With all of the different philosophies and technological solutions being experimented with, it’s time to take a step back and look at some simple, down to earth tips on how to improve customer experience. Customer service is hands down the most important function to focus on with a company, above and beyond the products, services, marketing and identity of the company.
Problems are inevitable, no matter how exemplary a service or product is. Someone is going to encounter a malfunction, defect or simply have an important question they need answered. When this unavoidably happens, a company needs to be on the ball to solve the problem or answer the question in a positive, affirming way and rapidly. If this fails to occur, the customer will be more put off by the poor service than by the problem or question they had, as customers understand that no product or service can ever be perfect. They will be judging you by how your company handles the issue, not for the issue itself (save for the issue happening constantly, which is another topic altogether, and one for QA rather than CRM).
Aside from one aspect, we’re not going to focus on technology here, but rather how to be proactive in how to improve customer experience. We’re going to look first at a way to anticipate problems in advance, in order to resolve issues faster.
When designing a product or service, along side user experience, customer experience and service should be factored in initially. When running focus groups, beta tests and all of the other things involved in initial development and definition, metrics should be taken on where things could go wrong. All of these, even if unlikely, should be well-documented, and solutions and contingencies be worked out for them, no matter how trivial.
Once a product or service is deployed, CRM people should have access to all this documentation, and be nearly reflexive in their ability to act on these contingencies immediately upon identifying the problem or question the customer is posing.
This is all about making CRM faster, which is an issue that plagues companies today, as their reliance on technology widens the rift between consumers and the company’s actual human beings. Technology is powerful, but it’s not speeding CRM up.
While we’re on that subject, let’s look at the one technology issue that should be recommended. Phone trees and help desks don’t work, they are slow, tedious and complicated, and have no humanity to them. One technological advance of recent years that would be magnificent to improve customer experience is the integration of social media into CRM. Twitter, Facebook, any given additional social platform that may arise in the near future, all are great ways for customers to actively or passively voice their discontent with an issue, or get into contact with CRM people quickly but efficiently. Few companies are doing this, and it’s baffling, frankly.
Moving on, though, aside from being fast and responsive, and being proactive, another key is making customers feel individually valued. Almost anyone in business has heard this idea drilled into their head since college, but that doesn’t make it any less true, and companies seem to forget this often enough. When a customer calls, emails or submits a ticket – any way they may express a concern, they need to feel like their problem is individually significant and that their patronage is individually important, and not part of a greater statistic or percentage.
This is accomplished by CRM professionals addressing them directly, and reacting emotionally (but not forcedly) to their problem, engaging in idle chit chat while the records are being addressed or while wait times happen. This sort of customer experience is stressed often enough in retail and food service industries where face-to-face meetings between employees and customers are par for the course, but companies which are more abstract should regard this as equally significant.
Finally, know where marketing’s place is and keep it contained there. When customers are on hold, or whatnot, do not try to market other services or upgrades to them. Do not loop recordings of advertisements, do not send them email notifications laced with ads, do not try to sell them on a new product before hanging up with them after a problem is resolved. Customers are downright offended by this, and rightfully so. Marketing is important, but it has no place here, and it never, ever will.
When regarding how to improve customer experience, it’s not about the technology, it’s about foresight and genuine courtesy above all else.
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