Every business is bound to have unhappy customers; there's always some variable that can go wrong despite all safeguards to make things perfect. Great customer service extends beyond answering the phone after two rings, beyond the twitter and Facebook entries, and even beyond the gentle ego stroking of an already angry customer.
The Society for New Communications Research, which tracks the latest trends and best practices in communication and social media, states that 59 percent of consumers use social media to make complaints, 14 percent read about bad customer experiences through social media, and an overwhelming 62 percent avoid doing business based on what they read on social networks or blogs. Gone are the days when it was just between the company and the customer; the days that a customer complaint was confined to the privacy of the telephone lines.
So what irks customers the most about customer service blunders and how can we help to make it better?
- Streamline information collection. When customers call in to complain, have a representative collect relevant information once. Customers understand they need to share purchase information, names, addresses, serial numbers, etc., but no one wants to do it repeatedly. If the complaint or problem is forwarded to another department, have the necessary information sent without asking the customer to repeat the complaint or the previously collected information.
- Keeping customers on hold twice. If there is a two-tiered system for customer service, where complaints follow from Step One to Step Two, don't keep customers waiting at all for the Step Two process. You can almost be assured that very few customers are going to be patient while waiting for yet another representative to handle their complaint or problem. Agents need to reach out for customers immediately; the longer an unhappy customer waits on hold, the more likely to find an angry customer.
- Blogs and other social networks need actual resolutions. When customers blog or twitter their complaints, organizations have to follow through with their responses and solutions. Be specific with customers, and tell them what is going to happen and when the problem is going to be solved.
- Have a standard protocol. Have standards, procedures and organized methods to meet customer needs. When products fail because of an engineering problem or services lapse because of inadequate training or poor planning, have an established procedure to correct the problem in the future, and follow through.
- Don't dawdle. Customers expect solutions and have a low tolerance for mistakes. Turn a bad experience into a good one, but do it in a timely manner.
- Hire the best employees. Take your time when hiring. These are the people who will have their ears to the ground and be able to feel changes in customer attitudes and behaviors.
- Care about your customers. Don't ever take them for granted. You need us!