Sometimes, it seems that companies focus exclusively on the first half of this equation. Sales to new customers are exciting, and resources are appropriately targeted to land new customers. Look at the continual offers coming from TV service and internet providers.
But the second half is just as critical. In fact, for organic growth, it’s even more so. In The Economics of E-Loyalty, Bain & Company reports that a 5% improvement in customer loyalty leads to a growth in profitability of 25-90%.
Clearly, customer loyalty is critical, and service is central to building it. However, Forrester Research, Inc. reports that only 48% of companies say they have any kind of customer service strategy (The State of Customer Experience, 2015). If over half of companies have no strategy for serving their customers, what does this mean for the customers themselves?
Well, it means that customers’ problems aren’t being solved. When customers’ needs aren’t met, they are ready and willing to walk away from a company—according to The Cost of Poor Customer Experience, 71% end their relationship with a company after a poor customer service experience, with 61% going to a competitor. In addition, even for companies that have customer service strategies, Forrester reports in their North American Technographics Customer Experience Survey that half of customers say that the customer service agent they interacted with didn’t solve their problem.
So, what’s to be done? Even if some easy solutions come to mind, there is no guarantee they will be effective. What you see as exemplary customer service often isn’t what your customers see: while 80% of companies think they offer exemplary customer service, only 8% of customers agree (Closing the Delivery Gap). While focusing on things like improving manual processes—redistributing how many agent are on phones verses chat or email, for example—can seem like simple ways to better serve your customers’ needs, in reality, every minute spent monitoring or initiating manual processes is a minute not spent on your customers themselves.
So, how do you go about creating a customer service strategy to ensure that you keep your customers loyal? Start by better understanding exactly what your customers need. Then look internally at how well you’re addressing those issues today in order to prioritize improvements.
To truly implement an effective customer service strategy, it’s essential to first deeply understand your customers and their current customer service journey. Create a customer journey map to discover the causes of your customer’s pain—the points where they find difficulties accomplishing their goals—is an invaluable guide to find out you can improve your customer service.
To make a lasting impact, however, it’s necessary to not just look outward at the customers themselves but also inward, at your customer service agents. Make a journey map that also highlights their pain points, because this will give you insights into ways to eliminate the manual processes that may be impacting your agents. Combine these two journey maps to better understand both components of a successful customer interaction. Your customer service agents are the face of your company, with the most personal interaction with your customers. Find ways to remove those processes that your journey maps show interfere with their ability to serve your customers.
Once you’ve identified the key moments of truth in your customer and employee journeys, you’ll almost certainly need to redesign your processes to streamline how your agents serve your customers. Here, automation can be your friend. If you discover that customers are currently suffering from long wait times at unpredictable times, look to solutions that automate your staff allocation in real-time. If you instead discover that customers are receiving incorrect or incomplete information, develop ways to integrate training into the workday without taking your agents out for a week.
Peter Drucker had it right. You are in business not only to create customers, but also to keep them. By understanding both your customer and employee journeys, you can best target your interventions. And that’s one of your best ways to improve your bottom line.