key findings through recent surveys and online business reviews have selectively highlighted that the consumers are retainable only if your businesses deliver Reliability, Good Value & Professionalism with exceeding consistency. Here the vital role is played by your customer service representatives. Nowadays consumers are more concerned of good value than the expertise of the business, hence again highlighting your customer satisfaction. Lastly Friendliness and being welcomed are added benefits for all reviews for your company.
Customer Retention Programs
Bill Gates quoted – Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning
In order to retain more customers, your business needs to focus on addressing issues and evaluating how you can use a professional team to take care of all the existing and new customers and ensure the ability to meet deadlines. Your requirements to deliver proactive customer service and conducting surveys will give your analytical department ideas regarding major concerns your customer are facing. This allows you to ensure that they are fixed, and then you can pat yourself for a happy customer that you have saved. A few of the below mentioned steps will enable you to complete customer retention program and to ensure your business is well aware of what your competitors are offering and what your strategy should be in this regard:
Consistency – It is very important that you meet the expectations of your customers and your customer service staff is well trained to ensure that consistence is delivered in a timely manner.
Exceeding customer expectations – Meeting your customers’ expectations will always set a bar not only for the business popularity but also it will be setting a benchmark for your competitors, allowing you to be the pioneer of excellent customer service. A few additives will assist your business in accelerating the process such as sending a movie ticket, a free event ticket for a favorite sport, some gift hampers, and some weekend playtime for the kids. Showing efforts to remember your customers’ most important day like birthdays, anniversaries etc. and sending cards or messages to let them know that you do value them will be helpful in creating customer affinity with the business.
Using customer Feedback tools to carry out the customer need analysis and using it as a stepping stone can help you securing their loyalty.
Target Social Media, Search engines etc. These days everyone is online and being able to use the internet on the go with various apps on smart gadgets makes it very easy to target a huge crowd and whole of the world in just a few minutes. Personalization through emails, customer widgets, and in-app feedback can be very useful to record suggestions and improve. Drop boxes can be used to monitor customer feedback. With the improved technology and internet marketing, a huge crowd can be covered through by creating a business page, community groups, discussion boards, and blogs to make sure you receive the customers’ direct feedback which will in fact be less costly than other means of gathering data to enable customer marketing of your company to do qualitative analysis over what might be missing and what might be the most popular product of your company which enhances and provides services and quickly generates revenues.
Business Marketing charts have surveyed that Word of mouth is still the most popular way to recommend your business. Other search engines do play a vital role but Google being the pioneer has to rate your business so make sure to get positive ratings to ensure your business keeps on increasing. Research has shown for your local businesses’ reputation that the reviews from Yelp and Google+ have a direct impact, therefore explaining why white-hat SEO technique is mandatory to maintain the business coverage for all online consumers as 85% business is generated from the ratings provided on the search engines and social media.
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
A lot of small business (usually with 300 or so employees) are working these days to get a sustainable position within the giants in the market and explore more options to excel themselves. A lot of them forget the basic key to GROWTH and CUSTOMER RETENTION: to create a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – the basic ingredient that defines your business from your competitors. This is the unique edge that you have over your opponents. USP defines your business identity and how you maintain “what we say is what we sell” delivery to your customers. The uniqueness your business implies will attract more customers and if you will be keen on retaining the old customers this key feature will allow new customers to try your business too.
There a lot of USP examples in today’s market, I have mentioned a few for you to do the research for action implementation on your business growth:
2- The Mast Brothers – The uniqueness to make each and every bar of chocolate, from the Cocoa to packing and maintain 18th century styled working
3- TOMS Shoes – Being the unique, simple and inexpensive style they still give a pair of shoes to a needy child once you purchase one with their company.
4-OUTSPOKEN MEDIA- The Company made of 100% female’s only and standing out publically to express this unique selling proposition.
Customer Retention Examples
Researches have enabled figuratively for your businesses to get an insight into why customer retention is important and how to achieve it and set company targets. A recent study has explained with calculations to show why customer retention needs to be significantly highlighted for your business. 70% of companies agree that retaining customers is cheaper than acquiring new ones, a Consultancy report on cross-channel marketing found. Forty-nine percent find that building existing customer relationships brings a bigger return on investment than acquiring new customers. Gathering and building marketing reports also have confirmed that 80% of business will come from the 20% customers you retain or try to maintain. Prioritizing your customer retention means increased profit.
Here are a few examples which were gathered as live specimens to customer retention success stories:
On one such Amazon review blog I came across a piece of information which is worth a share as 99% of the other companies would have ignored such support and understanding for their customer. One of the loyal customers shared the loss of a $300.00 worth PlayStation 3, which was delivered but due to not being available at home, was stolen from the doorstep – the customer took the chance and let Amazon know of this loss – and guess what, Amazon DELIVERED him another PlayStation 3 without any shipment charges just before Christmas Eve making him their loyal customer for a lifetime. Such incredible piece of customer reviews will not only spread the word of mouth but increase internal and external ratings – which shows how Amazon delivers the best considering customer retention factor in their delivery.
Hence, we can gladly deduce that customer retention is a small yet extremely powerful strategy in gaining financial success, turning the variances favorable and increasing the profitability/ shareholder value of your business. Incorporating very small measures can lead to a very high success rate; all you need is the proper knowledge and the required skillset along with perfect timing and success is surely on its way.