Management consulting company Accenture recently released its ninth annual Global Consumer Pulse Survey, chock-full of bad news for retailers around the world. The company measured the experiences of almost 13,000 consumers in 32 different countries, encompassing ten different industries. The result is a 40-page report containing some very telling insights into what today’s consumers expect from customer service representatives, sales staff and business policies. The message is clear: customers aren’t happy, and they’re not going to sit back and take it. In what’s been termed the ‘Switching Economy’, today’s unhappy customers are prepared to walk away if they aren’t treated well. However, the report is still good news for customer service professionals who want to up their game: read the warning signs, change your practices, and take this chance to get ahead of the pack. To help you out, we took the key findings from the survey and turned them into 3 lessons you can use to go one better than the competition.
1. Your customers’ time should be as precious to you as it is to them.
It’s a sad day when it takes a major international consumer survey to figure that out, yet here we are. If you don’t waste your customers’ time, you’ll be well on the way to retaining your existing customers, and winning new ones over as well. 91% of survey respondents said that they were frustrated at having to get in touch with a company more than once for the same reason, and 89% are cheesed off by having to repeat their issue to different representatives. Make sure that your customer support system includes updates on all customer contact. If the customer calls to tell you that they’ve been issued with a new credit card number, for example, make sure that you change their card details in the system and include a note on their file that mentions the conversation. That way, if they experience problems and need to call again, the next staff member to speak to them will already know exactly what’s going on.
2. Keep your staff and your customers happy.
More than half of consumers in the US changed service providers in the past year due to negative customer service experiences. And yet 81% of those said that if the company had done things differently, they would have stayed. Blind loyalty is a thing of the past; today’s customers demand respect. If they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere – and they certainly have plenty of options these days. Make sure that your employees are instructed to do whatever it takes to retain customers. While it makes sense to take a good look at your customer service practices, the question isn’t necessarily: ‘Are you treating your customers with respect?’ Rather, the question to start with is: ‘Are you treating your employees with respect?’ Without happy employees, you’re unlikely to have happy customers. Decent pay, decent perks and a pleasant working environment for your staff are all important if you want happy customers down the line. So take a good hard look at working conditions at your company before you start coming up with new customer service policies, and you may well find that half the battle is already won.
3. Get a social media presence.
Regardless of the industry, word-of-mouth (and that includes social media) is still the most important and highly-regarded way of getting company information. 71% of customers surveyed use this means of researching products and services they’re interested in. If there was still any doubt in your mind that your business needs a social media presence, that statistic should get rid of it once and for all. Your happy customers will tell their friends – and others – via social media, and you will be able to help any unhappy customers quick-smart by answering their queries and concerns via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your platform of choice. Thanks to social media, that ‘private’ customer service phone call or email is no longer a personal discussion – for better or worse, you’re just a few mouse clicks away from broadcasting it to the world. A thought to keep in mind the next time you’re dealing with that difficult customer on a random Friday afternoon!