With the pervasiveness of social media and online review websites, it’s hard for a company to get away with poor customer service in today’s culture. No matter how a company is advertising a product or service, customers act as unpaid press agents — treat them poorly, and they’ll report it with painfully honest reviews to their personal circle of potential customers.
Though daunting, the reverse is true as well: if a company treats customers well, they’ll win not only their loyalty as a returning customer, but also the opportunity for them to become a brand ambassador. The customer’s positive reviews of the excellent customer service they receive will end up benefitting the company in both the short and long term. The proof is in the numbers.
Freshdesk conducted a survey of 350 participants at the 2014 Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. The survey asked participants to discuss their customer service experiences, and the results reflected the importance of customer support across industries, and highlighted which industries stand out as having poor or pristine customer service, and those that incorporate best practices for successful customer support. The lessons learned from these Dreamforce attendees — who are well informed when it comes to customer service — are valuable for companies and industries across the board, regardless of size, mission or geography.
Customer support: the good, the bad and the bottom line
Among those polled, three out of four professionals have personally cut ties with a company due to poor customer service. While not surprising, it’s a valuable metric that proves what savvy business owners already knew: strong customer service is a critical component for retaining customers and must remain a priority.
All customers want to feel important, and a misstep can often cause them to feel overlooked. It’s these customers who can break a company’s bottom line, because this means not only losing one customer, but also potentially losing friends and followers whom the customer has. One bad tweet can undo a lot of otherwise stellar customer service. This is reflected in the Dreamforce data as well — seven out of 10 sales professionals reported that their company has lost a customer or a sale due to poor customer support or poor support reputation.
Alternately, there is another route customer service can take, and it will affect a company’s bottom line in a positive way. Nine out of 10 respondents noted that a positive customer support interaction had changed their perception of a brand for the better. So just as a bad experience can mean losing a customer, a great experience can save one.
Beyond the positive experience, customers will likely continue returning to a company that has treated them well and become a loyal customer. Even further, after experiencing a particularly helpful interaction with a customer service professional, customers might go one step beyond and share that experience with friends and family. Delivering great customer service can spark an opportunity for a customer to turn into a brand ambassador, giving the company a great reputation that can benefit the brand in the long run.
Best communication practices for great customer service
The survey also asked participants about the best possible way for business professionals to engage in customer support. Research data showed that email, phone and chat continue to dominate the customer support communication channels.
Email took the greatest percentage of votes as the preferred channel for customer support. It provides an easy-to-access outlet for customers to clearly write out what problems they are experiencing, and then customer service employees can tend to those problems on a case-by-case basis. Due to its asynchronous nature, email also provides agents with the ability to collect whatever information they need and get the customer a complete answer in a clearly written format.
Customer service by phone trailed closely behind email, demonstrating that a personal, real-time interaction is still often preferred for resolving problems. Having a customer service employee who is available to speak one-on-one makes customers feel important.
Lastly, chat took nearly a quarter of the votes, likely due to the ease of access. Ultimately, offering a reliable channel with constant and personal customer service is bound to appeal to most customers seeking help.
The root of customer service success? The employees delivering it
Beyond the medium of communication used, customer service is deeply rooted in the employees providing it. More than half of survey respondents shared that they feel responsible for customer success within their own organizations despite it not being in their primary job description.
It is likely that these respondents are part of a company that places significant value on customer service and the customer experience. Centering company values and culture on customers and customer success ensures every person in the company feels responsible to deliver the best possible product and experience to everyone they encounter. This focus needs to start with the hiring process and also include training employees to be constantly thinking about the customer and strategizing for success from the bottom to the top.
The benefits from taking the time to ingrain these values into a company’s foundation can be enormous. As seen in the previous data, just a single experience with customer service representatives can make or break a person’s opinion of a company. The extra effort an individual customer service employee delivers to ensure a positive experience can create a profound effect on the company’s bottom line. If an entire company operates with the same mindset, the benefits can be immense.
Ultimately, the survey demonstrates that it’s in every single company’s best interest to provide the greatest possible experience for its customers, regardless of circumstance. It seems like a no-brainer, but as the survey reflects, not every company gets it right every time. Those small missteps can add up and cost the company valued business. By putting customer experience at the center of a their values and providing the best possible support using the customers’ preferred medium of communication, companies can make bold strides to ensure that customers remain happy — and spread the word.
— Alan Berkson is the Director of Community Outreach at Freshdesk, a cloud-based customer support platform that was founded with the mission of enabling companies of all sizes to provide great customer service. For more information, go online to www.freshdesk.com.