How well is your business’s customer service meeting your customers’ expectations? To understand that, you first need to know what your customers’ expectations are. The 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report from Microsoft has some insights.
First, know that customer service is more important than ever. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents say good service is “very important” to whether or not they do business with a company. Six out of 10 have stopped doing business with a company because of poor customer service.
Somewhat surprisingly, younger consumers (age 18 – 34) value customer service even more than older ones do. Among Millennials, 68 percent say customer service is very important, compared to just 55 percent of those aged 55 and up. And 68 percent of younger consumers say their expectations for customer service are higher than they were one year ago.
What exactly are your customer service expectations? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Customers want personalized interactions
Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of customers expect the customer service agent to know their contact information, product information and service history when they contact a company for customer service. In fact, “Not having to repeat myself/get transferred to other agents” is the most important factor of a good customer service experience.
Takeaway: Maintain up-to-date records of all customer interactions with your business. Using cloud-based customer service tools can help make this easier by ensuring that information updates in real-time and that all agents have access to the data.
2. Customers want you to be proactive
Seventy-seven percent of customers have a positive view of businesses that contact them with proactive customer service notifications.
Takeaway: Don’t wait for your customers to contact you with questions or problems. Develop a system for reaching out based on information such as online customer behavior, customer surveys, or knowledge of common problems that customers have with your product or service. If you can provide help before it’s needed, you’ll impress your customers.
3. Customers want help fast
What frustrates respondents most about customer service is not being able to reach a live customer service agent when they need to. Nearly six in 10 respondents (57 percent) aren’t willing to wait more than 5 minutes on hold.
Takeaway: While customers do want to be able to help themselves via online knowledge bases or chat, when push comes to shove, they still count on the live customer service agent to save the day—fast. Cloud-based call center tools can ensure customers never have to wait on hold by routing them quickly to the proper customer service rep.
4. Customers want to be heard
Half of customers in the survey don’t think companies really listen to the feedback they provide about customer service.
Takeaway: Make sure you act on customer feedback—and when you do, let customers know about it. For example, if you add new features to your product or service, promote the changes on your website, social media and in your email marketing, explaining that you’re making these changes based on customer needs. (“You told us X…We listened and now we’re doing Y.”) You can also “listen” to customers using analytics tools that track call interactions and other data.
5. Customers often want to start the service process online
It should be no surprise that younger consumers prefer to go online as the first step in getting customer service. However, even among those aged 55 and up, almost half prefer to go online before making a phone call to customer service. In addition, one-quarter of online customer service inquiries take place on a mobile device.
Takeaway: The majority of customers in all age groups will, at some point, visit your website or use online search to get help with a customer service problem. Creating content that answers common customer service questions (such as FAQs, knowledge bases, tutorials or blog posts) and optimizing it for search with appropriate keywords helps provide answers and boost customer satisfaction.
6. Consumers want multiple options for customer service
The most popular methods of getting customer service are email and telephone support. Following those are online support portals, search engines, live chat and physically visiting your business. However, there are some important age-related differences. One-third of those aged 18 to 34 use social media for customer service, compared to just 4 percent of those aged 55 and up. And 60 percent of Millennials use online chat, compared to 32 percent of those aged 55 and up.
Takeaway: Knowing the average age of your customer base will help you provide customer service in the formats they most desire.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.