Take it Up a Level – 3 Ways to Elevate Your Customer Service Standards

In these trying times, the idea of being able to cut costs and enhance customer service standards may seem like a pipe dream, but it just might be the kind of bargain opportunity you can’t afford to ignore. To pinpoint what consumers find frustrating about customer service, and how negative or positive experiences affect their attitudes and buying behavior, RightNow Technologies and its partner, Harris Interactive, polled more than 2,100 Americans. Based on the survey findings, here are three tips for better customer service:

Kindness counts. Eighty-seven percent of respondents who said they had a negative customer service encounter stopped doing business with the offending company or organization, up from 68 percent in 2006. That’s sobering. But more than half of those surveyed said they often or always are “willing to pay more” for a better customer experience during a difficult economy like the one we’re presently in. Yes, politeness, courtesy, and expediency are their own commodities. The way you treat customers is not only key to retaining business and netting discretionary dollars in a recessionary economy, but it positions a company to recover faster when hard times end and stories of customer satisfaction circulate via word of mouth.
Word travels fast.The RightNow/Harris survey found that more than eight in 10 customers who had a negative experience with a specific company were likely to tell their associates and friends. If that doesn’t get your attention, consider this: Of those dissatisfied customers, almost 25 percent go so far as to blog about their experience, which then becomes a negative comment about your company for all the world to read. It proves the adage that bad news travels fast. On the other hand, excellent customer service standards, enhanced through “contact centers,” can be a potent tool for generating sales leads and fielding feedback.Having pleasant customer service representatives in place increases the probability that customers will make a product purchase while receiving help.
Keep it live. Even with the growing popularity of social networking and mobile technology, customers still prefer to have their questions about products and services answered by live agents, either on the phone or through live Web-based chat sessions. This prevailing sentiment was registered not only by older consumers, but also by those in the critical 18- to 34-year-old age range. Choosing an effective medium for delivering your customer service can be as important as hiring the right people to answer customer inquiries. Whether your company has a handful of employees or a couple of hundred, Web-based customer service has the advantage of being adaptable to specific needs, from surveying customers about products, to highlighting positive experiences customers have had, to fostering a virtual dialogue in a way that feels more personal.

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