Customer Experience News & Trends

6 low-cost ways to improve customer service

With just a few tweaks you can turn average customer service into exceptional experiences — which is exactly what customers are waiting for.

Almost 85% of customers say no one exceeded their expectations the last time they dealt with a company, a Harvard Business Review study found.

The shame of it is, it doesn’t take deep pockets or banks of resources to wow customers.

“No one raves about average,” says Bill Quiseng, resort manager at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club and a customer service expert, speaker and blogger.

And if they aren’t raving, they very well could be complaining on social media about experiences that didn’t meet their expectations. That’s why companies want to take regular strides to improve service.

The good news: You can do it at little or no-cost.

Here are six ways:

1. Start a CSI team

Get a representative from each department to form a Customer Satisfaction Investigation (CSI) team and meet weekly to look at customer feedback, suggests Quiseng. The wide range of perspectives will help you identify unique solutions, too.

It can review negative customer experiences — whether you learn about them from formal or informal feedback — to identify root causes and what can be done to avoid them.

2. Send reminders

You don’t have to spend a ton of money for on-going training if you make customer service training a daily habit.

For instance, reinforce your customer-centric message with a daily tip or story via email. Explain what went well and how all employees can incorporate the tactics.

3. Cover the bigger picture

While many companies want front-line employees to get supervisor approval before they grant a customer’s out-of-the-ordinary request, we know one company that does the opposite: Front-line employees must get permission to tell a customer no.

The secret behind that kind of policy is training and empowerment. The firm believes — and has proven — that if it trains and trusts its employees well enough, they will make the right decisions for customers and the company. Most often, they find solutions that work, rather than say no, because their training included knowledge on customer acquisition and retention costs, customer lifetime value and product value.

In other words, the employees know that it takes more to gain a new customer than keep a loyal one happy.

4. Pay close attention

There are signs that customers will complain before they actually do it — or worse, walk away without ever complaining. Pay attention to subtle signs and acknowledge something may be wrong. Then you can make customer experiences better.

For instance, in a restaurant setting, a waiter might ask if everything came out OK if a diner barely touches her food. It gives her the opportunity to explain it wasn’t what she expected, and the waiter can save a customer by bringing a new dish or taking it off the bill. That’s more inexpensive than losing the customer, who might also turn off other customers by talking about a bad experience.

Other signs something could be wrong, and you want to address it, include a response of, “fine,” to questions about how a product or service worked out.

5. Make it easy to stay

Customers will stay when it’s easy to do business. And you can make it easier with little more than calendar alerts. Depending on your product-use or service cycle, note on one order when the next one should likely be made. Instead of blasting all customers with a promotion or notification, send personal messages when customers are due for a new supply or appointment.

When customers order on their own, ask if they want what they normally request so they don’t have to go through the whole process again. And once they fill out your housekeeping data (name, address, credit card number, etc.) early in the relationship, don’t make them have to do it ever again.

6. Make it easy to leave

Some relationships don’t work out. You aren’t the right supplier for a certain customer. A customer isn’t the right fit for your business. It’s OK, as long as you make it easy to break up.

Some industries make it difficult for customers to end contracts — for instance, requiring them to pay fees, personally hand in equipment or wait in a queue to talk to someone. That only gives a worse impression of customer service.

Even if most customers never decide to part ways, knowing it’s easy and acceptable makes your service better.

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