With technology continuing to advance at a rapid clip, the demands on business to evolve are increasing just as fast. Core aspects of your business such as customer service are being pressured to evolve in several ways. By making these 6 enhancements, you can advance your ability to deliver quality customer service the way your customers are increasingly demanding it from you.
1. Embrace technology
By far the single most important thing any business can do in order to improve their customer service department is invest in technologies that facilitate a better relationship with their customers. For example, a restaurant or cafe would do well to replace a classic point of sale system with a mobile iPad POS that allows servers a much greater flexibility in assisting their clients. Hotels may also wish to invest in tracking software that can help staff members perform their jobs more efficiently. And B2B companies are beginning to leverage artificial intelligence in their sales and marketing efforts.
Today’s enterprise relies on software in order to provide its services in a timely and efficient manner. Keep in mind that investing in technology should not override the human element. At the end of the day, research has shown that 57% of people will generally feel more comfortable interacting with another person than they would with an emotionless robot.
2. Emphasize personal connection
Speaking of human interaction, establishing a strong personal connection has always been one of the pillars of good customer service. For this reason, take steps to ensure that you only employ people who genuinely enjoy interacting with those around them and help foster a culture of transparency and directness in the process.
After all, as famed investment guru Warren Buffett once said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.“
To that end, studies have shown that honesty and a lack of pretension are the ways to a customer’s heart, even in situations where the company itself might look bad, so refrain from engaging in soulless corporate talk and try to keep things on the level whenever possible.
3. Improve service times
Customers are typically not known for their patience, a trait that has only been magnified by our contemporary culture’s inclination towards speed and efficiency in all areas of life. In order to get on their good side, it is essential that you provide your goods or services in a reasonable time frame. This, of course, means different things to different people.
But it’s a fact that people like to hear from their companies quickly. With that in mind, the UserVoice help desk has analyzed thousands of customer tickets and identified that people most appreciated getting fast answers (15%) and solving their issues after just one interaction with customer support (46%).
In order to shorten waiting periods, one must seek to automate internal procedures as much as possible, and always be on the lookout for new ways expedite service times. When delays do occur, offer your customers some form of compensation, be it in the form of an extra product, a discount voucher or some other kind of bonus that’ll have the effect of endearing him to your company.
4. Achieve better integration with social media
The coveted 18-49 demographic now mostly resides on the Internet, and there is no better way to win over their hearts than by understanding how to communicate through social media. An estimated 9 in 10 companies in the US alone are already on social media, but precious few truly maximize their opportunities in this area.
Invariably, this means having a good grasp of who your customers are, where they hang out and what attracts them to a particular place. It also requires understanding how you appeal to customers on a large scale, and following the time-honored do’s and don’ts of social media management.
No matter its size and scope, a company should stay consistent in its identity yet still be brave enough to stand out from the crowd. A brand tie-in that manages to tap into the cultural zeitgeist can go a long way, as can a few timely and well-managed social media campaigns.
5. Focus on innovation
Like all areas of business, customer service will only evolve if companies and entrepreneurs have room and incentive to innovate. Luckily, in today’s hyper-competitive climate, innovation is pretty much a necessity for staying afloat. Whether it’s Amazon’s patent for underwater storage or Tesla allowing customers to communicate with company executives directly, using high-risk, high-reward tactics are a must in the contemporary landscape.
Take an objective look at your business. Where can you improve? What do you need to do to get ahead of the curve? Whether you’ve got a good idea or are at a loss for ideas, do some market research and determine where you sit on the playing field. The use of Big Data has also become a key driver of innovation these days, as it involves aggregating large amounts of information and helps companies better understand their customers on a macro level.
6. Keep your customers close, and your employees even closer
In their quest to keep customers happy, employers often neglect the needs and expectations of their own employees. However, multiple studies have confirmed what every customer support representative already knows: that happy employees do indeed make happy customers.
So take steps to achieve office harmony first, and be willing to listen to employee suggestions and recommendations if you truly want them to go above and beyond. Many companies these days have also taken steps to involve their employees by offering them financial and non-financial incentives for a job well done. After all, it’s them who will spend most of their time interacting with customers directly.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.