There’s no doubt that the last 18 months have had a huge impact on customer service delivery across all sectors, whether it’s been due to teams adapting to new ways of working in call centres or handling unpredictable increases and drop offs in contact volume.
Many customer service teams have gone above and beyond to ensure the customer remains at the centre, yet recent research suggests that businesses and consumers are fed up with the pandemic being used as an excuse for poor customer service. For B2B service providers, this is a call to stand up and listen.
To change behaviour, first you need to change mindsets. As we move beyond the pandemic, moving rhetoric from customer service to customer experience, could be the shift that creates real value for customers. But what does that mean?
A customer experience approach
On the face of it ‘customer service’ and ‘customer experience’ appear similar in meaning, but the nuance is key. The customer experience is all-encompassing. It means looking at the entire customer journey with your business and ensuring quality interactions at every stage.
Yes, metrics matter, and meeting targets around issue resolution or call answer time should be seen as measures of success ‘ but a customer experience approach places rapport and empathy at equal importance. It’s about being easy to deal with and creating customer intimacy.
And it’s important to remember that what might seem like a small issue to service providers can be of huge importance to businesses. It’s a relentless commitment to putting the customer’s needs at the centre that marks a customer experience approach.
Start with data
To really embrace a customer experience approach, you must start with data. Put the analytics tools in place to truly understand your customer, their behaviours, wants and needs. This will then enable you to make proactive interventions to enhance the customer experience ‘ pre-empt and resolve issues before they happen, or offer customers the perfect solution for their business challenge without them even needing to ask.
Reimagine staff training
So often customer service staff are thrown into position with a script and told off you go, and while the script might be good, training has to go much further.
Customer experience training should go beyond scripting, bringing in more novel approaches, whether that’s live scenario training or partnering with a workplace psychologist. At TalkTalk Business, our ‘Grad Bay’ gives our new customer experience team members a real opportunity to put what they’ve learnt into practice in mock scenarios, ahead of going into the live environment.
Welcome negative feedback
No one likes a negative review, but it’s important not to be afraid of feedback. Why? Because every piece of feedback or complaint is an opportunity to improve the customer experience. I always say, a complaining customer is a customer that wants to be saved! For those that don’t complain, analytics capabilities behind-the-scenes will be key to ensuring you have full sight of their customer journey and can spot key indicators that require an intervention.
Ensure that each touchpoint with the customer enables them to tell you about their experience ‘ whether that involves directing them to an internal survey, or a credible third-party review platform such as Trustpilot.
Be ahead of the game
The methods, channels and platforms we have to engage with our customers is constantly evolving, and it’s important to keep ahead of the game. Even the most mature of customer experience strategies will have an eye on how they can take things up a notch. The pandemic has certainly accelerated short-term operational change and the use of new technologies but embedding these and continually exploring innovative ways of engaging customers should now become the norm. The focus should be on creating a seamless experience for customers across their journey with your business, so evaluate new tools and touchpoints on a regular basis.
As we move beyond the pandemic, truly putting customers at the centre will be crucial. Every indication is that customer expectations are on the rise, and this will need to be matched by B2B service providers. There’s never been a more apt time to review customer service strategy, but is now the time to scrap ‘service’ and focus on ‘experience’ entirely?