3 Customer Service Resolutions for 2014
The gap between customers’ expectations of service and retailers ability to meet them is widening. It's widening for two reasons, only one of which retailers can hope to control. Changes in consumer behavior — e.g., handheld access to rich information, social media's ability to amplify and broadcast customer frustration, low switching costs due to the proliferation of e-commerce — are unstoppable forces pushing the customer service gap wide open. The other side of the divide is retailers lack nimbleness. It's as if these empowering changes caught the industry flat-footed. Here are three ways retailers can get back on their toes and close the gap in 2014:
1. Believe that customer service drives business performance. The first way retailers can begin to close the customer service rift is through faith. The next four ideas are much more practical, but none of them are possible if an organization doesn't believe that good service will have a significant bottom-line impact.
A recent Business Reporter story showed that customer service and satisfaction is an effective measure for predicting financial success among organizations in the United Kingdom, using the U.K. Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) as evidence of this connection. Specifically, businesses that score above average on the UKCSI have demonstrated 9 percent year-over-year sales growth, while firms that received below average scores saw their year-over-year sales grow by only 3 percent.
Our own Live Chat Benchmarking report found that websites in the top 20 percent for satisfaction scores had a 266 percent greater chance to convert a chatter into a buyer vs. the average website.
2. Train agents to be experts. Whether they be phone agents, emails agents or live chat agents, throw away the "compassionate listening" handbook and instead empower agents to be experts in the products and services that you offer. When people engage, they're most satisfied if they're connected to someone with the knowledge they need to truly assist them.
3. Invest in the right technology. No matter how much expertise an agent has, they can't do their job without the right tools. And yes, it's tools, not tool. We all know that Shangri-La is providing agents with a single interface that contains everything they need, but we also know that this idea is, like Shangri-La itself, fiction. Agents have multiple screens open at once (I've personally seen eight), so each one, including live chat, must be optimized and intuitive. The technology choice must also include a robust reporting engine so that opportunities for improvement can be identified on an ongoing basis. Finally, the technology must support the increasingly mobile consumer.
Ross Haskell is the director of products for BoldChat by LogMeIn, a provider of live chat customer service solutions.