Great customer service experience drives growth. Done well, it’s a magnet that will keep customers coming back for more. Done badly, it can spell failure.
Happy customers will likely turn into loyal customers who will promote your brand and become advocates for your products or services.
Unhappy customers, on the other hand, will result in increased churn rates and higher costs - since it costs more to acquire new customers than retain them.
There are many things companies can do to better manage the customer experience.
Adopting a customer engagement platform is a good start since this will help to optimize every touchpoint on the customer journey, and drive better outcomes for consumers.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you ever wanted to know about customer service experience and offer some tips on how to optimize it.
According to HubSpot, customer experience is:
“The impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey.”
Customer service experience is made up of all the opinions and perceptions a customer forms about your customer support, both during and after purchasing from you.
Customer service experience is the fundamental element of a customer-centric strategy. It demonstrates why companies need to be investing in customer needs.
From offering fast results to new users and facilitating their first purchase, to ensuring you retain them over time.
Customers interact with a brand at multiple touchpoints and they can have a customer service experience at any one of them.
From web design and ease of purchasing process to speed of delivery and returns, it’s all about the customer’s feelings around the support they’ve received from a company.
A customer service experience can take place across the entire sales lifecycle from writing sales proposals, pre-purchase questions to post-purchase surveys, and anything in between.
And customers can have great or poor customer service experiences. It’s your responsibility to ensure your brand provides only the former.
A bad customer service experience happens when a business fails to meet a customer’s expectations in terms of, for example:
Factors involved can include inefficient support staff, not implementing real-time support - e.g. having a chatbot for WordPress - or a brand simply not understanding a customer’s needs.
A bad customer service experience will have several side effects, including decreased customer loyalty and a higher churn rate.
When this happens, not only does this damage the existing customer relationship but negates the chance of future opportunities.
A good customer service experience sets a brand apart from the competition.
Superior customer service experience happens when a customer gleans a high degree of satisfaction from the customer service offered. Attributes of a good customer service experience are:
To illustrate the difference between good and bad customer service experience let’s look at a few examples.
Here are four shining examples of companies providing great customer service experience.
A recent example of good customer service experience is provided by Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Their thinking that ‘there’s no such thing as a bad customer’ appears to be working.
Virgin has long been using negative feedback to bond with customers. According to Richard Branson:
“ A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend.”
After a customer had been served a poor Indian-themed meal onboard a Virgin Atlantic flight, he wrote and complained. Branson responded by inviting the passenger to help overhaul Virgin’s menu and he was also invited to join the airline’s culinary council.
When it comes to creating a positive brand identity, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Starbucks is famous for its high customer service standards. Employees are taught to put a huge amount of effort into ensuring the drinks look great.
Some of them have inordinately precise patterns in the foam - a ‘macchiato’ has a lattice of seven vertical and horizontal lines surrounded by two circles.
The store is also prepped to perfection, right down to the lighting and furniture to provide that ‘Starbucks experience”.
It goes without saying that it’s always a case of ‘service with a smile’, while Starbucks’ other values include finding out a customer’s name and remembering their previous orders.
No wonder an average customer buys a drink at Starbucks six times a month.
Unfortunately, these levels of customer service experience are few and far between. A lack of decent experience is more often the case.
And in this age of social media when things go bad mistakes go viral.
Unlike Virgin, Frontier Airlines was guilty of failing to communicate and show compassion to its customers.
After visiting their grandparents, two children, aged 7 and 9, were on a flight home to Des Moines when their flight was diverted to Atlanta. This is understandable as the weather conditions were too poor to continue to the original destination.
What’s less understandable, however, is the fact that nobody told the children’s parents - who were waiting anxiously at the airport.
Not only did they not receive any updates about the flight from staff on the ground, but the flight crew wasn’t any help either. The children had to borrow another passenger’s phone to text their parents once they’d landed.
As if this isn’t bad enough, Frontier were unapologetic - they said they had followed ‘standard protocol’.
The above is a classic example of poor customer service experience. Frontier appeared uncaring and even after the bad publicity they failed to put things right.
At a McDonald's drive-through in Florida, an employee forgot to turn her headset off and started to rant to another employee about a customer who was waiting for his food.
He decided to record her and captured not just the rude things she was saying about him, but a continuing discussion about a failed drug deal. Customer service doesn’t get much worse than this.
If you don’t want to end up on a list of ‘worst customer service experiences’, here are some basics to bear in mind.
If the McDonald’s employee we discussed in the above example felt more valued, she would probably have acted more professionally.
Too many companies forget that customer service shouldn’t be left to a single department, but applied company-wide.
Businesses that empower their employees and make them feel part of the bigger picture will reap the rewards. More engaged employees will be inclined to act as brand ambassadors.
Companies should ask their staff for regular feedback to capture their feelings about their jobs and to check that they feel well supported.
You may find out something unexpected, for example, that they don’t like their current online meeting solution. Then you can take steps to rectify this.
Customers want instant replies to their queries and these can be supplied without having to involve a customer service agent.
For example, if a customer has a question, pre-purchase, about a product, live chat can work well - as can directing them to your FAQs.
When you’re using live chat, use conversational phrases such as ‘It sounds like’ or ‘do you mean?’ Repeat phrases back to users, too, so they know you’re listening to their concerns.
Actively listening means you’re aware of your customers’ unique personalities and emotional state.
Chatbots can be used in conjunction with a live agent. If the customer has a query the bot can’t answer, they can be redirected to an agent to provide the solution.
Using automation doesn’t have to mean a lack of personalization. For example, three in four people expect personalized welcome emails when purchasing or subscribing to a company newsletter.
These automated emails can help boost the customer service experience by offering subscribers added value such as a discount code, as well as working to increase engagement.
It’s imperative to give customers a seamless online experience both onsite and via your mobile app. Make sure your web designer makes your site accessible via smart devices so that customers can find your company wherever they are.
Their experience should be as close to that of someone using a desktop device as possible.
Make sure customers can navigate their way around your website and your app with ease. Make it clear the steps they need to take to achieve their goals.
Run usability tests regularly to evaluate how easy it is to use your site. And make sure your business phone number is clearly highlighted on your website along with all other ways to get in touch.
Customers want a fast resolution to problems and hate being kept on hold when calling a company.
Contrary to what you may think, too, lots of people still call on their smartphones if they have a problem - rather than use text or chatbots.
According to Microsoft's 2018 State Of Global Customer Service report, the most preferred customer service channel among clients is the phone or other voice channels.
When they call, they value efficiency above all else. To reduce waiting times, run an audit to understand how you’re currently performing. That’s in terms of times on hold, time of calls, and types of questions you’re getting.
Using a callback feature can also help minimize customers’ frustration. This gives customers a better experience since they feel more in control rather than just waiting on the phone.
Be upfront about waiting times and use the right tone of voice. It could also be advisable to invest in a voice over IP phone to ensure the best call quality.
Social media is a critical tool when it comes to creating good customer service experiences. You should have strategies in place for handling customer service via social networks.
Social media is a useful place to get in touch with customers and vice versa, and it’s a good place to foster a unique brand voice.
Use social media to address and resolve customer concerns. But make sure you choose the right social platforms - the ones where your customers hang out.
Don’t see interchanges as an opportunity to sell, however, see them as a chance to have a meaningful conversation and build relationships. And make sure you respond quickly to any complaints and use empathy.
While it’s good to keep in touch with customers with offers and relevant content, there comes a time when even loyal subscribers could start to feel overwhelmed. That’s when your emails will start to end up as ‘spam’ and your reputation will suffer.
The ideal frequency for messages is two to three times a week. In order to improve email deliverability, always send emails to engaged lists of people with high click rates. Clean lists regularly, too. Anyone that hasn’t clicked on your emails in the last twelve months should be considered inactive.
Businesses must focus on creating exceptional customer service experiences at every touchpoint. Even if you have a fantastic product, you won’t succeed if your customer service isn’t up to scratch. When it comes to offering a great customer service experience, try to go above and beyond.
Be proactive and aim to anticipate your customers’ needs. For example, offering customers an unexpected free gift or promo code can help demonstrate your appreciation of their business.
Finally, it pays to remember that people are always more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones. Good reviews are the cornerstone of success for a company in the digital age.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out and encourage customers to share their exceptional experiences.
John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and contact center software provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Vault and BigCommerce.