7 Important Customer Service Skills for Businesses
In the last post, we talked about how poor customer service can be devastating to your customer base. In my examples of the bike shops I dealt with over the past couple of weeks, I forgot one. This bike shop advertised used bikes and my husband was a bit like a dog with a bone when it came to buying a used bike – it would cost less, he said; I might lose interest in biking if I found out it’s not the most fun I’d ever have exercising, he reasoned. Why spend money on a new bike that would get no use?… Yada, yada, yada. Good points all, and while a used bike seemed like a possibly viable option, I went to the store to check out the used bikes mainly just to keep him happy.
So I went to the store and told the man behind the counter that I was interested in a used bike. “We don’t carry many used bikes,” he boomed. “94 percent of our business is new bikes.” Then he graciously (not) offered to show me the used bikes they had, dismissing each one in turn: “This one’s too small; that one’s too big. That one’s a mountain bike,” and so on. It was like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, and I assumed he’d proclaim one of his new models as the only one that was just right. I was wrong. He didn’t offer to show me alternatives at all, nor did he offer anything in the way of useful information. That ended the used bike option for me. #NoSale
No wonder only 6 percent of the store’s sales are used bikes; those were the people who didn’t simply walk away. Who knows how many sales that store would have had if they actually wanted to sell what they were advertising. (The less charitable might refer to the whole thing as a bait and switch.)
Here’s the thing: When customers (or potential customers) are unhappy with you, they don’t always let you know it. Many don’t complain – they simply leave and don’t come back. Or they head straight for your competitor.
Why Customer Service Matters
The economics of poor customer service are eye-opening: 44% of U.S. consumers have taken their business to another company because of poor customer service, costing those companies an estimated $41 billion each year.
I have never understood why a business wouldn’t actively nurture a potential customer, whether in-person or online. After all, when you hook a fish, you don’t cut the line before landing it, do you?
When it comes to existing customers, consider this: Every time you lose a customer, you have to find another one. Not only is this exhausting, it’s costly. Do you have any idea what the cost of a new customer is? Well, did you know that it costs more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one? One commonly quoted statistic is that it costs 7 times more, but estimates vary. Depending on your industry, it can cost anywhere between 4 and 10 times more to get a new customer than it does to keep one you already have.
Again, with the fish analogy: Assuming you’re not a catch-and-release kind of fisherman, why would you land a fish and then just throw it back in?
Customer service is critical to a business’s success, but what, exactly, comprises good customer service? A lot of it seems pretty intuitive, but it’s pretty clear that a lot of businesses just don’t get it.
There’s clearly a disconnect: While 80% of business think they deliver superior customer service; only 8% of customers think businesses deliver superior customer service. That’s a pretty interesting little statistic.
Which would explain why one-third of consumers say they’d “rather clean a toilet” than speak with customer service.
So, if you want to get customers – and keep them – here are a few important customer service skills your company should use, online, offline, on the phone, or in a brick-and-mortar store; B2B, B2C, or B2G:
If most of your customers want pink pajamas, why would you try to sell them blue pajamas? Your marketing should accurately represent what you offer so that when like-minded customers find you, they find what was advertised. If you advertise pink pajamas, you damn well better carry pink pajamas. Remember the used bikes? Don’t advertise that you carry used bikes if you don’t really want to sell used bikes. When a customer interested in a used bike stops by and gets the response I got, they are likely to leave and not come back.
Give a little bit
The little things count: Offer coffee or water, have a comfortable waiting space, or give a frequent customer a discount. It doesn’t really matter what you do, but by doing a little bit more than you have to you’ll leave a good impression. By going the extra mile, you’re telling customers that their experience matters to you. Companies that prioritize customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors. For reals.
Own up to your mistakes
Everyone makes them. It’s best just to own up to it and apologize. Customers are far more likely to be forgiving of mistakes if you take time to remedy them and do it in a friendly and positive way. Admit the mistake; explain what happened; and fix it. Don’t play the blame game; resolve the issue and move on.
Think beyond today
Think of your customers as Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now. Your goal should be to get customers for life. Why? According to Gartner Group, a 5% boost in customer retention can increase business profits by 25% – 125%. Eighty percent of your future profits will come from 20% of your existing customers. And existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more than new customers.
Respond quickly on social media
In a survey by The Social Habit, 32% of social media users who contact a brand expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. BUT, one-third of consumers who contact a brand on social media never get a response. That’s pretty unbelievable. If you care so little about your customers, how can you expect them to care enough to do business with you?
Make things easy
A 2007 survey by the Customer Contact Council found that the single most important factor in increasing customer loyalty is reducing the amount of work the customer has to do to get a problem solved. So make it easy for them. Do as much as you can to minimize the pain and your customers will respond with loyalty.
The biggest reason customers leave a brand is due because of rude and rushed service. Being nice should be a no-brainer: it’s the Golden Rule. We all have bad days and problems at home; headaches, stress and worry. But when you’re in the business of selling something – products, services, whatever – the customer should be the center of your universe. After all, without them, you’d have no business. Without you, they’d be somebody else’s customer.