As customers we typically contact a company when all other options are exhausted and only when the issue is painful/difficult enough for us to tackle on our own.
When we take that step, we likely did not have the exact problem or question the last customer had.
If we did, this may mean:
- the issue is temporary -- like an outage, a system-wide clitch, weather-related delay -- in that case, this means there is no emergency communication mechanism in place to get the word out or the message is not clear enough.
In this case, putting in place, for example, an alternative site or page your URL redirects to, a temporary home page hero take over with timely information, links and information shared in social networks, travel alerts pushed through apps, etc. scales support until things get back to normal.
- the issue is systemic -- something is not working, broken for the majority of customers most of the time -- in that case the root cause needs identifying and fixing while at the same time addressing the disconnect and confusion through service.
This requires a deeper look at what the business can do to keep customers while it gets busy addressing the root cause of the problem. Using data to inform what needs addressing, for example, FAQs that explain concerns that come up often in customer reviews, or to help clarify what actions customers can take during a product recall.
With the increase in the number of options available, customer care is becoming an even greater point of differentiation for business and should be considered a vital part of marketing.
The point is companies can scale customer care through a smart use of content and media. However, when it comes to deciding what matters most, it is important to take into consideration a number of factors.
1. Understanding which channels customers use most often AND what is easiest for the business to provide exceptionally good service.
Some companies find that it is easier for them to scale support and increasing satisfaction by actually removing their phone number and using email to address issues.
Two good reasons why this may be a good idea are that more people own smartphones#, -- eMarketer expects 4.55 billion people worldwide to use a mobile phone in 2014 -- and thus they likely text, email, and use apps more than making calls# -- fewer people are willing to engage in a phone conversation, which not only eats up more time than texting but has to be done in that very moment.
Regardless of what you decide to test -- whether implementing a chat button on your web site, or using email instead of a toll-free number -- measure the impact both by looking at data and asking customers.
See how MailChimp scaled support for 2 million users by having conversations and not through tickets#.
2. Hiring the best people, training/supporting them well, and supporting their decisions.
Scale does not mean only large numbers. It also (and mostly) means effectiveness. What are large numbers going to do if you fail miserably across the board?
Each good decision takes you a step closer to a satisfied customer and as Peter Kriss, a senior research scientist at Medallia and the director of research for Vision Prize found by reviewing customer feedback and comparing it with future spending for two different $1 billion-plus brands (one transactional, one subscription-based) happy customers spend more#:
While transactional businesses primarily care about return frequency and spend per visit, subscription-oriented industries focus on retention, cross-sell, and upsell.
We used multiple regression to account for factors that might drive these outcomes other than customer experience — for instance, the fact that exercise enthusiasts might simply enjoy their gym membership more regardless of experience — and estimate how much of the behavioral differences were due to past customer experience.
After doing so, it soon became clear: customer experience is a major driver of future revenue.
What we found: after controlling for other factors that drive repeat purchases in the transaction-based business (for example, how often the customer needs the type of goods and services that the company sells), customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.
People also tend to tell everyone about a company that delivers a positive experience -- we like to look good when we provide referrals.
See again the MailChimp write up to see how they manage to empower a small team#. As a past customer, I know I would get good support and thus would use them again without even considering other options.
3. Closing the communication loop with responses that are BOTH timely and appropriate.
55% of consumers would pay more for a better service experience#. Response time is part of the answer -- people still expect faster responses in social networks#, and companies have been staffing appropriately.
However, I have long maintained that customer service in social should be fair, not special.
Quality is still important. When someone feels heard, especially if they are trying to solve an issue, they will likely continue to do business with you.
Everyone in your company should be cross trained in customer service. It should be a requirement that senior management spend time on the front lines every month, listening to customers, helping with issues, and taking good notes -- because they will likely come across new product ideas and operational improvement options.
This part will be easy to scale if you have a whole team dedicated to it instead of just the people who have a customer service title.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.