In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, businesses must embrace innovative strategies to provide outstanding customer service – especially since 83% of customers agree that good service is the top criterion when making decisions throughout the buying journey, per Khoros’ “Getting to Know Your Customers“ report in partnership with Forrester. Therefore, business leaders must understand how a strong customer service program is created and what to keep in mind when building out, or in some cases, overhauling a program.
No matter the audience, each customer segment is unique with individual needs. Keeping this in mind, business leaders must leverage technology, shift organizational mindsets, and harness the power of personalization to build the best customer service program possible.
Understand the role technology plays in a customer service program
It’s important to understand how technology can make or break a customer service program. Successful organizations use technology to be more intuitive and enrich the customer experience. On the consumer side, for example, many companies are leveraging gamification to help eliminate the fear factor of trying a new product. Not only is this innovative, but it also helps meet modern customers in their comfort zone. Regardless of which customer segment is being serviced, technology should serve the purpose of enhancing the buyer’s journey every step of the way – from the decision-making process to the point of purchase, to post-purchase customer support.
To be successful with customer service technology, proper training and implementation timelines are critical, and can make or break the initiative. Members of the customer support team are often the ones who can identify early issues, so giving them enough time to ensure internal proficiency can help deliver the quality experience customers expect, leaving a lasting impression as a result.
It’s also important to understand that different technology might be required for different customer programs. For example, a large company might want to have one platform specifically for its enterprise customers and one platform for individual consumers. In these situations, it can be helpful to consolidate key customer-facing teams and processes and train them vertically. This will help each team better understand the customer segments and industries they support, virtually eliminating the middle steps that cause bottlenecks.
Shift to a proactive organizational mindset to get ahead of customer concerns
Aligning on a proactive organizational mindset is essential for any company to be successful. Reflecting on the internal mindset of the customer support team can help shed light on what needs to be adjusted. Are they taking a reactive (responsive) approach? There’s no harm in admitting that this might be the case. However, encouraging a shift from a reactive customer service program to a more proactive approach can help the team get ahead of problems, communicate more effectively, and streamline support both internally and externally – creating a happier workforce and a more satisfied customer.
This type of transformation – whether making a small change or completely overhauling a process – is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting it right and staying proactive means always listening to customers’ needs over time and on an ongoing basis. As a business leader, it also means listening to the customer service team and their feedback, given they are the first line of defense. Establishing a strong feedback loop with the department regarding their implementation needs and requests will go a long way in developing good, reliable customer service on behalf of the entire organization. Overall, being a good listener both internally and externally can empower more informed decision making and enable the delivery of hassle-free support.
Harness the power of personalization to make each customer feel valued and understood
Despite being referred to as “customer service,” a good customer service program is about “services.” A single program or department is never meant to provide a “one size fits all” solution – customization and personalization are key to making customers feel valued and understood.
When it comes to the best practices of personalization, it depends who is on the receiving end. Is it a B2B customer, a reseller, or an end consumer? B2B partners will remain longer, resellers will be strong partners and support the brand at retail touchpoints, and consumers will keep coming back and sharing their experience with others. Identifying each customer segment and personalizing services accordingly will go a long way in creating a seamless experience. To complement this effort, prioritize flexible and personal relationship building. Doing so will help build a deep understanding of customer needs, opening the door for developing new services to suit those needs, which in turn will help drive brand loyalty for years to come.
Ultimately, these strategies can help positively impact the bottom line. Upfront costs of time and money may seem daunting, but there can be a long-term benefit for every organization to invest in a superb customer service program – not to mention it’ll be more costly if they don’t. Per the same Khoros and Forrester Getting to Know Your Customers report, well over half of customers have switched to a different brand after a bad customer experience, with even more going on to tell others about it (a risk that can easily be avoided).
There will always be some fail-proof strategies to help improve an organization’s customer service program, but it’s important to understand that customers’ needs are ever evolving, and the program must adapt accordingly. Attentiveness, flexibility and adaptability are key to ensure the customer service program doesn’t fall behind.
As senior vice president and general manager of Canon USA’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Brian Mahar oversees activities for consumer and professional imaging products, including customer support operations and new business innovation. Previously, Mahar was responsible for the company’s sales, marketing, business planning and product planning activities for consumer and B2B market segments.
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