Customer centricity has become a business imperative. While many companies talk about being customer-focused, they are committing acts that will not only fail their customers, but also risk putting them out of business.
Earlier this month, I attended the Gartner Customer 360 Summit in San Diego and learned a lot about the future of customer experience and how companies are engaging customers as their expectations continue to climb. While many companies have come a long way in improving customer experiences, others are mired by their own antiquated policies and procedures.
If you’re doing any of the following, you may be committing a deadly customer service sin:
1. Asking customers for their names when they contact you.
First impressions are everything. Customers want customer service associates to already know who they are when they call. In fact, they expect it. Using a customer’s name conveys respect and demonstrates to the customer that the company understands their needs and appreciates their existing relationship. Are your associates greeting customers by their names? Do you have the analytics in place to determine the genesis of the call? Have you linked their online and offline customer profiles?
2. Sending communication to your customers only when you want to sell to them.
Leading companies know that the key to successful sales and marketing involves a proactive communications approach that touches customers throughout their lifecycle. Is your data analysis complete so that you can reach out to customers about their specific needs? Do you have the ability to contact them at the right place and right time? Are your communications personalized and customized so that they resonate with customers and earn their respect and loyalty?
3. Selling your customers’ information to third parties.
4. Reacting to complaints rather than anticipating them and resolving them proactively.
Many companies respond to customers’ problems as they arise–often times when it’s too late and at the peril of losing customers and business. Instead, a preemptive communications and customer service approach can be profitable. Customers will appreciate and respect the fact that you contacted them before their issue escalated and as a result, will likely remain loyal and tell others about their positive experience. Are you paying attention to what customers are saying in communities and social media sites? Are you being transparent about mistakes or employee errors? Are you acting on the customer feedback you receive? Have you deployed live chat to proactively assist customers with questions while on your website?
5. Having no executive escalation team for customer care issues.
Even though contact center associates should be empowered to resolve problems, there are times when they are unable to fully assist the customers. In those cases, associates must follow procedures for communicating and escalating issues up through the hierarchy of managers so that problems are quickly resolved by appropriately trained employees. Do you have an escalation plan? Do you have the processes and technologies in place to enable the sharing of information between departments?
6. Not teaching your service team how to manage complaints.
The mission of a contact center associate is to provide the highest level of support and deliver a positive customer experience in the end. In doing so, they need to communicate effectively, be friendly, and solve issues efficiently. Do you have a workforce management and quality assurance system in place to ensure continuous feedback? Do you offer ongoing training through associates’ desktops and mobile devices? Are you sharing customer feedback with associates?
7. Failing to equip customer-facing associates with the tools to solve problems for customers.
Companies and their associates can have the best intentions when it comes to delivering customer experiences, but unless associates have the right tools at their disposal, their good intentions are meaningless. Have you installed the right tools and technologies that help associates listen, understand, and act on customer inquiries?
8. Providing your staff one-time training before turning them loose.
Your relationships with your customers are constantly evolving and so should the training your associates receive to engage with them. Continuous training will work to refine associates’ skill sets and ultimately improve performance metrics like first call resolution and NPS. Do you provide ongoing customer experience management support? Do your education initiatives align with your business objectives? Are you identifying knowledge gaps? Have you set up “knowledge checkpoints?” Do you assign individual coaches to shadow associates? Do you offer easy online learning tools that associates can follow at their own pace?
9. Measuring success by top-line sales only.
To compete effectively, businesses need to measure the success of their customer-focused initiatives. But, focusing only on top-line sales won’t provide you with a clear window into how you’re performing and may leave out areas of your business that are costing you more than they’re worth. A true measure of success not only looks at sales, but also incorporates customer and employee satisfaction, customer growth, and customers’ willingness to recommend. Have you incorporated non-financial and customer-focused metrics into your financial predictions? Are you including customer metrics in your annual report?
10. Relying only on efficiency focused metrics.
While non-financial metrics are important to paint a clear picture of a company’s overall health and success, companies shouldn’t rely solely on efficiency metrics. In past years, contact center success was rooted in average handle times. Today, companies have learned that rushing customers off the phones has its drawbacks. Do you have a customer experience strategy that defines what customer metrics are most important to your business? Do you have a clear definition of what these metrics measure and how they’re calculated? Are you holding associates accountable for delivering on these metrics?
Don't worry, there are plenty of ways to breathe more life into your company's approach to customers. We have been working with clients for decades to deliver outstanding customer experience solutions around the world. Click here to learn how.
Tim Keefe, Principal, TeleTech Consulting, contributed to this blog post.
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