Thanks to Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, for her recent article in the June 2013 edition of Customer Relationship Magazine (unable to find article online for link).

Here are my thoughts on her seven steps.

There’s plenty of research showing that companies that provide outstanding customer service perform better financially than those companies that do not.

In addition, customers are willing to pay more for great customer service, they buy more, they buy more frequently and they tell their friends directly, and via social media, about companies that provide outstanding customer service.

Here are seven ways to improve customer service at your B2C or B2B firm:

  1. Understand your customers. Have a dialogue with them to understand their needs and wants. Ask what their expectations are with regards to service. What constitutes an outstanding customer experience? What can you or your company do to differentiate your firm from competitors with regards to service?
  2. Avoid communication silos. Everyone in your firm needs to have, or have access to, a 360-degree view of the customer. While many companies have a number of disintegrated legacy systems in place, all companies need to be moving towards a fully integrated CRM that every member of the company can access and edit. Ritz Carlton does a great job of knowing who their customers are across 70 properties in 23 countries.
  3. Empower employees. Is your firm committed to providing an outstanding customer experience? Do your employees know this? Do they know what it means? Your customer-facing employees have a better idea of what your customers want and need than you do – empower them to provide it. Recognize those employees who do provide an outstanding customer experience. These are the people you want to keep on your team and who will ensure the success of your business.
  4. Focus on the agent experience. Ensure customer-facing employees have all of the tools they need to provide an outstanding customer experience or to address a dissatisfied customer. A customer whose complaint is addressed and rectified is more likely to be a long-term customer than one who never complains.
  5. Pay attention to your knowledge strategy. Document every customer question and the appropriate answer to the question. Make sure all of your employees have access to this information. Provide an online FAQ since customers are becoming more adept at searching for solutions online. Write blog posts with answers to customer questions to improve your SEO and build trust and credibility.
  6. Harness your customer community. Establish a peer-to-peer community whereby your customers can share suggestions, ideas, solutions with one another, as well as answer questions. This community can be your company’s lifesaver if you ever have some unjustified negative social media comments.
  7. Listen to your customers. Obtain customer feedback on an ongoing basis. I recommend a three question Net Promoter Score survey whereby you ask: 1) On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being extremely likely) how likely are you to recommend our product or service to your family, friends or colleagues?; 2) Why did you give us that score?; 3) What can we do to earn a 10? Thank all respondents for participating. Ask “promoters,” those that gave you a 9 or 10, for testimonials and referrals. Follow-up with “detractors,” those that gave you a 6 or lower, to determine what went wrong and what you can do to address it.

Given that customer service has a strong positive correlation with profitability and ROI, spend more on keeping your current customers happy than you spend getting new customers.

Happy current customers will attract new customers for you via referrals and word of mouth.

Tom Smith

Experienced marketing professional who has worked with more than 120 clients in 18 different vertical industries. ♦ Differentiate products and services by improving UX and delivering memorable CX to create an emotional connection to the brand. ♦ Obtain insights from analytics to solve business problems and drive revenue. ♦ Develop and implement marketing campaigns that double traffic and leads in three months. ♦ Certified Marketing Automation Professional ♦ Certified Voice of the Customer (VOC) Professional