The base of excellent customer service: Consistency
Say hello to the new category of fast-growing small and medium-sized businesses – they are passionate to grow, to innovate, and to outstrip their biggest competitors. They understand it's the Age of the Customer and are hell bent on providing a stellar customer service. But in the pursuit of delighting customers, they have missed out on the fundamentals of customer service.
They have started and jumped straightaway to Z instead of learning and strengthening the basics (A,B,C) first. Resultant of which, the efforts put by the SMBs are often getting negated because they haven't got their basics correct.
Basics of Customer Service: Consistency
Today's customers are social, mobile, and always connected. They want fast answers wherever they are and whichever time it is. But most importantly not only do they expect to receive service on the channel of their choice, they expect to receive a CONSISTENT experience as they traverse across channels. They value 'consistency' more than ever and expect customer-facing representatives to have prior knowledge of all their past interactions.
Quoting the words of Adam Toporek - ''People are creatures of habit — they enjoy knowing what something is going to be and then having it be that way. As a result, people's happiness with any given experience is usually based on the expectations they have carried into it. This makes consistency of service a fundamental attribute of excellence of service.''
Principal Analyst at Forrester Research Kate Leggett also states the same viewpoint. Paraphrasing an excerpt from her article - Right from marketing to sales and service, customers expect the same level and quality of experience across all communication channels. And this can only be possible when businesses have an understanding of customers past purchase history and prior interactions. This ensures that every interaction starts off as a continuation to the previous interaction. Customers do not have to repeat their query or introduce themselves when migrating from one communication channel to another during a multilevel interaction.
Consistency drives Customer Loyalty
In majority of cases, customers start their journey by visiting the business website and gradually move to interact with the business through other channels such as live chat, email, social media and call. If the perception of the business formed through the website matches with the interactions happened in live chat, email, social media and call, customers get encouraged to make the purchase and continue the association for a long time.
Alfonso Pulido, Dorian Stone and John Strevel of McKinsey & Company conducted a survey and concluded that consistency created a positive emotional response among customers that increased satisfaction and fostered loyalty.
Quoting an excerpt from Tibor Shanto's article - ''I go to the coffee chain Starbucks not because they are the best, but because I appreciate the quality, consistency and predictability of the experience. No matter if I am in Toronto, Las Vegas, London or Grand Rapids, the experience is consistent. Put this way: when it comes to the nectar of the gods, I don’t want any surprises. I want the hit I am expecting and that’s exactly what Starbucks gives me – from the surroundings, the atmosphere, the coffee, to the disciples of Landru baristas. All satisfying my expectations, Starbucks provides a predictability I find worth paying a premium for.''
This extract clearly shows how Starbucks enjoys the loyalty of thousands of customers because it provides a consistent experience throughout all locations.
How to deliver a consistent customer experience?
The first step is to have brainstorming sessions and come up with well-defined customer service standards. Once done, comes the most essential task: communicating about the customer service standards to all the customer-facing employees. Merely informing about these will not serve the purpose. To ensure successful execution, it is essential to convey the benefits and objectives of the customer service standards. For instance, employees should have clear answers to:
- Why were these customer service standards chosen?
- What objective is being aimed for through these service standards?
- What is the best way to implement these standards?
Customer experience consultant Micah Solomon has a unique take on setting up the employees to implement the service standards. Quoting an excerpt from his article -
''Consider using the acronym PEPI as your framework:
1. Purpose: Inspire employees with a clear sense of the purpose of their organization, and their purpose in the organization—and help them grow their understanding of how your service standards support these.
2. Enforce intelligently: Keep things simple, keep them visual, and reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.
3. Peer pressure: Positive peer pressure is a must.
4. Input: Employees are able to have a say in the refinements, changes, and even possible future abolition of the standard.''
The role of Technology
Customer consistency can be achieved with the right mix of approach, people and technology. So once approach and people are ready, comes the technology section. New age CRM software that functions as Customer Engagement platform is the perfect solution required to deliver a consistent customer experience across all communication channels. That is because it empowers businesses to:
- Work on every interaction happened over all communication channels, in a same standard manner
- Have a full view of all interactions that customers have had over all communication channels
- Access updated data stored in a centralized repository, to communicate one same message to the customers.
Every business understands the importance of customers and works hard to deliver service in a friendly, timely and accurate manner. But while they manage to create WOW moments for some customers, they drop the ball for many others which eventually makes the end result zero.
To ensure that you do not have to face the same plight, embrace consistency as your USP. Whether you have hundreds, thousands or lacs of customers - make sure that a same standard of service experience is being delivered consistently to all at all channels and time. Once you start doing this, you can create significant competitive advantage and increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Patricia is a full time CRM consultant at ConvergeHub and part-time blogger. She has earned herself quite a fame as a specialist and market expert in CRM software. In the last five year she has worked with various companies as CRM consultant to help them move their businesses to cloud. Her expertise lies in offering cloud CRM consultation, CRM customization and integration solutions to small enterprises. For last one she is engaged in building ConvergeHub, cloud-based CRM solution for SMBs, as a consultant.Follow her at Twitter: @convergehub