Fail. Fail. Fail. That's what plenty of customers had to say about their shopping experiences this past holiday season. And, poor customer service is just as big a problem in the B2B world of business-to-business, where even more dollars can be at stake with each interaction.
How often have you tried to get help and couldn't? How often have sales and service people been too busy to answer your call or assist you in person? How often have you been disconnected in the middle of a service call, leaving you frustrated and needing to call back and start the whole loop again?
Outstanding customer service doesn't just happen. It requires firm policy at the top, starting in the C-Suite, followed by clear procedures for management and staff. And, above all else -- it requires careful, consistent, and ongoing training and monitoring.
There's a great reality TV series running in the U.S. and U.K. called Undercover Boss, where CEOs of nation-wide corporations are filmed going undercover as entry-level employees to see what's working and what's not in their own companies.
Time and time again, they find front-line staffers quoting "company policy" as the reason they can't give better service or accommodate customer requests. Outstanding customer service and a true dedication to customer care starts at the top, but can't stop there.
Salespeople as well as customer service reps and contact center staffers need to always remember that customer care and providing a positive customer experience are their top priorities. Aside from that basic understanding, they need to be given the tools and authority to get the job done right.
Managing the Customer Experience
In 2013, we started to see a major shift toward focusing on "customer experience management" (CEM) along with "customer relationship management" (CRM). "Customer engagement" also became a key focus for marketers and salespeople alike.
Indeed, social media has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for engaging customers, building customer loyalty, and ultimately, boosting sales through repeat business and referrals.
But even the most sophisticated marketing and engagement programs can be undermined by one bad experience with a customer service rep or sales person. And when a disgruntled customer takes his or her complaints to social media, it can set off a firestorm of negative consequences and a PR nightmare.
Staying Customer Centric
The good news is that your team, and really any company at all, can provide top-rated customer service. It's not rocket science, but it does require a customer-centric approach. Some of the keys to success are ongoing training, analysis of trends, really listening to your customers, and the ability to adapt to changes quickly and efficiently. (continued...)