Let’s start with a question: How do you treat your customers?
Wait. Don’t answer instinctively. After all, every business owner feels they are treating customers in the best way possible.
But good customer service isn’t only about you. It’s about your customers too.
If your customers perceive you’re treating them well, they’ll continue doing business with you and recommend you to others. It’s a win-win scenario—your customers enjoy your products and services, while you enjoy the financial benefits of complete customer loyalty.
Let’s explore seven ways you can craft an excellent customer service experience that always keeps them coming back for more.
Understanding your customers and their needs is the first step to boosting retention.
Before you begin optimizing your customer service experience, you might want to analyze how your existing customers perceive various elements of your business as it stands. This will help uncover your strengths, weaknesses and crucial areas for improvement.
Customer Satisfaction Surveys are by far the easiest and most accurate way to measure customer satisfaction levels. Choosing the right kind of survey will help you extract the insights you need to take your business to the next level.
Using a Customer Satisfaction Survey, you can measure individual customer satisfaction at scale by asking them to score various aspects of your business on a scoring scale. The quantitative results can help break down which elements of your business need improvement. These surveys can be distributed face-to-face, via email or even through social media.
NPS Surveys provide a more high-level overview of the collective satisfaction of your customer base. They’re easier to get responses for, as they only ask one question: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this product or service to a friend or colleague?”.
Measuring current satisfaction levels is key for providing a great customer experience. Read our comprehensive guide to create the perfect survey for your business.
“Fix your website” may sound like a reference for hiring a web developer. But often, it’s not just that. Fixing your website means ensuring that your customers can do what they want to do on your site without any hassle. Here are some elements of your site that can cause or remove friction for customers.
In 2017, up to 70 percent of all web traffic happened on mobile devices—I’m certain that number has increased now. Also, 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing, and 40 percent of those users will visit a competitor’s site instead. I’m sure you don’t need more convincing that a mobile-friendly website is a right move for your business.
There’s no shortage of website security horror stories and some of your customers may have been affected in the past. This means they’re taking extra measures to ensure they’re only visiting safe sites. And even if they’re not, it’s your responsibility to ensure their safety on your site. Hire a cybersecurity expert to examine your site and fix any security issues.
According to Google, faster mobile site speed makes people view more pages on your site, convert more, and buy more. The longer it takes your page to load, the higher your bounce rate.
Source: Think with Google
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to analyze your site and see suggestions to improve your site’s speed. Hire a developer to help you apply the suggestions except you’re tech-savvy enough to do it yourself (DIY). Like Google says, “faster is better and less is more.” A faster website is one of the easiest ways to ensure customer satisfaction.
Create different types of content on your site to answer any questions users may have about your products or services. Your blog posts, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, knowledge base (or help center), case studies, and videos should provide sufficient information for customers.
When your content is comprehensive, customers will only contact your support team as a last resort.
The numbers agree. 67 percent of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. And 91 percent of customers will use an online knowledge base, where it is available and can answer their questions.
This is why it's key to ensure that all the forms on your site are working. Thankfully, there are many free form templates you can use to create smart forms that interact with your customers in real time.
Lastly, check your site for broken links by using Ahrefs’ free broken link checker and fix them. Broken links not only impact your performance and ranking on search engines but can also make for a fragmented user experience for website visitors.
If you’re already using omnichannel marketing for your customers, omnichannel customer support is only a natural extension. Businesses with omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to the customer retention rate of 33 percent for companies with weak omnichannel customer engagement. However, for many small business owners, investing in omnichannel customer engagement is too expensive, at least for now.
If you’re resource-strapped, what you can do to gain more loyal customers is create a multichannel experience. You've probably seen some marketers use multichannel and omnichannel experiences interchangeably. Nevertheless, they're different.
An omnichannel experience syncs all customer engagement and support across offline and online channels, while a multichannel experience engages customers on different channels without unifying the experience.
Sure, omnichannel customer care is the way of the future, but if you don’t have the resources to implement it in your business, focus on multichannel support. This means focus on channels where your customers are and serve them there. If it’s Facebook, be there.
If it’s Twitter, be there.
If it’s Instagram, be there.
The good news is that if you’re actively serving your customers where they are and doing it well, customers may not notice that you’re using a multichannel and not an omnichannel approach. Dedicating some resources to hiring a dedicated Customer Service Representative or developing your own customer service skills across multiple channels can help ensure that you’re providing the best customer service at all touchpoints.
Perfect humans don’t exist, and neither does the perfect customer service experience. So even with your best efforts, things can go wrong. Being over-prepared and understanding the ways in which things could go wrong is the best strategy to avoid a bad experience.
Examples of what can go wrong - especially for an e-commerce business - include but are not limited to:
From the list, you can see that the disappointment may not completely be your fault.
For example, if you’re running a business with an online presence, you’re likely using a Payment Service Provider (PSP). If you plan to switch PSPs or you’re aware that your PSP is undergoing maintenance and won’t be available for some time, it’s best to inform customers in advance.
This is what Upwork did when they decided to remove Skrill as a payment option on their platform. See an excerpt of the announcement below:
In their words: “After a thorough review, we’ve determined that Skrill’s product offering and customer support to our community do not consistently meet the standards we require of our payment partners.” Additionally, they gave customers sixty days to migrate to alternative payment methods available in their country.
Not all their customers were affected. But for those who were, the announcement gave them just enough time to make the necessary adjustments.
When Google decided to shut down Google Plus, they made several announcements and reminders to users for at least three months. The one below was published in December 2018.
Three months was enough time for users to do whatever they wanted in or with their Google Plus accounts before the final shutdown. Plus, when users who missed the announcements and reminders for some reason ask questions about the shutdown, volunteers known as Google's Product Experts are around to assist them with their concerns.
When you’re aware of any future problems that will affect the delivery of your products or services, tell your customers in advance. Give them enough information necessary to deal with any complications or changes the problem will bring. And allow them some time where possible, to adjust to these changes.
Keep your customer service reps on standby, ready to assist customers experiencing difficulties in the aftermath and follow up with those likely to be impacted. The bottom line is, such proactivity will ease the strain on your team, ensure a good customer experience and potentially earn you some positive word-of-mouth.
Some businesses take too long to respond to customer complaints. The average response time to customer emails is 12 hours. And for social media complaints, it’s 10 hours.
To worsen matters, another study by SuperOffice shows that 62 percent of companies do not respond to customer service emails at all, and 90 percent of companies do not acknowledge receipt of emails from customers.
You can imagine how that would feel in an emergency.
When you're dealing with customer complaints in your business, there are no universally applicable rules for speed. Some studies say anything more than an hour is too long, others say any time within 24 hours is the sweet spot. But if you're a one-man show, or you run a small business with less than ten employees, fast response times may be unrealistic sometimes.
What you can do is set the right expectations. You may see a section like this on some websites.
It tells you how long you’ll likely wait before you’re attended to. You can use a variation of that for your customers.
When your Contact or Support form makes it clear how long a customer may wait to receive a response, stick to that time range. That way, responding 18 hours after their email isn’t late when your website says you’ll respond within 48 hours. Openly committing to a time frame for responding to customer inquiries makes you responsible for any breach of that commitment. Use it wisely.
Exercise caution with your use of words. Using “We’ll respond to your inquiry shortly” is too vague. Consider replacing it with “We’ll respond as soon as possible.” Your customer may readily understand that if you reply in three days, that’s the earliest you could reply.
Chatbots are another option for resource-strapped businesses, however while they can enhance the speed with which you respond to customer complaints, they’re not ideal for issues that require complex problem-solving.
Save chatbots for simpler queries for which they can direct customers to pre-written content that solves their problems. Hence, creating helpful content as mentioned can be the key to happy customers.
Some businesses act like they are doing customers a favor by existing. Don’t be that business. Granted, your business is helping your customers. But your customers are also helping you because, without them, your business would disappear.
Treat customer appreciation as an integral part of your business, not an afterthought. For example, you can show them the inner workings of your company. This can involve:
Other less-intrusive ways are to show you appreciate your customers are:
These are just starting points. With some empathy and a little creativity, you can show appreciation to your customers in ways that reach their hearts. For some inspiration, let’s consider examples of what businesses are doing to show appreciation to customers.
Clothing company Dhvani is currently on a mission to manufacture and distribute masks to all American residents—over 300 million of them—completely free.
During this global pandemic, many software companies have supported customers by making their products free for a while, reducing prices for all customers, allowing customers to apply for relief, and creating tools to help customers weather the storm of the pandemic.
At the moment, these are timely gifts to show customer appreciation. Feel free to tweak these ideas to nail an appropriate gift that aligns with your customers’ values and needs. Remember that your gift’s worth to your customers will not be determined by the amount of money the gift is worth but by their values and needs—and those aren’t always expensive.
Send handwritten notes to customers where possible. If you can’t, digital notes will do just fine too. In my experience, the thoughtfulness you put into your note matters more than the medium.
When you run a customer-oriented business, you’ll sometimes make exceptions to your rules.
Maybe a client misses an appointment because of a family emergency. Maybe a customer visits just when you’re closing shop with a desperate look. Or maybe you deliver a product to a customer when they’re not at home but they come back to find it missing.
You can reschedule the appointment with the client. You can stay open just long enough for the customer to get what they need. You can re-deliver the product at no extra cost to the customer.
Put yourself in those situations. How would you feel if another business bent their rules just to make you happy? Your customer would feel the same and maybe even better.
Unforeseen circumstances can ruin great customer service experiences. Some businesses fear that apologies make them culpable for the unpleasant situation. Even if it does, it’s not enough reason to avoid apologizing at all when you’re wrong. Because when done right, apologies can:
If only one customer or just a few are affected by the unpleasant situation, apologize directly to them in private. Issues that arise via email, live chat, or phone calls can often be handled in this manner.
But if the customer has such a bad experience that they take their grievances to other platforms, then a public apology directly to them via that platform is the best option. See how Moz handled the example below.
Moz apologized and offered a suggestion that works for the customer while they promised to to fix their product.
A public apology to many customers is even harder. In 2013, many customers asked Kickstarter to cancel an offensive project but they did not. Eventually, they issued an apology.
Notice the title—they admitted they were wrong from the onset. It sets the tone for the rest of the apology. People were impressed. See some comments.
Kickstarter’s apology contained the six elements of an effective apology:
These elements promote transparency, and a study by Label Insights showed that 94 percent of consumers would be more loyal to brands that practice transparency, and 73 percent are willing to pay more to support such brands. Apologies may be difficult, but they can boost your brand’s image in more ways than you may imagine.
Good customer service experience is subjective. No two businesses even in the same industry are the same. As one study shows, 57 percent of marketing professionals agree that the best way to improve customer experience is by collecting customer feedback. Regularly test and use customer feedback to inform your decisions.
Your customers will be happy and say “thank you.” Then they will open their wallets more for your products. And ultimately, your business will boom.
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