We may not realize it, but our lives are ruled by the companies that surround us. Whether we’re job seeking from our iPhones, sporting the latest sneakers from our favorite running shoe company, or rolling out our Lululemon yoga mat to get in some exercise for the day, we’re surrounded by brands. And when these brands don’t meet our needs or fulfill their promise, we turn to their corporate number for help resolving the issue. Often, our only point of contact with these companies is with their customer service representatives.
A strong, positive customer service experience often leads to repeat business, referrals, and loyal customers. Dealing with a cranky customer service representative can tarnish a company’s reputation, customer by customer, regardless of how good their product is. Here are some surprising statistics about customer service and its effect on customers:
- 78% of consumers have, at some point, bailed on a purchase because of poor service.
- After one negative experience, a customer needs to experience an average of 12 positive experiences to reverse their negative impression of a company.
- People share negative customer service experiences 2.3 times more often than they share positive customer service experiences.
- It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep existing ones.
- Consumers reported that 50% of the time, their questions were not answered by customer service agents.
- 75% of consumers think it takes too long to get to a real agent on the phone, and 67% of customers last year hung up the phone out of frustration on this specific issue.
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer is feeling.
- 81% of companies considered to have excellent customer service are outperforming their competitors.
What all of this means is that companies who put the effort into developing an excellent customer service team reap the rewards. They outperform competitors, save on customer acquisition, keep their names out of the negative reviews, and get more repeat business.
Even if your company has a reputation for having awful customer service, it’s never too late to turn it around. Here is a list of the five most important customer service rules to instill in your customer service team-members, and frankly in employees throughout your organization:
- Every Single Interaction Matters – No Exceptions. If you’re tired or having an off day, when the phone rings or an email pops up, you have to be able to turn it on. As a customer service representative, it’s important to remember that YOU are the face of the company to this customer.
- You represent the entire organization. You alone are responsible for how they feel when they walk away from the conversation. You have the power to make or break this person’s day.
- No Such Thing as “Not my Job” – Most companies known for their strong customer service instill an organization-wide mandate that no person is too good for a particular job. If help is needed, employees pitch in for the greater good of the company. Creating this sense of community and mutual reliance makes each team member feel supported and able to effect change.
- Autonomy and Empowerment– When customer service representatives are trusted to make decisions on their own regarding customer requests (refunds, compensations, giveaways, etc.), this sense of autonomy makes them feel able and excited to help. Rather than putting a customer on hold to “check with their manager,” an agent can decide if, when, and how much to give to keep a customer happy. Allowing employees the chance to get creative can also result in huge benefits. Empower your people to do good work, and they will!
- Incentive – As much as we hope to find a job we enjoy so much that we would do it for free, this isn’t the reality of work for most of us. So,
- Incentivize your employees! Offer customer service representatives a bonus or reward for positive customer feedback. When incentives are combined with a good company culture, employees show greater workplace satisfaction.
- Listen – One of the most frustrating things when you’re on the phone with a customer service representative is repeating yourself over and over again, and getting the same response. Good customer service representatives know how to listen, and actually hear what you are saying, and then respond accordingly and appropriately. Feeling heard is often the only thing we really need when we feel a company has fallen short or taken advantage of us. To feel heard can often validate a disgruntled customer, and soften their feelings of anger.
These five rules of customer service will help you build customer loyalty, avoid losing sales and build a good reputation for your product and company name. These aren’t hacks or tactics, they are consistent behaviors that the company and individual employee have to live by each and every day. There isn’t a shortcut for excellent work, but by putting in the effort to train your staff to listen, make decisions, and be empathetic, you will see the reward in your profits.
There are countless instances where companies go above and beyond for their customers and made lasting positive customers for life. One customer service representative ordered a pizza to the office of the man she was on the phone with because she overheard employees in the back say that they were hungry. An airline passed out free tickets to over a dozen passengers for answering trivia questions correctly. A representative from a shoe company sent flowers to a woman after hearing that she was undergoing health issues – AND she upgraded the woman to VIP customer status for life, for free.
There are dozens of stories like these online – proof that a little bit of kindness and extra care go a long way with customers. Answering the phone and being ready to handle anything on the other end with grace and understanding is something that can never be replaced. When it comes to customer service, maintaining this understanding of your customer can be enormous in not only acquiring customers but retaining them as for years to come.