By Sarah Pierce, Sr. Vice President
Having a customer service department is essential to business success. Customers who have issues with your product or service want comfort in knowing that they can speak to a representative about their concerns. There are companies such as Amazon, that have international acclaim for their stellar customer support.
On the other hand, there are companies which claim that their customer service is excellent, when in fact it’s below average. In fact, recent reports have made the argument that some companies purposely have terrible customer service departments because it’s more profitable for the company.
According to our studies, 76% of customers surveyed had experienced a problem with a suppliers product or service in the previous six to twelve months. It’s 2019 — if you don’t have a customer service department for your service or product nowadays, you’re simply doomed. But, even though companies make a conscious effort to excel in customer service, it can sometimes work against them. Here are some of the ways that a customer service department can be a detriment to your business:
Your customers are repeating themselves
When a customer calls the help center and is prompted to input all of their client information, only to have to repeat it all over again with the representative, they start to ask why they inputted it in the first place. It works against you, and your customer-relationship management (CRM) system should be able to process this information effectively. For one of our clients, this particular problem occurred at such a high rate that one out of every two customer support contactors cited it as an issue. And if the frequency were not enough, we had validated that this particular experience is a driver of loyalty risk.
These complaints oftentimes have a story behind them. Customers will explain themselves once and then be transferred, only to have to explain their problem all over again. Transfer them a third time and they are more likely to simply hang up and stop purchasing your goods instead of telling the story a third time.
It’s hard enough to get a customer to call in. Our research suggests that 67% of unhappy customers don’t complain. This is primarily because they believe that it isn’t worth their time or effort. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and go through your own interactive voice response system (IVR) and assess the ease-of-use from an outside perspective.
Your “resolved” cases aren’t really resolved at all
Nearly every organization tracks the rate at which customer cases are closed. This is an important metric to any service organization and the focus tends to be on efficiency. In other words, “how quickly are we resolving these cases?”
However, the real question we should be asking ourselves is, “have we effectively resolved the case from the customer point of view?” These are two related, but unique things to measure. Often, a case will be closed internally when the problem is deemed to be solved. This is a very internal way of looking at the situation. The company’s goal is to help the customer use the product or service successfully, but there is no way of knowing if the necessary steps were implemented to resolve the issue.
It’s critical that you follow-up with your customers to understand if they were successful or not in the end. This is the only true way of knowing if you have “resolved” the case to the customer’s satisfaction. Based on our research, only about four out of ten (39%) consumers were completely satisfied and six out of ten were unhappy to some degree regarding the response they received when they contacted the company. Most likely, these numbers don’t match the internal ones.
Many companies send a feedback survey immediately following the closing of a case. The issue, however, is that it’s hard for the customer to know right away if their problem has in fact been resolved. If you allow for a delay in the survey deployment, you might receive a more realistic answer from your customers. Furthermore, you will also be able to identify customers who need a more proactive outreach to completely resolve their issue. It’s not enough to consider a closed case “done”, but rather, it’s done when the customer’s issue has been resolved to their satisfaction.
Your representatives aren’t involved in social media
You could have a fantastic customer service phone line and in-store attention, but that will work against you if you don’t expand to the other available channels. Social media — particularly Twitter — has become the go-to for customer inquiries. In fact, studies have shown that customers are 30% more likely to recommend a company that interacts with them on social media, and will spend 20% more on that company’s product.
So not only is a lack of social media customer help giving your company a bad name, but you are also potentially losing revenue from not accessing multiple channels. While some companies have marketing or social media managers who control these social media accounts, oftentimes these employees are understaffed and cannot handle the volume of requests that come through on that channel.
Your customers’ problems are only resolved through escalation
Have you ever had a customer walk into your store and ask to speak directly to the manager, without explaining anything to the customer service desk beforehand? This could be a negative sign that your audience believes that lower levels of your customer service department are incapable of resolving their issues. This lack of empowerment also increases the number of contacts necessary to solve a problem. While one contact should do it, top-quartile companies are averaging 1.9 contacts. The figure for bottom-quartile companies is 26% higher. This is expensive for the company and frustrating for the customer.
Word of mouth spreads fast, and if you don’t empower your representatives with the ability to make decisions which keep customers happy, clients are more inclined to want to go straight over their heads and speak to the higher-ups. This takes away from the responsibility of the team, and also from the time of your managers. Make sure the customer service department is able to act decisively.
Problems are going to happen. They happen to all of us. What we can do, however, is mitigate the impact that these issues have on loyalty, satisfaction and negative word of mouth. This can be achieved by continuously assessing areas of opportunity and improvement for the customer service team. It’s an ongoing battle to meet the ever-changing expectations of our customers, but in the end it is a battle worth fighting.