In an era of uncertain economic news, it’s unwise for any business to bypass opportunities and leave money on the table. Yet most businesses do this every day when they offer lackluster or even poor customer service.
In an economic boom, customers are more forgiving of so-so customer service. They have money to spend and are less likely to run to a competitor to save a few bucks. Now that consumers are less willing to part with cash, they expect value from the companies with which they do business and will quickly jump ship for another company. Industry analysts call it “serial switching,” or constantly shopping around for a better deal with a different company.
Part of the value customers expect is a top-notch customer experience, and when they don’t get it, they retaliate. A recent study by U.K.-based cloud contact center solutions provider NewVoiceMedia put a price tag on bad customer service, estimating that U.S. companies that offer poor experiences are losing $41 billion each year. The survey found that 44 percent of American consumers take their business elsewhere as a result of bad service. Of those consumers, 89 percent report having switched at least once or twice in the last year. Some companies don’t even know what has hit them: fully 53 percent of American consumers, when denied an opportunity to speak to a live agent immediately, switch to a competitor without even attempting to resolve the problem. More than half of respondents – 58 percent – say they will never use a company again after a bad customer service experience.
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The statistics are sobering, particularly for a company that simply doesn’t have the capital to rip and replace its entire customer support system and strategies. Some experts say, however, that it need not cost a lot to make big differences in the quality of customer support. CMSWire recently spoke to customer experience expert and author Shep Hyken for ideas about how to make improvements without spending too much. It all begins with a plan and a new way of managing employees.
To start, he says, companies need to get a grip on the customer experience they are offering now and what they have to do to improve it.
"Two basic things need to be in place before any customer service strategy can be executed,” Hyken told CMSWire. “First, there has to be a clear vision of what it is about. Second you have to have good people who can execute on that vision. From there you communicate the vision, train to it, recognize the effort and celebrate the success.”
The next step is bring contact center agents on board, helping them understand how important they are to the goals and how they can contribute to reaching them. This may involve putting more responsibility in the hands of agents, allowing them some autonomy and encouraging them to “take ownership” of their work. Hyken notes that before you can be a customer focused organization, you must become employee focused.
“The 'Employee Golden Rule' is to treat employees the way you want the customer treated,” he said. “That’s a lot different than the way you would like to be treated. To be the best place to buy from, you must be the best place to work.”
The goal is to build responsible, skilled employees who stay in their jobs and who value their work in helping others. Treating agents as throw-away commodities will cause them to treat their jobs—and your customers—in the same way. Invest in your agents today, and you’ll be investing in your customers tomorrow.