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Improve Customer Service At Any Organization With These 3 Steps

A man speaks on the phone with a customer service agent.

Perhaps the best way to improve customer service is to not need it at all.

Chris Zane, founder and CEO of Zane’s Cycles, said more than a decade ago: “Customer service starts when the customer experience fails.”

This quote still incredibly relevant today. If you want to stop people from calling customer service, just make the customer experience perfect.

Easier said than done, of course.

But Ragy Thomas, founder and CEO of customer experience management platform Sprinklr, believes it’s possible.

“The best care is when you don’t need care,” Thomas says.

Customer experience (CX) has become the ultimate differentiator in most competitive industries. And customers who are pleased with their experience are more likely to make stay longer, spend more, and recommend a brand to others.

In this post, we’ll explore the three stages of customer care and delve into helpful tips and strategies for each stage. By following these actionable insights, you’ll be able to develop a customer service strategy that’ll help you create the best possible experience for your customers.

The 3 Steps To Improve Customer Service

There are three stages of customer service that every business must implement to achieve the best customer experience. They are: anticipation, engagement, and follow-up.

These three steps provide a roadmap that businesses can use to keep their customers happy. Thomas says that happiness is an often-overlooked metric – one that should be measured in addition to, or even instead of, Net Promoter Score, which measures referability.

Related: The Top 5 Customer Experience Metrics, Ranked

In fact, Sprinklr’s corporate vision is “To enable every organization on the planet to make their customers happy.”

Here are the three steps to improve customer service and why each is important in delivering an exceptional customer experience:

  • Anticipation: This is all about understanding the needs of your customers and meeting them before they ask for it. Anticipation is crucial because it saves customers time and effort, making them feel valued and respected. And reducing customer effort is the #1 indicator of customer loyalty.
  • Engagement: This involves offering top-notch customer service that meets or exceeds customers’ expectations every time. Exceptional customer service fosters trust and loyalty, setting a strong foundation for a long-term relationship between the customer and the brand. It’s also a key moment of truth in the customer journey: Will the company be there for me when I need it the most?
  • Follow-up: The final stage is about closing the feedback loop once a customer’s issue is resolved. Following up with customers shows that the company cares even after the sale or service experience, improving the chances of repeat business.

Implementing the First Step: Anticipation

Pavitar Singh, Sprinklr’s Chief Technology Officer, asked two insightful yet seemingly rhetorical questions at Sprinklr Source ’23 in Dubai:

  • Why if a call gets disconnected does a customer have to call back and repeat everything?
  • Why does one customer service channel not have interaction history from other channels?

The answer to both questions is lack of anticipation.

Do you ever wonder why, when a customer service call gets disconnected, the company almost never calls the customer back? They’ve got the customer’s phone number, and it’s not hard to surmise that the customer wants to complete the call.

And why do customer service agents on the phone have no idea that a customer has already been tweeting with the social customer care team?

Anticipation is about understanding and pre-empting customers’ needs, making their experience effortless and smooth.

As Singh puts it, “The best customer experience is when you are able to solve the issue or communicate proactively with the customer.”

In other words, when customer care doesn’t become necessary because the problem is solved before it becomes a problem.

How To Better Anticipate Customers’ Needs

Sprinklr suggests three steps for turning this into a reality:

  • Listen to the Voice of the Customer: Gather real-time, actionable insights by listening to all channels to identify emerging trends and issues early on.
  • Introduce Proactive Communication: Proactively reach out to customers with real-time updates via outbound campaigns.
  • Leverage Contact Center Insights: Discover recurring customer issues by analyzing contact engagements and looking for themes or trends.

Anticipating customer needs allows companies to offer tailored solutions, even before the customer has explicitly asked for it.

To better anticipate your customers’ needs:

  • Collect relevant data. This doesn’t necessarily mean collect more data; instead, it means collect the right Companies that really know their customers and understand their preferences can tailor communications and services and offer a more personalized experience. If you’re not going to use the data, don’t collect it. (Related: Why You Should Wish Your Customers A Happy Birthday)
  • Offer self-service options. Offering a user-friendly website, searchable knowledge base, and an intuitive mobile app allows customers to find answers independently without needing to contact the brand. Singh describes this as “the second-best customer experience” – behind not needing care at all; “when customers can help themselves.” Artificial intelligence can play a role, but be sure to make it easy to contact a human being if the AI can’t quickly solve the issue.

Delivering the Second Step: Engagement

Sometimes we can’t anticipate a customer’s needs, or the customer experience fails to meet expectations. It is at this point that we need to engage with the customer, or what Sprinklr refers to as “Agent Assist” – “when agents are empowered to solve the issue in first interaction.”

Customer service is more than simply being friendly; customers want their issues resolved quickly and efficiently so they can move on with their lives. Remember, customers don’t want to be calling Customer Service any more than the company wants the additional interaction.

Keys to better engagement and remarkable customer service include:

  • Being Responsive: Respond promptly to all customer engagements across all channels – including compliments, questions, and complaints. Don’t be afraid of customer complaints! Customers complain because they care; they actually want you to resolve their issue so they can keep doing business with you.
  • Constantly communicating: It is almost always better to over-communicate vs. under-communicate, especially when there is a problem. How companies communicate matters a great deal in the overall customer experience.
  • Empathizing: Show customers that you understand their issues or problems, demonstrate genuine and appropriate concern, and assure them that you are committed to finding a resolution.
  • Going the extra mile: Provide value-added service by offering practical solutions or additional resources that customers may find beneficial.

Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to gain or lose loyalty, which is why it is critical to constantly be seeking to improve customer service.

Fulfilling the Third Step: Follow-up

The final stage of care involves following up with customers after a customer service interaction to ensure satisfaction and encourage repeat business.

Following up with customers shows them that the brand values their business and is committed to meeting their needs – and keeping them happy. It’s also an opportunity to gather critical customer feedback to make necessary improvements for future interactions.

Ideas for follow-ups include:

Send a personalized thank-you card: A handwritten note goes a long way with customers, and it isn’t as difficult to scale as you might thing. I recommend a service such as Punkpost or Handwrytten. (Watch: Interview with Punkpost Founder/CEO Lex Monson)

– Request feedback: Whether it’s a brief survey, or a one-on-one phone call, ask your customers for feedback and you’ll get it. Learn what you’re doing right – so you can do more of it – and what parts of the service experience need improvement.

Offer post-service support: Provide information or resources that may add value to the customer’s purchase or service, such as tips or best practices. (Sound familiar? This goes back to the first stage, anticipating needs for next time.)

Close the loop: Make sure the root problem that caused the service interaction is addressed so other customers don’t experience the same thing. And if a customer makes a suggestion that the company ends up implementing, be sure to follow up – even if it’s months or years later – to let them know their input was valued.

Bringing It All Together: How To Improve Customer Service

To achieve the best possible customer experience, businesses must apply an integrated approach that includes all three stages of service. They are:

Anticipation: Understand and pre-empt customers’ needs and preferences.

Engagement: Deliver exceptional customer service that meets or exceeds customers’ expectations.

Follow-up: Follow-up with customers to ensure satisfaction and close the loop.

While it’s true that “customer service starts when the customer experience fails,” it is also true that when needed, customer service – and its success or failure – is a critical part of the overall experience.

Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash. Additional resource: Winning At Social Customer Care by Dan Gingiss.

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