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Want Your Customer Care to Stink? Do this.

Published: Monday, 23 May 2016 by Lori Wagoner

Wait a minute!
That’s not always true. There definitely are some silver linings in the gray skies of customer service. We all frequent that one coffee shop that always offers service with a smile. There’s always that one internet company that is not bugging you to upgrade your plan every time you call them with a problem. These businesses operate on a simple philosophy – the customer comes first. They also go out of their way to avoid the following irritants that make customers’ lives more difficult:

1.    Uninformative Content
The first place a customer will try to find help is on your website. It is one point in the customer’s journey that they keep revisiting. If your website has helpful and reassuring content, users won’t have to bother calling your customer care. Put up truckloads of tutorials, how-to videos and FAQs, and your website could potentially serve as your customer service team, only more instantaneous and educational. As they say, the best customer service is not needing customer service at all!

Start mapping your customers’ journey, so you can discover their pain points. Work on those areas by having help sections dedicated to those pain points and decrease bounce rates. For instance, look at this customer journey map. This is a “performance improvement” map, which helps identify bottlenecks in the customer journey and smooth out processes with better information:
 Customer journeys

In this example, it took 4 steps to make the customer happy again because the FAQ section didn’t answer the query. Had the FAQ section been tactically targeted at the customer according to their estimated position along the buying funnel, a lot of time and energy would have been saved for both parties.

By having a CX-focused visual representation of your customer’s journey for ready reference, you’re better poised to identify pain points and provide solutions preemptively.

2.    Never-Ending Menu Switching
Customer service cartoon 
Source: author’s own

Another common gripe with customer care is the fact users are made to play a merry game of musical chairs with multiple representatives each time they need help with a problem. With every “switch,” a new representative comes on the line, the entire problem needs to be explained all over again adding to growing frustration at the customer’s end. Sort of, “Your call is so important to us, we’ll do anything to keep you on the line!”

Use a CRM, helpdesk tool, task management software or a unified customer service portal, so when a customer calls or sends a complaint via email or in person, all the details are saved, accessible and visible to everyone concerned, and prioritized. If one representative is not able to solve a customer query and forwards it to someone else on the team, the other person should be able to see the details of the problem and efforts made so far without having to ask the customer to repeat everything.

Further, it is extremely important not to ask for unnecessary details, unless absolutely essential from a security point of view. For example, if a customer is calling to inquire about the status of a refund, the customer service representative doesn’t need to ask them for the Order ID or Complaint ID again if you’ve associated their phone number with the order/complaint.

Also combat train your staff in more areas than one. This means the representative that can fix your payment issue is the same one who can help customers set up their first-timer accounts. Make them wear multiple hats to prevent users coming up against multiple roadblocks.

3.    Minimal Customer Care Channels
About twenty years ago, customer care was offered face to face or over the phone. With the coming of the internet along with a gazillion apps and tools and platforms to connect, there’s no excuse for your business to stick to just one customer care platform. When it comes to associated web properties, ecommerce and online retail sites have a plethora of options to keep shoppers connected with their site, including surveys, contact forms, push notifications, triggered emails, and of course live chat!

Take heed what channels your customers prefer to communicate with one another and with other brands. While offering limited customer care channels brings down the costs associated with maintaining an array of communication outlets on various platforms, whatever savings you might make in this fashion is more than nullified the number of customers you will put off with an“unreachable” attitude.

4.    No Toll-free Number
This could have been a corollary to the last point, however, the fact that so many businesses still don’t bother with getting this most basic of features is appalling. Service is not a “good to have” feature that you offer your customers.

Today, it’s a part of the most basic product they buy from you. Since the customer has already paid for their customer service by purchasing the original product from your business, charging them yet again for a call made to your customer care team is unscrupulous. Look at a toll-free customer care number as a hygiene factor for success. Extra add-ons like vanity numbers e.g. 1800-FLOWERS (US) or 0800-FLOWERS (UK), not just help your marketing efforts, they also help customers find you easily from a crowded playing field.

5.    Over-Aggressive Upselling and Cross-Selling
There are ways and means to upsell and cross-sell and none of them include your customer service team. Avoid the temptation to double up your customer care team as your telephone sales team as well. Instead, train your team to get in and out of customer problems with surgical precision, thus saving you a pretty penny in customer care costs in the long run while keeping your customers satisfied.

6.    Social Media Silence
Twitter customer responseThe importance of social customer care cannot be emphasized enough. Americans spend more time online on social media than any other service, including the old favorite– email. By offering customer care via social channels, you’re simply acknowledging your users’ new habitat and offering them the support that they need where they spend the lion’s share of their time.These days a lot of people expect businesses to be on Facebook and Twitter, and take to either to make complaints so as to receive instant attention.

Social customer care unfortunately is not a choice anymore. If you have a social media presence, rest assured; you’ll have customers reaching out to you for trouble shooting, product information, even just to chat up. Data from Gartner shows that not responding to users on social media is not just a mild irritant. It can actually lead to a 15% increase in customer churn and directly impact your bottom line.

7.    Uninformed, Unhelpful Staff
When a customer approaches your business for help, the very least they expect is accurate information that fixes the problem they’re facing and lets them get on with their lives. Unfortunately, instances of customer care teams that are completely unaware of how to help you are all too common. A customer care representative who does not know all there is to learn about your product is like an inflatable mattress that wouldn’t inflate – they fail in the one singular task that is expected out of them. The only thing worse than a representative who does not know factual data that can fix a customer’s problem is one who does know how it’s done but makes sure to do it with the most negative and uninterested attitude in the world.

Make training your staff in both the factual as well as the softer aspects of service a priority. Incentivize them for positive customer reviews and adopt systems like Net Promoter Score that tracks customer satisfaction as a by-product of excellent customer care.

Wrapping Up
Customer care is not rocket science. It is the one business function where the “Do unto others...” maxim is the perfect yardstick to check whether your business is on the right track. Invest in this low-hanging fruit to turn small customer service victories from today into large revenue wins for the future.

Lori Wagoner is an independent content strategist who gives online marketing advice to small businesses. Lori has blogged at Tweak Your Biz, The Social Media Hat and a bunch of other business and tech blogs. She tweets amazing stuff at @LoriDWagoner.

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