Four Customer Service Practices That Need to Die

It's frightening how one poor customer service experience can lead to the sudden demise of even the longest customer relationship. Although the loss of one shopper might seem pardonable, bad customer service can be extremely detrimental over time. The cost of attracting a new customer is six times greater than that of retaining one; by some estimates, the lost revenue due to inadequate customer service amounts to $83 billion every year. And with more than 70 percent of today's consumers saying they won't forgive a business if bad service is received, it is more important than ever to keep customers happy by simply eliminating toxic habits that are damaging reputations and bottom lines of brands and organizations.

Being Reactive

Fortunately, customer service is not as atrocious as it was five years ago, according to a recent Consumer Reports study. However, it is still light-years from superb. Businesses continue to execute a very reactive approach to customer service where action is only needed when a problem arises. This old-fashioned method might satisfy the customer in the moment, but it won't guarantee long-term loyalty. By instituting a more proactive mind-set, retailers can be more responsive to problems before they arise, as well as build brand loyalty throughout the process.

Businesses can be proactive by regularly checking in with a customer before and after a purchase. This can easily identify areas of weakness and allow you to make timely corrections. In addition, try announcing mistakes before a customer finds out, or paying attention to what your customers are saying online and acting accordingly. Both can help build customer trust and avoid damaging PR that might arise.

Offering a Single Experience

Providing superlative customer service is about being there for your customers. Traditionally, this meant promoting a single phone number that customers could dial to voice concerns or complaints. Now, with the proliferation of many different communication channels and devices, customers yearn for a more omnichannel approach to service. Nevertheless, executing an intricate customer service strategy can be problematic, as brands invest in too many portals that cannot be steadily supported.

Determining the most desired channels for your target market should be a priority. With today's consumers, phone and email continue to remain the most popular. Social media is steadily becoming a more desirable tool for customer service communication, as more become acquainted with Facebook and Twitter. In addition, ensure your customer service channels are fully dimensional by offering self-service options as well, as 90 percent of consumers now expect a brand or organization to offer this type of service.

Dismissing Customer Segmentation

Any brand can simply deliver a product or service. But the key to creating a lasting relationship with your customers is to connect with them on an emotional level by first getting to know them beyond their first name. 

One way to deliver this more desired and personalized experience is by first segmenting customers based on various demographics such as age, location, gender, marital status, income, and more. Not only does this information allow businesses to better understand their current customers and adapt accordingly, but these insights can provide new theories on current trends in the current market and how to adapt to your customer's evolving needs, especially when issues arise. In addition, having a complete picture of who is using your product or service can help develop new customer service strategies that best suits each customer.

Failing to Nurture Customer Centricity

Adopting a customer-centric mind-set is vital; today’s employees feel more empowered when they are working toward a common purpose. But too many businesses are overlooking this component and therefore not achieving their customer service business objectives.

The key to nurturing this culture style is by first ensuring a strong web of internal relationships between executives and employees, spanning departments. The entire team must be motivated to work as a united front to respond to customer questions, issues, ideas, and praise in a systematic and timely manner. This not only will open up the silos between departments but also create a unified focus on serving the customer in the most effective way possible.

Another way to instill a customer-centric culture is to establish the appropriate mind-set during the employee on-boarding process. Since customer service is a catalyst that impacts other business purposes, try encouraging new hires to tie their work objectives to the customer experience. Aligning employees' goals toward a purpose will only help your company to stay true to its mission.

Dylan Astle has been DirectBuy’s vice president of member experience since May 2013. In this role, Astle oversees the member experience within DirectBuy corporate headquarters and club operations.  

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