Casengo blog

People pay more for better customer service

While many businesses see customer service as being an unavoidable cost of doing business (on a par with the fact that you will need electricity, say, or staff), the reality is that it’s part of the customer’s decision-making process when choosing to do business with you. Consumers will always seek value for money, especially in tough financial times.

However, a recent American Express survey has reconfirmed that people are willing to pay more than the lowest available price for a given product or service – as long as the customer service is good. The results of this survey place Indian and Singaporean consumers at the top of the list of those who value good service, but that’s not to say that people in other countries aren’t prepared to shell out for good care. Quite the opposite.

One poor customer service experience, and they're off

I can hear what you’re thinking: that people will say they want good service, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s the hip-pocket nerve that drives their decisions.

It’s true that survey results in general are notoriously unreliable, but consider this: customers do switch brands. That’s an established fact. And one of the main reasons they give for switching is that they are unhappy with customer service. So even if you do suck them in with low prices, you’re going to lose them again if your service isn’t up to scratch. With 89% of people saying that they’d switch to a vendor’s competitor after a poor customer service experience, you’re taking a pretty big risk if you focus simply on price. And in the original AmEx survey, 38% of consumers say that they would immediately consider switching to another company after just a single poor experience.

Show customers that you understand their needs

So how does this work? Your customers are influenced by price, but customer service is where the real influence kicks in. Unfortunately many businesses seem to be a bit confused by what good customer service actually is. There is a secret, and it’s probably not what you think it is. In fact, failure to understand this secret is behind 95% of bad customer service experiences. What you need to do, is show customers that you understand their needs.

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve had a bad customer service experience which was founded on a lack of awareness of that simple statement. Companies love to show that they’re speedy (by giving fast reponses). They like to show off how organised they are (automated phone menus with 10 different choices at each level before you finally get put through to a human being). And oh, they love to show off what a wide range of goods and services they have to offer.

Accept, assess and fulfil

What most of them fail to demonstrate is any sort of awareness of the customer’s needs. Let alone understanding of them. Accept that your customers’ needs go further than just finding the lowest price possible. And then to assess each customer communication individually to see just what it is that they need. This part is really not that hard – customers will usually tell you. Customer complaints are invaluable market intelligence. Then once you know what their needs are – and this is the key – fulfil them.

Een goede e-mail naar je klant schrijven - 3 gulden regels

Misschien vind je het e-mailkanaal inmiddels een beetje ouderwets, maar als je het goed doet, is communiceren via e-mail nog steeds fijn voor zowel bedrijf als klant. Klanten kunnen 24/7 contact opnemen – op hun dooie gemak, want niemand aan de andere kant van de lijn wordt ongeduldig. Win-win voor iedereen. Of niet? Sommige bedrijven zetten dit kanaal alleen maar in omdat het voor hen makkelijker is. Ze gebruiken e-mail programma’s waarmee ze supersnel kunnen reageren – niet omdat dat fijn is voor de klant (die mag blij zijn als zijn vraag überhaupt volledig werd beantwoord) maar omdat het de kosten drukt. Tijd is geld. Het gaat deze bedrijven om vinkjes zetten, niet om klanten helpen. De verkeerde mindset Een paar dagen geleden was ik zelf zo’n vinkje. Ik had een online klantenservice-formulier ingevuld om mijn vraag te stellen aan een groot bedrijf in huishoudelijke artikelen. Het onderwerp van de e-mail die ik terugkreeg? ‘1’. Het cijfer, ja, en niets anders. Dat was op z’n minst al een vreemd voorteken. Het volledige antwoord copy-paste ik maar even: Thank you for your inquiry of [X brand] products. We only service the United States and Canada from this location. Please contact the facility closest to you for further assistance. They will be happy to assist you. You can view all of our offices worldwide at [X website]. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Het intrigerende aan deze macro – want dat is het – is dat dit voorgeprogrammeerde antwoord ooit is opgesteld met als enige doel de klanten te laten weten hoe onbelangrijk ze zijn. Er zit niets in dat het tegendeel uitstraalt. Kortom, sommige klantenservice-medewerkers zitten vast in de verkeerde mindset. Het gaat hen enkel en alleen om het verwerken van zoveel mogelijk e-mails. Klanten helpen aan het juiste antwoord? Nee joh, hoezo? Dezelfde mindset hebben de vele marketingmensen die zich richten op advertenties en het binnenhalen van nieuwe klanten. Gek, want wie iets meer moeite stopt in het reageren op klantvragen, krijgt er zonder adverteren zoveel meer blije klanten bij! Begin met het toepassen van onderstaande regels, en je komt al een heel eind…

  1. Personaliseer het onderwerp van je e-mail

Facebook’s not all that: email is where it’s at

Is your business using Facebook as a push system? Then we’re sad to report you’re wasting your time. Facebook has been working to reduce the organic reach of businesses since 2012, with Ogilvy pegging organic reach at 2% last February. That means that fans rarely see your company’s post pop up in their news feeds. So have you got something to share with your customers? Send them an email.

This will be even more important in 2015, when a new Facebook algorithm kicks in. According to the experts at global research firm Forrester (who recently published a report on social relationship strategies), Facebook is set to slash organic reach even further. This will sound the death knell for customer interaction: unless your Facebook fans expressly seek you out – for example by coming to your page to ask a question, make a complaint, or offer praise – they simply won’t see your posts.

Bye-bye, Faceboook. Hello again, email!

You might not see this as a problem, because customers will still be able to make contact with you. And naturally you’ll be giving them the same lightning-fast, well-considered service you always do, right? The thing is, even the most altruistic of companies do like to get a little something back at times. And that means being able to communicate with customers when you think of them – not only when they think of you.

Short of running through the streets with a megaphone, what’s an SME to do? Forrester analyst Nate Elliott has the answer, though it might not be what you expected. Facebook was never all that, for companies at least. One of Forrester’s recent surveys showed that US online adults who want to stay in touch with your brand are almost twice as likely to sign up for your emails as to interact with you on Facebook. Emails are far more likely to get your customers’ eyeballs than Facebook posts are. Not only that, but you get to decide what you’re allowed to say in your emails – not Mark Zuckerberg.

Email ain’t goin’ anywhere

Over the past few years, the customer service buzz has emphasised the importance of helping customers on the channels that work for them – and those channels have increasingly been social media ones. We at Casengo would not suggest for a moment that you should turn away from offering customer service on Facebook and Twitter simply because it no longer offers you a way to promote yourself to customers. Far from it – you need to keep providing customer service on your customers’ preferred channels. But be aware that the rumours of email customer service’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. So get back in control: fight the chaos in your inbox and reach your customers better than ever!

Crappy customer service? Be banned from selling!

British energy regulator Ofgem is baring its sizeable teeth. The target of its wrath is ScottishPower, one of the nation’s ‘Big Six’ energy companies. The reason? Poor customer service.

Ofgem expects companies to compete keenly on service. Yet this is clearly not happening. Thanks to the large number of complaints Ofgem has received about ScottishPower (about sending bills notoriously late, for instance), it has decided to take the unusual step of preventing a supplier making an effort to attract new customers.

Unless, that is, ScottishPower can prove that it’s able to cope with the customers it already has. And the proof Ofgem wants is very specific: by the end of this month, ScottishPower must catch up on the backlog of actions on Ombudsman decisions for individual complaints. By the end of the year, the energy company must at least have halved the number of overdue bills. And by the end of January, it must have “significantly” improved the speed at which it answers customer calls.

Ofgem has given ScottishPower a three-month period to get its customer service act together. Otherwise: a stiff ban on sales and marketing activities to prospective customers.

Taking care of existing customers

Basically, the message is: “If you can’t manage to take care of the customers you’ve already got, we’re not going to let you advertise to new ones.” A novel solution to a customer service problem! Customers can only dream of having such powerful regulatory bodies in other industries. If they existed, customer service might be very different.

Take your own industry, for starters… Consider how your own business functions when it comes to customer service. If an imaginary Online Business Regulator came to check things over, what would your report card say? Are you putting more energy into attracting new customers than into looking after your existing ones? If an enquiry from a new customer takes preference over a query or complaint from someone who already spends money at your business, that’s a sign that you’ve got a problem.

It’s highly likely that you already have a detailed marketing plan in place. Now it’s time to put a detailed customer service plan in place too. Make a set of Ofgem-style deadlines to get all your outstanding customer service tasks up to date. Clear the backlog of queries so you can start the new year fresh. When customers want to give you money, you don’t hesitate. So make sure you respond in the same way when they come to you with questions or problems.

It can seem like modern businesses are in love with the thrill of the chase: they put most of their energy into winning you over as a customer. Then once you’re on board, they lose interest. Turn that around – it’s a sure way to make your company stand out.

Black Friday: price versus service

Black Friday (November 28) is coming up! Is your customer service team ready for the busiest online shopping day of the year? Traditionally, the day after US Thanksgiving has been a day for massive discounts in retail outlets. In recent years the trend has spread online and around the world.

Are you thinking of taking part? It’s tempting to focus just on turning over lots of stock, but the support you provide to first-time customers on those days will make a lasting impression.

Black Friday: come for the prices, stay for the service

Time after time, surveys have shown that potential buyers rate customer service as being more important than price. I’m not going to pretend that price isn’t important on Black Friday – nobody’s going to come running to buy from you just because you promise good customer service. But once you’ve snagged customers with your low prices, you have a much better chance of keeping them by backing up those great prices with stellar customer service.

My personal experience backs this up – on one occasion, trawling the net for the cheapest printer ink prices, I came across 123inkt.nl. I figured I had nothing to lose by giving them a go. My order arrived the next day and soon afterwards I received personal follow-up. Turns out I’m not the only one who’s been impressed by the great customer service. I couldn’t really tell you where I bought my ink in the past; I just shopped around for the lowest prices. Once you feel like a valued customer, you’ll remember the business and keep on returning.

Quality service remains long after price is forgotten

Of course, the opposite also holds true – you could attract customers with your low prices and subsequently make such a bad impression on them that they vow never to buy from you again. While the adrenaline rush from clicking ‘purchase’ on that great Black Friday bargain is fleeting, dealing with issues caused by potentially defective or not-as-ordered items can take weeks. And that’s the part that the customer will remember.

Prices are transparent, but poor service is hard to spot before clicking that purchase button. That’s why it’s important to be clear about your service standards up front – and then stick to them. Otherwise your customers may well end up being very unsatisfied indeed, and sharing their dissatisfaction with their friends. Experts say that unhappy customers tell up to twice as many people about their experience as happy ones do. And if they write an online review about your company’s bad service on top of that, you could find yourself losing a lot more on Black Friday or Cyber Monday than what lowering your prices will cost you.

So remember: the online retail craziness is more than just an opportunity to increase turnover. It’s a chance to win over new customers for the longer term. It’s important to plan your online offering carefully, but be sure to take some time to work on your customer service strategy for Black Friday. With the right approach, you’ll be reaping the benefits all year round.