Content Updated: January 1st 2019
Back in 2014, small business author Jim Blasingame wrote a now-famous book called The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance. The book knocked the socks off many business owners who were used to delivering customer service in a status-quo fashion—maybe failing to pay attention to online reviews, thinking reputation would carry their companies through hard periods, and so on.
The book was a wake up call, and since then everything has changed. The Age of the Customer no longer only refers to Blasingame’s book. We are—as many news outlets, pundits, analysts, business experts and academics will agree—truly living in an age like business has never seen.
Customers today have a special kind of power, largely thanks to the Internet. Brand loyalty is a thing of the past (unless your customer experience is top notch). Instead, customers are quick to switch brands on a dime, and are often swayed by online reviews. In fact, most customers only pursue products or services after exhaustively researching online, making it all the more important for companies to deliver best-in-class experiences.
Think for a moment about your own tendencies as a consumer. Would you even consider a company that had a slew of bad reviews?
The good news for businesses of all sizes is that customer service can be learned and improved upon. If you own a company and know you could do with a customer experience boost in 2018, here are a few strategies that may help:
Focus on hiring. Creating a hiring strategy that aligns with your company’s values and really takes the time to find the right candidates can be a game changer for customer service. While skills can be taught, attitude often can not, so look for candidates that exhibit positive attitudes in the interview process, ask them detailed questions about how they would deal with customer service issues, and trust your gut. Don’t hire in haste. Take your time to find the right people. Doing so will pay off in spades.
Secret shop your business. One of the most effective ways to see the holes in your customer experience strategy is to be a customer. Own a retail store? Walk in and go on a shopping spree. Ask workers tons of questions. Try to return something and see what happens. (Note: If you have too high a profile—say, the founder of the company—ask one of your colleagues to do this and have him/her report back.)
The same goes if you own/run a virtual company, a call center, and the list goes on. Don’t only do this one time; schedule it in your calendar and secret shop on a quarterly basis to see how the customer experience may change/improve/dissolve.
Measure, measure, measure. The analytics around customer service are just as important to track as the analytics around sales. How many times did a customer call about a specific issue? How quickly was the issue resolved? How often does one customer experience issues? What are the different strategies employed and how do those strategies change over time?
Create a plan around customer experience. Effective, positive customer service is only achieved when there is an infrastructure behind it. Set aside time to write out exactly what you want your company’s customer experience to be, create teams around this effort, and meet regularly to see how the plan is working. The more intention you put behind this topic, the better it will be for your clients.
Give employees autonomy. Some of the most well loved companies (shout out to Nordstrom!) allow employees to make executive customer service decisions. Instead of “going up the chain” to talk with managers, these employees are given a certain amount of autonomy to make things right. And customers appreciate it by writing positive online reviews and telling their friends. All in all, a win win!
What other customer service tips would you add to this list?