If you had to make a list of all the factors that are crucially important to your business, customer service would be right at the top. Even more so than your products and services, the quality of the customer experience you're able to offer represents your true competitive advantage in the marketplace. There are probably a lot of businesses that do what you do - but nobody does it quite like how you do it.
If you want to make sure that this is an asset instead of a liability, you need to take advantage of any and all ways to improve customer service that are available to you. Thankfully, this is a lot easier than you might think - you just need to keep a few key things in mind.
The Importance of Customer Service: Breaking Things Down
Before you can understand how to best improve the customer service skills of your employees, you must first come to an understanding of why this is so essential in the first place.
According to one recent study conducted by Zendesk, about 95% of customers say that they will definitely tell others in their lives when they have a bad experience with a brand. To put that into perspective, only 87% of people are likely to share good experiences - meaning that "one bad customer incident" likely won't stay a secret for very long. Likewise, even a single bad experience can permanently ruin a relationship with a customer - and when you consider that it costs more money to get a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, it's easy to see why this is such a big, big problem.
Thankfully, the reverse is also true. One study conducted by Salesforce revealed that about 67% of consumers and a full 74% of business buyers say that they're willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Likewise, excellent customer service creates loyal customers - and they are not only seven times as likely to test an offering than an apathetic customer, but are also five times more likely to make a second purchase and are four times more likely to refer you to one of their friends, family members or colleagues. A separate study confirmed this, revealing that if you can increase customer retention rates by just 5% (and customer service plays a big role in that), you can increase profits by between 25% and 95%.
So not only is improving customer service in the workplace a good idea because you're ostensibly trying to make your buyers happy (or you wouldn't have gotten into business in the first place), but it's also critical for the long-term growth and success of your company to begin with.
The Top Ways to Improve Customer Service
By far, the most important thing that you can do to improve customer service training involves making sure that your efforts are focusing on building the right customer service skills in the first place. In order to effectively manage the needs of ANY customer that walks through your door, every member of your team will need skills like:
- Empathy and patience.
- A deeply rooted knowledge of your products and services.
- Crystal clear communication skills.
- A strong work ethic.
There are other skills that make valuable employees, sure - but if these core elements aren't there, your average employee won't have the tools he or she needs to deal with any situation they find themselves in on the average day.
Likewise, one of the most important ways to improve customer service involves prioritizing this fact as a part of your company culture. In other words, EVERYONE needs to A) understand why customer service is so important, and B) understand the role they play in the larger entity that is your business.
To get to this point, make it known that your employees need to make customers happy above all else. Create an environment that not only supports your team with what they need to deliver those superior service levels, but reward those same people for a job well done. Provide examples of what great customer service looks like so that they know what target you need them to hit. Let them know that you're all in this together - so if they need help, they should turn to their fellow employees for assistance and guidance.
Finally, don't be afraid to solicit as much feedback from your customers as you can get - even if you have to pay to get it. Send out regular surveys to let people voice their opinion about how you're doing. Maybe consider creating some type of promotional campaign where people can enter for a chance to win a prize if they take ten minutes of their time to complete a questionnaire. Ask people to be honest and raw about their experiences, letting you know what is working and (even more importantly) what isn't.
Your customers absolutely have opinions and they've proven in the past that they're more than willing to share them - often without any prompting required. But reach out to customers on a regular basis for their opinions to not only see what you have left to improve, but to confirm that all the hard work you've already done is paying off. Remember - possibly the most important voice in terms of your business is that of the audience you've dedicated yourself to serving.
Make no mistake about it: it is in your own best interest to listen to it.