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Strategy

What Does Your Customer Service Say About You?

Research indicates the gap between companies' perception of their customer service, and their actual service. Don't compromise!

Lauren Dowdle
April 07 2018

Companies in every industry are competing with their prices, convenience, quality, products, ads and a dozen of other components. But, are they trying to outmatch others with their customer service — and does improving their level of service even affect how customers view them? To answer that question, think about these brands: Chick-fil-A, Publix, Zappos, Amazon, Dollar Shave Club, Costco and Salesforce. You have a pretty positive impression of those companies, right? That’s not surprising, considering they are known for providing some of the best customer service. Conversely, companies like T-Mobile, Comcast, United, Wells Fargo and Bank of America are known for having poor customer service. Think your company is on par with Amazon, Dollar Shave Club, or Salesforce? Don’t be so sure.

Skewed view of service

Research shows 80 percent of businesses think they provide excellent customer service, while only 8 percent of customers believe they are actually receiving excellent service. SuperOffice dove into that statistic to see if there was any merit with their 2018 Customer Service Benchmark Report. Here are some key findings from the report:

  • 12 hours was the average response time to handle a customer service request
  • 20 percent of companies answered their questions in the first reply
  • 62 percent of companies didn’t respond to a customer service request
  • 90 percent didn’t acknowledge an email had been received
  • 97 percent of companies didn’t follow-up with customers

Beyond simply sounding bad, that type of customer service response can also affect how customers view a company — and here’s why.

Service is on the front line

When your customers have an issue or concern, they aren’t turning to the company owner or other executives. Their main communication is with the customer service team, so those employees are really the face of the company. Since that team is often the main (or only) connection between your company and the customer, it’s no wonder they help shape your customer’s view of the business. Will they have a good experience with a service rep who listens to their concerns, answers their questions fully, offers a solution and follows up with them? Or, will they talk with someone who doesn’t exhibit the company’s values and negatively impacts their thoughts of the business?

The answer to those questions is important to consumers: 70 percent of buying experiences are based on the way the customer feels they are being treated. That makes it pretty clear they value those service experiences — not just your products or prices. Think about Publix and Walmart. Publix probably isn’t going to beat Walmart on price or maybe even selection. But this grocery store isn’t struggling, and that’s in part because of the high level of service they’re known for. People shop at Publix because they want to avoid the craziness of the other big-box store and also receive one-on-one attention if they need it.

“Customer service is part of a holistic customer experience that is capable of providing a critical competitive advantage in today’s increasingly cluttered and commoditized marketplace.” — Joseph Jaffe, founder of Evol8tion

Don’t think of customer service as simply a required part of any business. Take a proactive approach with your service to set yourself apart from the competition. It can easily become part of your branding strategy, like how all Chick-fil-A employees are known for saying, “My pleasure,” after helping a customer. That’s a perfect example of how marketing and customer service can come together for a win.

Bad outweighs the good

You might write off one bad customer service interaction, but know your customer isn’t doing the same — and it’s not just their view of the company that can be tainted. For every negative experience your customer has with your business, it takes 12 positive ones to make up for it, according to Ruby Newell-Legner’s “Understanding Customers.” Most companies aren’t going to have a dozen interactions with customers to make up for the occurrence, so any bad experience is going to leave a lasting impression on the consumer.

How your service team treats the customer doesn’t just impact what they think of your company, but it also affects if they continue doing business with you. In 2017, 61 percent of respondents 18 to 34 years old stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service — up from 53 percent in 2016, according to an Aspect Software survey.

Why customer service matters

Beyond influencing how your customers view your company, your level of customer service will also affect your bottom line. An estimated $62 billion is lost by U.S. businesses every year due to bad customer experiences. And in a world where online reviews rule, one customers bad experience will be out there for there for everyone to see. Your company can’t afford to let your customer service efforts fall behind. How they view and think about your business impacts everything from their purchasing habits and loyalty to whether they leave you for a competitor — and a major part of controlling that is with your customer service.

While we’ve covered several of the negative effects poor customer service can have on your business, there are even more benefits to wowing your customers with the level of service your company provides. You can boost your retention rate, customer loyalty, trust, revenue, customer advocacy, brand awareness and even improve employee morale. So whether your team uses chatbots, social media channels, email or the phone to communicate with customers, make sure every interaction is a good one. Or, it will be more than just the customer’s viewpoint that’s affected.

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Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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