Good customer service is all about consistency. Or rather, your customer service is only as good as the worst experience it offers.
In the US, 52% of consumers who switched to a different brand last year said they did so due to poor customer service. Of those who switched, 83% said better in-person customer service would have impacted their decision to leave.
In the age of the Internet, customer relationships have become increasingly fragile. As a result, you have to make sure that you’re always providing high-quality service, regardless of how and when a customer interacts with your business.
Building any kind of trust and loyalty takes time – especially customer loyalty. For a lot of industries, consumers even expect poor service.
One of the largest points of failure is being inconsistent with your customer service across different channels. In times when competition is steep, making sure you’re consistent can truly help set you apart from the pack.
The question now is: how do you maintain a high level of consistency when it comes to customer service?
1. Design for consistency
Customer journey mapping and customer experience design are surging. Both are great starting points for considering how you can consistently have anyone in your business represent your brand well.
These are some simple pointers for designing interactions with customers:
- Think of the customer’s experience or journey first and put yourself in the “customer’s shoes.” This will help you design processes and messages that are easy to partake in and are most beneficial to the customer.
- Make sure the substance is always the same or similar across different communication channels. It shouldn’t make a difference to the customer which channel he or she chooses to contact you on. They should always experience your brand and any help they receive in more or less the same way.
- Clearly establish what that substance is and communicate it to everyone who is supposed to interact with customers, whether they’re actual customer service reps or social media marketers.
2. Set up communication across silos
Usually a company has several functions or departments who interact with customers. Customer service, sales and marketing surely does. Setting up regular meetings between decision makers and managers in these different departments will help break down silos and ensure a consistent experience.
This will help streamline responses and incorporate feedback as well as fix broken processes. That’s why you need decision makers to be present; to help prioritize and immediately assign resources to problems that need fixing.
The exact interval is something you have to arrive at yourself. In some companies, a bi-weekly meeting makes sense. In others, it could be monthly or bi-monthly. Our advice is to start with a frequent interval and adjust as necessary.
3. Maintain a knowledge base
To achieve consistency, it is important for every department in your company, from call center agents to sales staff to marketing, to be aligned with the response strategy for every possible customer-related issue.
There are many benefits to maintaining a knowledge base and constantly keeping it up to date, but maintaining consistency is one of the bigger ones. Another is training time for new staff.
We’ve written about knowledge bases in a knowledge-centric support organization at length already. We recommend you read that to understand how a knowledge base can improve your internal processes as well as customer experience.
If you’re wondering how some companies, like Amazon and Virgin, manage to have all their employees in the frontline of their customer service at least a couple of days each year, this is how.
While not for everyone, this is one way of giving each customer a consistent experience. Typically used for key account management, assigning one person to assist the customer in all aspects helps maintain consistent support.
It’s best employed when customers purchase a suite of products instead of just one. They’ll have a large commitment to your company and they’ll need help from different departments in your company over time (ex: sales, technical, etc.).
While this may not give every customer the same experience, it certainly helps each customer have a consistent experience.
Another way to use this, as a temporary solution, is to only apply it when customers have a high level of activity. For example, during the implementation of a new system (onboarding, setup, etc.). If you implement this tactic, make sure you are up front about the fact that it’s temporary, otherwise you’ll end up disappointing the customer later on.
5. Manage client expectations early on
Managing your customer’s expectations is often key to maintaining good relations with them. Expectations start with marketing, even your ads make promises. So does your website. If you can’t keep those promises, you’ll certainly disappoint customers, and it’ll put a strain on your customer service.
That’s another reason why setting up regular meetings across departments is such an easy way to fix your customer experience. It gives customer service an outlet for all the feedback you receive.
6. Collect & ask for customer feedback
After every interaction with a customer, it’s great to consistently ask for their feedback. But don’t bug your customers with multiple questions. It’s usually not necessary and you’ll get more frequent responses if you keep it simple.
This will give you insights on the performance of each of your products, your processes, your website, your agent performance, etc. Feedback loops are the easiest way to collect this information and should be implemented after every call, email or chat conversation.
Lastly, don’t forget to examine why your customers are contacting you! Customer conversations are another important source of feedback and can reveal product issues, technical difficulties, unsatisfactory user experiences and more. When combined, these two sources of feedback comprise the most important data for your entire company.