customer service experience improvement plan importance

Are you Underestimating the Importance of a Customer Service Experience Improvement Plan?

If you’re looking to improve your customer experience in 2017, you’re not alone. In fact, in the 2017 Digital Trends Survey, completed by Adobe and eConsultancy, CX ranked as the highest priority for 63% of marketers.

But why is CX so important? In the past, elements such as data driven marketing, mobile optimization, personalization or even cross-channel marketing have taken the spotlight. Yet now, according to Brooke Boyarsky from McKinsey&co “Almost every successful company recognizes that it is in the customer-experience business.” Improving your CX leads to satisfied customers, which in turn reduces churn, saves money and increases profits.

customer service experience

Delighting Customers and Empowering Employees

If you look at companies who excel in CX, they will usually have a couple of things in common. Firstly, they focus on delighting their customers. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos agrees, “Even when they don’t know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight your customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

Creating a second-to-none experience for your customers means that there is no alternative for them but you. If they understand your brand, enjoy your customer service, and find your services or products useful, why would they look elsewhere?

The second element which successful businesses have in common is the way in which they treat their employees. According to Forbes, millennials aren’t simply ‘job hopping’, they are opportunity hopping. They are “reacting to a very rich and lucrative job market. The offers are coming fast and furiously” so businesses need to be doing more to encourage them to stick around.

Sephora are one example of a company which takes this to heart. Rather than place employees in small scope roles which will easily become monotonous, they have a culture where innovation is valued extremely strongly.

Sales associates in store cross-sell products across brands, which is unusual for a cosmetics company. CEO Calvin McDonald believes this is a company-wide policy where all staff are empowered to be disruptive and make a difference. “Everybody owns innovation at Sephora”, he told Glassdoor.

Using these Goals to Realize Customer Service Experience Improvement

The reality of encouraging these two strategies to work in cohesion with one another is about more than simply making them your bottom line, or keeping them in mind when you serve customers or hire staff. CX is so much more than customer service.

Providing a good customer service is definitely a part of CX. The first time a customer encounters your business, it might well be with a customer service representative, either on the phone, on your website, or in person. How that interaction goes might be their first impression, and what makes the difference between them making a purchase, or moving on to a competitor. But that’s not CX in and of itself.

Take a simple transaction like ordering a pizza on the phone. How the customer is treated by the employee who takes the order? That’s customer service. But when the delivery guy beats the 30 minute delivery time by 50%, and includes a voucher for free fries with the next order, that’s customer experience.

Take a look at the elements below from Adobe, that businesses want to focus on as customer experience goals for 2017. Consistency, speed, fun, reliability and value. These are just some of the areas which need enhancement to make a real difference to customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customer experience improvement plan

True CX arrives as a result of an overall business vision, one which synchronizes your channels, complements a unique business brand, and provides ultimate customer satisfaction.

How Do I Create a Customer Service Improvement Plan?

It’s clear that having a clear and consistent business vision for your CX is essential if you want to succeed in almost any industry today. But what are the key factors which businesses should focus on when molding their CX strategy? Here are six of the top elements to keep front and center, all of which bring together the importance of customer experience and can help you create the ultimate customer experience improvement strategy.

What Does Customer Experience Improvement Have to Do with My Brand Experience?

Any effort to create a customer experience improvement strategy has to keep true to your core brand. Your brand experience is the way that your customer sees you, on every channel, and in each interaction.

Think about a company like Google. They have seven core products which each boast over a billion users. But more than this, they have a strong brand identity throughout. When we use Gmail, or Google maps, we recognize the style, the logo, the interface, as part and parcel of the first time we encountered the company. This is more than likely through Google Search, which has a fantastic reputation and a 77% global market share. Using a Google product feels easy, it carries a consistent message throughout, whether we are checking Gmail on our desktop computer, using a Google map to navigate on the road, trying out a new Android mobile phone, or even finding our favorite track using Google Play.

This is so true, that even if a product or an experience disappoints us from the hands of a popular brand, it doesn’t necessarily change our mind overall. Ever heard of Google Helpouts, that popular method of sharing expertise through video streaming? We didn’t think so.

Creating a powerful and recognizable brand has many benefits, but we’ve highlighted some of the most valuable for your business, explaining why creating a strong brand presence should be high on your list of customer experience ‘must-haves’.

  1. Boost the effectiveness of your marketing communication by providing a familiar and well-liked face to your business.
  2. Encourage loyalty from your customers, who will be less likely to be drawn away by the competition. This is especially true if you provide them with a brand to stand by which always provides what they need, alongside excellent customer service.
  3. Gain perception as a market leader in your field, giving yourself better visibility and an immediate boost for new products and services, as well as a reason to charge more for your products. (Think Apple phones and computers)
  4. Elicit customer satisfaction and security with an ease of communication between you and your customers across all channels.

Looking Behind the Scenes

Did you know that a typical business hears from just 4% of its unhappy customers? This means that while you might think that you know what’s bothering your users, you probably don’t.

improve customer service

In fact, using data from over 70,000 customer experience surveys, the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found that managers are not only overestimating customer satisfaction, but also using these incorrect assumptions to make marketing decisions and allocate resources. The authors of the study noted that the CX managers and staff are “likely to miss trouble signs when they appear.”

The answer needs to be front and center of your customer experience improvement plan. And it’s all about the data. A Forrester research report found that “50% of C-suite respondents said their organization uses no consistent measure of their customers’ experience.”

Voice of the Customer analytics are a valuable part of your customer service, offering you a visual overview of the questions your customers are asking, the problems which come up time and time again, and how they are being solved. Insights are gathered on each and every interaction, even if they aren’t being presented as a complaint or a concern.

Effortlessly grouping phrases and similar content, even if the customers have used language which differs from one another, these kind of analytics help you see at a glance both the negative and the positive sentiments your visitors are feeling on your site. Using filters, your CX managers can zero in on the types of engagements you want to work on, whether that’s the concerns which needed rechanneling, the events which took place at certain times of day, or the users who were left unsatisfied.

Virtual Agents

While companies are now fully aware of the importance of creating supreme customer experience, the expectations of the customer are growing at a faster rate than they can keep up with. Two thirds of shoppers expect >a href=https://www.lithium.com/company/news-room/press-releases/2014/lithium-launches-inaugural-customer-expectations-survey>same day replies to a query made online, and 43% want an answer within the hour.

Nearly as important as speed, is personalization. Accenture found that 75% of consumers are more likely to spend if the company knows their name, or uses their past purchasing information.

personalization in customer service improvement

But with customers interacting on all channels, expecting immediate responses and the personal touch too, how can companies possibly measure up?

A powerful and effective tool to manage these problems comes from virtual assistants and chatbots. Not only are they ‘always on’, providing an around the clock face to your business, they answer immediately, and can be provided with personal customer data and background information in the most secure and efficient way possible.

Additionally, chatbots utilize live chat, which is the favored tool for interacting with businesses by 56% of users aged 18-34. When it comes to retail, regardless of age, over 50% of users prefer using live chat to other forms of contact such as telephone.

live chat customers service

The longer a customer spends on your website, the more likely they are to convert. A virtual assistant can be a tool to encourage users to stick around. Sometimes this is done by providing the customer with tailored suggestions for purchase, using order history or known preferences. If you choose a virtual assistant who your customers can chat to via voice or text, they receive answers and support in an incredibly natural and instant way, encouraging them to keep the interaction going.

Today’s virtual assistants have the tools to make every interaction a powerful representation of supreme customer service. Natural language processing and an understanding of context means that your customers can speak just as they would to a human agent, and expect to be understood. They can ask for shoes to match a crimson dress for example, and the chatbot will provide them with any shoes which are red. They can then continue the conversation by asking for ‘heels’, and the bot will know they are referring to the filter they want placed to find the correct style of footwear.

Customer Service Improvement Means More Digital Self Service

This kind of technology is more than just an ‘always on’ solution, although of course that’s a great perk. It simultaneously does what we focused on at the beginning of this article, both delights customers and empowers employees.

When it comes to customers, the power is in the hands of the millennials right now, the main element of the workforce and therefore the ones with the highest earning and spending power. And when it comes to this important age group, almost three out of four prefer to solve a problem on their own, without needing to reach for human support.

In fact, 73% of the consumers who responded to the survey say they expect to be able to handle problems and queries on their own, using the website. If not, they consider this a customer service fail.

Digital self-service is more important than ever, and this includes virtual agents, as well as comprehensive FAQ and other support tools like tutorials, a knowledgebase or a how to video.

Take a company like Build.com. Without digital self-service, they were managing over 130,000 monthly interactions, and failing their customers with an average response time of 9 hours. But they needed a solution which wasn’t a one-time fix. Their products were ever changing, and the information for customers to engage in self-service would not remain static. Their solution allowed for dynamic FAQ which responded to an ever growing knowledgebase of information, from both staff and customers.

But this kind of solution doesn’t just delight customers by giving them the self-service tools they are hungry for. It also takes a massive weight off the customer service representatives, allowing them to focus on more intricate or complex queries. They are no longer overworked and mired down with low-level issues for the majority of the day, as these can be answered in the first instance by both self-service website tools, and chatbots. Your support agents have been given a promotion.

Escalate to Create Relationships with a Robust Knowledge Base

This fits in perfectly with how Experience Strategy: Connecting Customer Experience to Business Strategy believes companies should see business strategy for ultimate CX. They should “use relationships as the foundation for a next-generation customer experience strategy, with touchpoints and journeys remaining practical necessities. The strategy must prioritize experiences that create relevance in the relationship that in the end drives business results.”

Customers want to find the answers themselves, but they also want to know that when something needs the human touch, that’s on offer too. The perfect digital self-service solution allows for seamless escalation on any channel when the need arises, eradicating frustration from your customer and allowing every customer interaction to be a win.

According to a recent Forrester research study, 42% of US service agents can’t help with customer support queries due to archaic UI, disconnected systems and juggling between multiple applications. If this describes your business, you’re setting your agents up for failure before the customer even asks their first question.

Conversely, when your agents have a comprehensive and accurate knowledgebase, updated in real-time and with the unique voice of the customer at their fingertips, they are truly empowered to provide stellar support, no matter how complex the query.

These kinds of communication opportunities build on each other to create CX success stories that inspire loyalty, and encourage customers to share their experiences.

The Importance of Sharing in Customer Experience Improvement

This focus on what your customers want to share, is a vital part of any customer experience improvement strategy. According to Bain and Co “customers who engage with companies over social media are more loyal and they spend 20 percent to 40 percent more with those companies than other customers do.” As a simple bottom line, seen by the figures below, customers who share more, spend more.

As well as this, online communities can answer customer queries for you, share deals and new product information, and even act as brand ambassadors, all without costing you a dime.

importance of customer service improvement

Leaving the social side of things to your customers alone would be a mistake, however. It’s also a great tool for you to use as a business. Not only can you utilize social media to listen to what your customers are saying about you, you can also reach out to them using the channels which they frequent. Your virtual assistants for example, are just as comfortable on Facebook messenger as they are on your own website. While many marketing tools act like megaphones, social media is more like a telephone- a true way to have a two-way conversation with your customers.

In a world where 69% of the public use at least one social media account, you can’t afford to eliminate this important tool from your CX strategy. While the largest group of users is between 18-29, every single age group is seeing massive growth.

Social media customer service

Social media is also one important way to keep your multichannel strategy true to your brand and consistent. Having one centralized knowledgebase helps here, too. Your staff are empowered with the right responses to queries, no matter where they are speaking to your customers. This could be on your website, your mobile app, through social media, or even in-store.

If your self-service is optimized for mobile, this also puts you above the competition, as 91% of small to medium businesses do not offer a mobile friendly experience for their website.

Perhaps more important than the fact that mobile has overtaken desktop browsing, is the amount of multi-platform browsing which takes place globally. Less than 20% of people in the US use either mobile or web browser alone. Rather, the vast majority will switch between the two. If your customer experience plan doesn’t include a strong multichannel strategy, that should move straight to the top of the list.

multichannel customer experience

Pulling Together the Elements of your Customer Service Improvement Strategy

Your customer experience needs to cover far more than simply your interactions with your customers. It’s about how your employees are empowered to communicate with them, and how to create opportunities to delight them at every turn. This starts by what a visitor sees when they arrive on your website, and the way they understand and feel about your brand from the beginning to end of each customer journey.

It continues into your multi-channel strategy, your social media presence, and the speed and personalization which you can provide when a query arises or a customer browses onto your website.

The right technology can provide strong digital self-service for your company, as well as support you in crafting your own unique and consistent brand image. It can collate, manage and update a comprehensive and accurate knowledgebase in real-time across all channels.

Intelligent virtual assistants can complement and support your customer service agents by seamlessly picking up the low level queries in a holistic solution, empowering these employees to create strong relationships with your customers. This will be the backbone of your customer experience. The product itself? That’s up to you.

Yaniv Reznik
Yaniv brings a 25 year track record in international leadership positions. As CPO & SVP Customer Success, he aims to help Nanorep reach its full potential.