Understanding Customer Service Experience & How To Improve It
Customer service experience is key to success, and in fact survival in 2022 and beyond. Customer expectations are increasing, and service brands must rise to the challenge in order to stay ahead of their competitors. A study by Hubspot found that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service experiences. So what exactly does an excellent customer service experience look like? Which brands are nailing it and why? And how do we go about pulling together a bulletproof customer service experience strategy that wins every time? Stay tuned to find out.
What is Customer Service Experience?
Customer service experience is the result of all customer service touchpoints that affect how a customer feels about a brand. It doesn’t look at one critical touchpoint (what we call customer service), but all of the micro moments combined (what we call customer service experience). A phone call that you have with your internet service provider is an example of customer service. The emails, in-store experience, and further phone calls you have with your internet providers would equate to the customer service experience. Generally, customer service experience focuses specifically on support, i.e if a customer needs help carrying out an action or reaching a desired outcome.
Examples of customer service touchpoints that contribute to customer service experience include:
- Phone support
- Email support
- Self-help knowledge base
- Live chat
- In person help desk
What makes a great customer service experience?
There are a few key ingredients that make up a winning customer service experience:
Attention spans are shortening, customer schedules are jam-packed and people expect quick, convenient and easy support from the brands they do business with. Support journeys need to be accessible, user friendly and within arms reach.
When you can consistently deliver on your service promise every time, in every location, with every customer — you’re on the money. Getting it right once or twice doesn’t equate to an awesome service experience. Frontline team members at the forefront of customer service need to be coached to the same standard and need the same benchmarks to measure success.
At the end of the day, customer service experience is all about humans, talking to other humans. Customers expect a level of empathy, kindness and respect, just as any other human being would.
One size fits all no longer cuts the mustard. 80% of customers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand who provides a personalized experience. Customers favor service experiences that are tailored to their unique needs.
Why is Customer Service Experience Important?
Globally, 54% of all consumers say that they have higher customer service expectations than they did just one year ago. There’s no shying away from this. Customer service expectations are on the rise, and companies must have a clear customer service strategy in place in order to keep up with demands.
The great news is, when brands invest in customer service, customers get to enjoy awesome experiences and the businesses see undeniable benefits:
Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers. The ROI on customer service experience is staggering: 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue.
Increases customer retention:
Customers who receive an awesome service experience are more likely to stay on as customers, and refer their friends. In fact, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience.
Creates brand advocates:
A good customer service experience heavily impacts recommendations. Consumers who rate a company’s service as “good” are 38% more likely to recommend that company to others.
Enhances brand reputation:
Customer service experience impacts customer perceptions at scale. When you nail it, you become known as the brand who nails it.
Establishes brand preference:
68% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for products and services from a brand known to offer good customer service experiences. Think about that, even if you and your competitor offer the exact same product or service, and even if yours is more expensive, you can still be their preference if you’re able to deliver superior customer service.
Reduces acquisition costs by generating positive word of mouth
When you successfully deliver on customer service experience, your customers become your sales reps!
Challenges in Getting Customer Service Right
If customer service experience was easy, everyone would be getting it right. Over the past 6 years, working with thousands of experienced brands around the globe, we’ve identified some common challenges in providing great customer service.
- Providing consistent service
If you go to the gym once and eat a green goddess salad, you’re not going to see any health results. Just like if you deliver one great service experience to a customer, you won’t all of a sudden be at the top of your game. Like going to the gym, eating healthy or any other habit - consistency is the key to great results.
- Lack of empathy
Frontline teams and customer service representatives have historically been underpaid, undervalued and underserved. When frontline workers don’t feel motivated in the work they’re doing, it’s hard for them to empathize with customers and solve their problems from a position of genuine care.
- Meeting customer expectations
Customer needs and expectations are ever-evolving. Just when you think you know exactly how to deliver the best service, their needs and preferences change. When you can keep on top of what customers want using real-time customer feedback, you’re able to continue to meet their expectations.
- Getting useful feedback
As Des Traynor, Co-founder of Intercom says “Customer feedback is like business oxygen." You can’t survive without it. The challenge for many businesses is not only getting customer feedback, but connecting it to the frontline teams responsible for delivering customer service.
- Effective hiring and training
There’s a surplus of frontline and customer service roles, and not enough willing employees to take them. Furthermore, when employees are recruited they’re not being supported with the ongoing training and coaching they need to succeed in their roles.
Follow the Example of Customer Service Leaders
Let’s take a look at some of the world’s best experience brands, who are nailing their customer service experience strategies.
Disney is world famous for creating magical customer experiences. An example of exceptional service is their MyMagic+ wristband technology, which allows them to deliver a personalized service to all of their guests. The wristband technology gives Walt Disney World employees the information they need to create memorable, personalized experiences for their visitors. If someone is wearing a Disney MyMagic+ band, employees have the information to be able to greet the customer by name when they arrive at the restaurant, start preparing their pre-programmed food order when they’re a few paces away, and to bring out their meal exactly as they sit down at the table. Everything seems magical to the customer, yet frontline teams are working behind the scenes to perfectly orchestrate world-class service.
Aptive Environmental is the fastest growing pest control company in the world, on a mission to disrupt their industry with superior customer experience. They were once facing the challenges above: inconsistent service delivery, lack of frontline motivation, poor customer feedback and no ongoing frontline coaching and training. Through the implementation of the AskNicely Frontline Success platform, Aptive were able to minimize rework, consistently deliver on their service promise, support and empower their frontline teams and increase their NPS score by 30 points in just one month. Want to know more? Read the Aptive case study here.
How to Create a Great Customer Service Experience
How do you create a customer service experience like Disney, Aptive and other leading experience brands? This eight-step approach is a great place to start.
Know who your customers are
Imagine trying to plan a holiday for a total stranger. You have to pick out where they’ll go, where they’ll stay, what restaurants they’ll eat at and plan their itinerary for the entire week without having any knowledge of who they are and what they like. Are they adventurous and daring? Do they want a relaxing experience? Do they have lots of money to spend? You’ve got no idea. Tring to deliver awesome customer service without first knowing exactly who your customers are is a non-starter.
When you have a comprehensive understanding of who your customers are and what their needs are, you can better build an emotional connection and provide a service that blows customers away.
To gain this understanding of your customers, you can:
Use a feedback tool to connect customer feedback with frontline teams, to help them better understand customer needs, preferences and behaviors.
Gather customer data through the likes of NPS surveys, focus groups, questionnaires and real-time feedback to gain large samples which can be used to identify key patterns in customer service.
Work from customer personas:
Customer personas identify customer needs, understand purchasing decisions and gain behavioral insights that help you fine-tune your experience to meet and exceed customer expectations at every touchpoint. They allow you to create experiences that are personalized, timely, and empathetic across all channels of your business.
Set expectations, then go above and beyond
Setting expectations, or setting a service promise, is one of the Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams.
Put simply, service standards are a set of tangible guidelines that help to define a) what a customer can expect from a service, and b) how the experience should be delivered by the frontline.
Attempting business without a service standard is like trying to use the maps app with your partner on a road trip (it doesn't work). Customers don’t know what to expect, frontline staff don’t have a clear sense of direction and awesome customer experiences are very tricky to consistently deliver.
You may think you have a clear idea of what your service standards are, but if an employee of your business was asked, would they have the same answer as you?
What about if your customers were asked?
It’s important that managers, frontline teams and customers are all on the same page, which is exactly what setting your service standards helps to do. It helps you set expectations, provide a benchmark for what success looks like and deliver above and beyond.
Build empathetic relationships with customers
Excellent customer service relies on the ability for a frontline associate to truly empathize with a customer and their position. To step into their shoes, and help solve problems in a timely, personalized and human-centered way.
Some key strategies for connecting with customers on an emotional level include:
- Connecting as human beings, or as Christina Trippi likes to say “make friends first”.
- Practice better listening
- Understanding emotional drivers
- View situations from the customer’s perspective
When providing customer service, your job is to make things as easy, timely and enjoyable as possible for the customer. Map out your user journey, and think about where you can tighten or streamline processes to make things easier for your customer. For example, an airline may be experiencing a high volume of support calls where customers are asking how to change their flight due to COVID-19. This indicates that the COVID-19 cancellation policy information on their website is not clear enough. Using this information, they can add clearer, more obvious information to their website or an automated phone option with step by step instructions.
When streamlining processes, you should look to shorten response times, enhance self-service options and make it super easy for your customers to access support, whether that be through the phone, email or in person.
Balance automation with friendly human support
Ever had an experience with an automated phone or message bot and all you want to do is speak to a real human? Balancing automation with friendly human support is a challenge, but when done well, can streamline processes and improve the customer service experience.
When done right, the benefits of leverage automation are awesome:
- Improves quality of service
- Supports consistent customer experience
- Enables around the clock interactions
- Reduces the number of live support requests
- Expedited response times
Empower a customer-centric frontline team
Companies winning on customer service experience have customer-centricity baked into the DNA of their company culture. Building a customer centric company culture starts at hiring, and ripples through into every aspect of the business.
In order to build a customer centric frontline team, you need to create a work environment where they feel inspired, motivated and empowered to deliver on your service promise every time. How? With a coaching and recognition tool! Purpose built platforms like AskNicely can help provide guidance, support and recognition to employees to help them deliver awesome customer service experiences every time.
We believe that the key to customer loyalty and business growth is your frontline team - the very people responsible for delivering customer service and experience. When you invest in the frontline, you improve customer service, cultivate a customer-centric culture, improve staff morale and reduce employee turnover.
Listen to customer feedback
Capturing customer feedback provides valuable insights to continually improving customer service. One-off surveys no longer cut it. Your customers are constantly changing and evolving, and so should the service you deliver.
The most effective way to gain customer insights is to track and analyze real-time customer feedback using a customer feedback software. This way, you can understand, in their own words, what’s working and what’s not.
You can also gain insights through social media ‘listening’, regular open-text surveys, focus groups and product reviews.
Leverage customer feedback software
Listening to customer feedback is one thing, but analyzing and acting upon it is another. The right customer feedback software should help you gain customer feedback at scale, and connect that feedback to the right people.
AskNicely can help you get it right
The AskNicely feedback tool helps you measure every customer experience with real-time NPS. You can automatically collect customer feedback directly after they receive service with customizable surveys that customers love. You can then publish customer feedback in real-time to the right screen for each role including TV, mobile app, Powerpoint and Slack plus integrations with 40+ CRM platforms including Salesforce.
Learn more about the AskNicely feedback module here.
To wrap up:
Understanding your customers, and supporting your frontline workers to deliver on your service promise is key to improving customer service experience. To differentiate your brand through service, you must:
- Understand your customers
- Set clear expectations for both your customers and your frontline team
- Build human-centered, empathic relationships with your customers
- Streamline your ease of service
- Balance automation with frontline connection
- Empower a customer centric frontline team
- Listen to customer feedback
- Leverage customer feedback software
Curious about the AskNicely platform? Find out why it could be your secret weapon to winning on customer experience here.