| By Joanna Swash, Group CEO at Moneypenny
The company answers calls, live chat and digital comms for thousands of companies across the UK and the US
Customer satisfaction is a business factor that should never be ignored. At its best it wins hearts and creates brand ambassadors; at its worst it leads to business collapse. The power of a positive customer experience should not be underestimated, and it is a lesson many have learned the hard way in the year that we have just had.
As businesses confronted the coronavirus crisis, so many factors flashed before their eyes that needed immediate attention, making maintaining the connection with customers a challenge. Add to that the inevitable increased volume of customer queries and questions and it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. On the other hand, you don’t want to destroy the trust that you have worked hard to build with your customers. Remaining consistent in your approach to customer service is key, even when the world around you has turned upside down.
Communicate. Don’t shy away from the situation. True business partnerships are a two-way street. Manage your customer’s trust through engaging with them. Listening and learning. Do this calmly, professionally and with a smile. You can always learn from feedback, positive or negative. Be open and request their opinions and suggestions, it lets customers know that you do value them, what they think and what they expect of you.
Regular reviews of a customer’s service are a must but they mean nothing if you don’t take any notice of what they are saying to you. Use them for the good of your business, to evolve and work together. In changing times, it will be ever more business-critical to be agile. Ask them how you can help, what do they need from you and then facilitate the solution. This may mean innovations from you, reminding them of a complementary service you also offer or speaking with a trusted partner. Either way, their business is your business. At its most practical it is in your business interest but at its most efficient it is part of your purpose and values.
As for complaints, well someone once said that they are opportunities for improvement. However hard you try, you cannot please everyone all of the time. Listening and reacting to what you hear can help to build a long-lasting relationship and that is the ultimate aim.
We have all had experience of terrible customer service and vowed that we would never respond in that way if you were in their shoes. Flip this on its head and try to think of how you look from a customer’s perspective. Your job is to take care and make any customer query your own. The worst thing you can be is indifferent.
Choose the channel. Use your data to make informed decisions. It is more important than ever to analyze your business data. For example, we discovered that despite a boom in the use of social media to contact businesses, the telephone remains the most important communication method for customers to connect with businesses. 43% of our businesses say phone calls were even more important during lockdown and this is backed up with our figures showing that call volumes were up by a third in the last quarter.
Think about the best way for you to deliver the information required by your customer. We have recently had one of the busiest online shopping time of the year with Christmas just passed and I can guarantee that some of your chosen commercial sites stood out because they kept you informed every step of the way as others left you wondering if your parcel was even in the country.
There are so many channels available to us today, choosing the right one to effectively deliver the message is crucial. And more are on the horizon as technological innovations come into their own. Demand for digital switchboards is really gaining in popularity thanks to the widespread acceptance of the likes of Alexa in people’s homes and we are rapidly getting closer to more realistic computer interactions. Fundamental to all of this, however, is how does your customer like to receive the information. Your customer service offering should include many alternatives, from phone and email to Live Chat, self-screening tools, Microsoft Teams integrations and much more.
Don’t forget the basics. Customer service is all about making customers feel valuable and important and all customers deserve your full attention and a positive attitude. Do not treat them as a number or a one-off transaction.
We are all human beings and we all value human interaction. During the first lockdown, we found that phone call duration increased for our clients. People will remember the business that made an effort to call them to inform on the status of their services under lockdown and are likely to repay them with brand loyalty. In a time when face-to-face meetings are not able to go ahead, or advised at all in some cases, this is your lifeline. One simple call can make all the difference.
And remember don’t break your promises or forget your basic manners – if you say you will call back in an hour, do it; smile; say please and thank you. It doesn’t go unnoticed. The little things matter. Not only is it good business it is good PR, and that goes a long way.
We live in an age where instant gratification is the norm and that means that today’s customers want to be able to get in touch quickly and easily. Long periods on hold or phones ringing out are not acceptable. Whether it is immediate answers to queries or a simple human contact to reassure them, clients expect quick responses with accurate information. When lockdown restrictions are eased, clients will require this even more.
Trust your People. Your people are your strength so trust those that you employ, otherwise, I’d ask why you employ them? Trust them and empower them to be professional, to take responsibility, to be honest and to do all of the things we have listed above.
Even with this trust at the core of everything we do at Moneypenny, we noticed that productivity increased during lockdown when all of our people were working from home, with people doing that little extra at the start or end of the day. Having said that, we also had to tell people to ‘go home’ as they found it difficult to switch off.
A loyal customer can stop being your customer at the drop of a hat. Take care of them and you will be rewarded many times over. It will set your brand apart from the competition and is a business-critical tool.