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When you think of customer service, what comes to mind? Support tickets? Call centers? Chatbots?

How about setting up charging stations for hurricane evacuees or treating employees the same way you do
customers?

Customer service success today is different. Traditional methods are out; extraordinary experiences are in.

Your customers are scrutinizing their interactions with your company based on experiences they have elsewhere—and their expectations are high. If your service doesn’t meet or exceed customer expectations, you could lose customers to a competitor who does.

AND THIS COMPETITION IS ONLY GOING TO BECOME MORE AGGRESSIVE.

Currently, 75% of organizations have increased their investment in customer experience technology. Continual advances in technology are allowing companies to tailor their customer experience via platforms utilizing machine learning (like Sugar Discover) and explore omnichannel personalization.

The technology is only going to get better. Prospects are going to learn to expect more and more from their customer experience. To stand out in this market, it’s essential to have core, successful customer service strategies. That means now is the time to take a good, hard look at your current customer service strategy and create a plan that helps you stand out in a market full of competitors.

With four essential elements of customer service and real case-in-point examples of stellar customer experience, this guide will equip you with the tools to exceed customer expectations.

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CHAPTER 1

Why Rethink Customer Service?

For decades, customer service was viewed as a cost center. Support staff were frequently perceived as filling roles that, while necessary, didn’t necessarily contribute to the bottom line. Organizations did everything they could to eliminate the cost of customer service—outsourcing to a call center, using technological “solutions” to eliminate headcount, and adding responsibilities to administrative roles or other “support oriented” roles. Instead of being a central pillar of the organization, many companies viewed customer service as a necessary evil.

That was until consumers had enough and left en masse to brands who they felt valued their business.

Now, we are living in a growing economy built on the foundation of customer experiences: An experience economy, which means the way a business chooses to approach customer service can have a big impact on its profits.

Even a moderate improvement to the customer experience has been shown to generate $823 million more for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues.

Companies that fail to deliver a fulfilling customer experience will feel it on their balance sheet.

$1.6 trillion Is lost to customers who switch to competitors because of poor customer service
Source: Accenture

Is your customer service model evolving fast enough to meet the latest expectations?

 

 

CHAPTER 2

Essential Strategies for Customer Service Success

Working to continually improve customer service is one of the best ways to build your brand.
Thankfully, improvements are easy and added easily within your business operations. At SugarCRM, we’ve put together four essential steps to creating customer experiences that
impress and make repeat customers.

1.  INVOLVE THE ENTIRE COMPANY

For years, customer service has been structured as a standalone department separated from the rest of the organization. But if your company is going to meet the demands of the modern customer, this approach will no longer work.

Today’s customers expect support across an entire organization, from chatbots for questions to social media for venting frustrations. Because of this, customer service as a sole entity within your business cannot exist in a vacuum, it must permeate every level of your organization. Incorporating customer service into every aspect of your business will better equip your employees to meet customer needs.

It bears repeating: Customer service must be central to everything in your organization. It’s a critical factor not only for attracting new customers, but keeping your current customers happy. Ingrain customer service into everything your organization does—every engagement, every communication, and every offer.

To embed customer service into your organization, you need to understand how specific departments can contribute to the customer experience.

Involve Marketing
Marketing is one of the primary ways you seek to attract new customers, but did you realize it’s a gateway to customer service too? Tailored messages and content to prospects are just as much customer service as marketing. Customer service is a part of the modern marketing role. Excellent customer service in marketing may look like answering questions on social media, turning customers into fans, or providing stellar content whether someone uses your product or not.

Involve Sales
Sales representatives are hyper-focused on customers, but usually it’s because they want to close a deal. While their main goal should be to close and convert leads into customers, a strong customer service strategy involves building relationships. Sales representatives should not only understand the needs of the customer but also ensure they have the right solution.

Involve Product
Your product team needs to be dialed into customer service as much as other departments. Just because you have a product that customers desire today, doesn’t mean that they are going to want it tomorrow. A product team should learn the pain points of customers with the current offering and use data to anticipate customer needs. As a result, product teams can evolve their product development cycle to meet these needs, making customers feel like they are a valuable part of the process. While indirect, these points are essential offerings of customer service.

Involve Technology
Technology can be an essential part of customer service. If you’re a retailer, that might involve leveraging mobile technology to assist shoppers and keep lines moving quickly. For online or technology companies, it may be a chatbot that quickly answers questions. Each of these instances is directly related to improving customer service. Have a common issue reported through your self-service portal? That’s a sign that it is time to incorporate customer feedback into product development. Your uses of technology in customer service can have a direct impact on product management and allow you to save money in the long run.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to getting every team onboard, the opportunities are endless.  However, they all start in the same place—with the customer.

Identify your customers. Learn your customer needs. Exceed their expectations. Bake those elements into everything you do across your organization—marketing, sales, product, and support. But don’t forget, your organization’s leadership are the leaders of this effort to incorporate customer service into every aspect of the company.

WHAT DOES COMPANY INVOLVEMENT LOOK LIKE?
Ritz-Carlton is the top guest-ranked luxury hotel for the past five years and it’s no wonder with their firm belief in empowering their team. Employees are empowered to spend up to $2,000 to fix or improve a customer’s experience before escalating to a manager. That’s any customer-facing employee at Ritz-Carlton.

Though it’s rare for the full $2,000 to be spent, this policy decreases escalations while increasing customer satisfaction and enables Ritz-Carlton to be more adept at anticipating customer needs.

2. PRIORITIZE LOYAL CUSTOMERS

One area of customer service that can be improved across industries and verticals is making the mistake of reserving your best experiences for prospects and new customers.

Offering exceptional customer service is not only part of lead generation, but it’s an important part of customer management as well. While most companies understand the role customer service plays in reducing churn, far fewer are aware of the enormous impact it can have on repeat sales and recurring revenue. Customer churn rate at a loss of 10% can hurt profit significantly if unchecked. On the other hand, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can cause profits to soar more than 25%.

Customers who report the highest levels of customer service satisfaction spend 140% more than those who report the lowest satisfaction. Among subscription-based businesses, happy customers are 74% more likely to renew than their dissatisfied counterparts. Acquiring a new customer is five to 25 times more expensive than investing in efforts to retain existing ones.

The more you take care of current customers, the more it helps your bottom line. When you build trust and earn loyalty, you decrease customer churn and build brand ambassadors. Brand ambassadors, or loyal customers, are who prospects want to hear from—as a result, satisfied customers can also increase your sales pipeline. From prospects to current customers, approach every interaction as an opportunity to create a customer for life.

QUICK WINS WITH CURRENT CUSTOMERS: BE PROACTIVE!
Use your data to learn to anticipate what customer pain points are. If you don’t have the data (yet), ask customers what issues they are facing. Rank the list, build those issues into product sprints, and show customers that you listened to them. Organizations that excel at customer service have learned to anticipate expectations and fulfill needs.

3. REDUCE YOUR CUSTOMER EFFORT SCORE (CES)

It’s not just what you do to impress customers, but also how you own up to mistakes that has an impact on retention. Hence why it’s important to track your customer effort score (CES). This metric measures how much effort a customer must expend to have an issue resolved, a request fulfilled, or a question answered. If you’re not already analyzing it, now’s the time to start.

In one study of 75,000 customer service interactions, researchers found CES to be a bigger predictor of loyalty than other approaches focused primarily on “surprising and delighting” customers. In fact, 70% of formerly dissatisfied customers whose problems are resolved by customer service representatives are willing to shop with the brand again. CES directly impacts your business and relates to customer retention and involves the entire company.

If you’re not measuring this important metric, you don’t know the full story or your customers. Despite its tremendous impact on customer loyalty, many companies have yet to prioritize issues related to customer effort. An estimated 40% of customers still want service representatives to take care of their needs faster.

Lowering your CES score is a competitive advantage in the era of experiences. This singular metric can give you insight to improve service and keep churn rates low.

What can companies do to lower their customer effort scores? Here is some research on some of the preferred customer service methods:

Social Media
The number of customers who reported reaching out to brands via social media more than doubled within the past five years. Research shows that customers were far more likely to prefer a brand when the company engaged with them via social media.

Self-Service Portals
Today’s customers tend to turn first to self-service channels. It’s estimated that 71% of consumers prefer self-service.

Live Support Agents
For 70% of customers, interacting with a pleasant representative is key to a positive customer
service experience. Empowering your customer-facing employees is key to increasing customer
satisfaction and loyalty.

The key is to identify where, when, and how your customers are communicating with your organization to develop an effective service plan.

4. EMPOWER EMPLOYEES

This last strategy is a fundamental approach of customer service but it’s also one of the most difficult to get right: Take care of your employees so they will want to care for your customers.

At a basic level, it means equipping all frontline employees with the tools, technology, and resources that they need to put the customer first. It sounds simple, but most organizations still struggle to set employees up for success. There is a direct correlation between employee engagement and company profit.

Businesses that do manage to increase employee engagement aren’t only making work more inspiring. They’re motivating staff to care for customers. Companies with high and sustainable levels of engagement have operating margins up to three times higher than their low-level counterparts. However, with only 22% of the workforce actively engaged, it’s up to you to provide employees with the tools for success. Enabling is hand in hand with employee empowerment.

When you invest in your people, they invest in your customers.

What does an empowered workforce look like?
Empowerment comes from enablement. Creating an empowered culture starts from the top down. One of the top reasons employees aren’t engaged is the lack of faith in leadership, 70% of those employees aren’t engaged and if it’s their direct manager, that number increases to 80%.

A prime example of how leadership is creating an empowered culture is Google. Do you race to the Google homepage on a holiday to see what they’re showcasing? Whether as an individual or business, Google impacts your daily life. The innovation at Google is nurtured as part of an empowered culture. Every trick, hack, or oddity you find alongside the Google platform is a direct result of their empowered culture. Google encourages employees to take a portion of their workweek to do a “passion project” which can then turn into tracking Santa’s sleigh in December or anything else.

The correlation to customer service comes in the items you don’t see but can feel in the workplace. The innovation fostered at Google leads to better product releases and more engaged employees. By increasing innovation on a personal level, Google is enabling their employees to solve complex problems that may arise as part of their work. When employees have the tools that they need and are encouraged by leadership, an empowered culture arises. If you’ve ever shopped at Trader Joe’s, you’ve likely experienced the power of an engaged workforce. The grocery chain’s customers continually rave about the stores’ attentive employees and exceptional service. Which is kind of crazy, since salaries aren’t anything to write home about. According
to PayScale, Trader Joe’s employees earn an hourly average of $16.90, compared to $16.79 for the industry at large.

Does this mean that in your organization, you have to follow the same path? No. Instead, find something that works within your business model and culture. Make employees feel heard with open talks with leadership, change up performance reviews like Buffer, or invest in training that will make employees successful no matter what company they join.

The key is to find something that ignites employees to purpose within your company. That purpose is contagious throughout the organization and employees will pass it along to customers.

MORE EXAMPLES OF EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES
Need more help figuring out how to empower employees? Take a look at other companies who empower their employees including:

Virgin America

Disney

theSkimm

Apple

CHAPTER 3

Ready to Elevate Your Customer Service?

Exceptional service will continue to play a critical role in your company’s ability to attract and retain loyal customers. Customer service is now one of the most important indicators of profitability and success—one that requires a clear plan of action and ongoing input from all frontline employees.

About SugarCRM

SugarCRM is the world’s first intelligent, no-touch customer experience (CX) platform with three unique products that come together for the ultimate customer experience: Sugar Market, Sugar Sell, and Sugar Serve. Powered by the latest technology in AI and customer intelligence, Sugar’s groundbreaking software unites sales, marketing and service teams with predictive insights that can be used to create customers for life.

No-Touch Information Management automatically captures data from email, voice, text and third-party apps to deliver relevant insights.

An Intelligent Customer Experience Platform keeps insights coming at you in realtime, for a 360-degree view of your customers’ journeys.

Continuous Cloud Innovation ensures Sugar is free to build new features and functions as trends
change—without having to pass hefty costs on to users.