How do companies succeed today? That’s a lofty question, and let’s be honest, there’s no set formula or foolproof rulebook of dos and don’ts out there. That’s probably a good thing, right? If all it took was a “cookie cutter” way of doing business to be successful, who would innovate? What would be the point? The drive that makes us all want to become better at our jobs, find new ways to do things, and run better companies, I fear, would be diminished if there were just a downloadable template that showed the way.
So, while it’s a good thing companies navigate toward and define success differently from a market perspective, it’s important to note there are some shared characteristics of those shining stars of business success. I’m talking about companies like FedEx, IBM, Amazon, American Express, and GE—what are they doing to make it work? The answer? They are focused on customer—or creating “a strong customer-centric culture”—and it’s one of the core business strategies of each of these corporate leaders.
Customer Centricity: The Rules of Engagement
In a nutshell, customer service matters to a company’s profitability and sustainability, and there’s plenty of proof out there for that. Another difficult question arises out of that discussion: We know customer service is incredibly important, but how do we do it right? Just this year, Verint Systems (in partnership with research firms Ovum and Opinium) commissioned a report, Customer Centricity: The Rules of Engagement, that gave us some clues. Let’s break down what the report found and what it means for your business.
This large-scale study included more than 18,000 total respondents hailing from nine different countries: Germany, France, Netherlands, Poland, UK, South Africa, USA, Australia and New Zealand. As you probably guessed from the title of this post, the report found customers really wanted was quick, simple and direct service. That said, there’s a lot more meat in there, so let’s take a look at the numbers.
Keep it fast. Speed counts. Consumers (especially highly mobile ones) are very used to getting what they want with as few clicks, audible mutterings, or swipes as possible. If you’re addressing a customer service issue, that fact doesn’t change—you’re just adding the pressure of a potentially disgruntled individual to the mix.
When asked about a recent positive experience they had with a company and what made it better than most, 46 percent of respondents to this survey mentioned speed: Their request was dealt with quickly. The third most popular response, “I felt the person I spoke to was able to make decisions without checking with their manager,” got 29 percent of the vote. Twenty-six percent were just glad they “didn’t have to interrupt my day too much to deal with them.” As you can see, speed and convenience in customer service aren’t extras—they are the customer service.
Keep it simple and direct. Customer service is important, but it’s also critical not to overthink it. Yes, relationship building has its time and place, but sometimes consumers just want answers—like the 81 percent of respondents to this study (See Figure 1). You never know, providing meaningful answers quickly can organically build a relationship born of reliability, which is a pretty good start to landing consumer loyalty over the long term.
Figure 1. Source: eMarketer.com overview of Verint study.
Other Report Highlights
There’s a lot to learn from this research in terms of how we approach the ‘customer’ part of the term ‘customer service.’ Who your customer is says a lot about how you should approach the handling of his/her inquiry or issue.
Think about this as a battle between privacy versus personalization. Ok, not really a battle because there was no knockout winner based on the survey results, but the two definitely squared off. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they liked it “when service is personalized to me and my interests,” while 49 percent were concerned and “suspicious about how my data is used.” That’s pretty close, but here comes the important demographic information: 59 percent of Americans aged 18-34 picked personalization, while a majority of Americans over 35 picked privacy. The takeaway: Maybe personalizing customer service to your 50+ demographic isn’t the best choice, and maybe going overboard with privacy jargon and branding isn’t the best choice if you’re targeting Millennials. Play it smart.
Another key highlight from the report is what exactly customers do after they have a stellar customer service experience. Over 60 percent said they would tell friends and family about the experience, while 38 percent would be willing to write a review. Take a look at Figure 2 to see a breakdown of the positive responses. (If your business has a social media page, this is your opportunity to share away!)
Figure 2. Source: eMarketer.com overview of Verint study.
The question that follows is this: So most will share a good experience, but what do they do if they have a negative experience? Sadly, if you’ve ever been anywhere near a message board or company social media page, you already know the answer to that one, and it isn’t pretty. Ninety-four percent will tell someone, and over half of the respondents to this separate ZenDesk survey said they would share those bad experiences at least five times.
So What Now?
I talked earlier about a customer-centric focus being a “common DNA element” for leaders of major enterprise companies. What do you think makes up your leadership DNA? Really think about that for a second: Do you feel customer service is one of your stronger or weaker points? (We all have both, after all.) Perhaps you feel as though you could improve upon your customer service, not just to avoid negative reviews but to also cultivate and keep new business. If that rings true for you, I have a challenge: Within the next quarter, can you identify two or three actionable steps that will facilitate this improvement? If so, share them with your team and with me. Of course, some of you might feel your business really shines when it comes to customer service. Good for you! Do you follow this “fast, simple, direct” philosophy like we talked about in this post, or is something else working well for you? I’d appreciate your feedback.
This article was originally published on The Marketing Scope.