“Good” Customer Service: Some Counterintuitive Findings.

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According to conventional wisdom, the “tricks” to delivering excellent customer service are pretty straightforward, and include empathy, appreciation, and helpfulness. But in practice, delighting customers isn’t so straightforward — what actually works doesn’t always reflect what most of us would assume.

So what do people really expect from “good” customer service?


Lets start with the question, when needing to communicate both good news and bad news to a customer, for example, that their shipment of a particular vaccine has arrived but, due to labor issues, will be delayed, of whether you should start with the good news first, or the bad. It turns out that it all depends on what you want to achieve from the customer interaction. Because it turns out that it actually does make a difference. And the order you choose can actually change the way your customers feel and act.

Researchers have found that people who were given the bad news first were more likely to feel better about what they were told, while people who were given the bad news last, were more motivated to act on the news.

In customer service, we generally want our customers to be happier, so it’s a good idea to lead with the bad news. But if you need to persuade the customer to act, then start with the good.

Lets move onto speed. Could there be a more important factor than speed of response in determining customer satisfaction? It is true that speed matters, but it turns out that there are other, often-overlooked elements that are even more important than speed. Measured in terms of level of engagement, a survey by Gallup found customers who experienced speedy service were six times more likely to be highly engaged, while customers who experienced empathetic support were nine times more likely to be fully engaged.

So, rather than a laser focus on speed, since we all want engaged customers, it is even more important to emphasize thorough, attentive, and friendly customer service – except when it comes to social media where it turns out that speed is paramount. It might not be fair, but it’s a fact: Customers expect speedy service on social media. So we must also be aware that customer satisfaction depends on the medium we’re interacting in.

What about delighting customers? Isn’t being extra nice to them a vital way to ensure their loyalty? Certainly, it’s a great habit to get into, and it can be a great way to grow your business. But, according to the research, there’s another, even more powerful way you can develop loyal customers: reduce their effort.

A 2007 survey by the Customer Contact Council found that the single most important factor in increasing customer loyalty is reducing the amount of work the customer has to do to get their problem solved.

How can you apply this? Simple: If the customer needs to do something to resolve their issue, do it for them. If there is a problem with customs for a pharmaceutical shipment, for example, instead of telling the customer that they will have to contact customs, do it for them! Or do as much of the legwork as possible to make their life as easy as possible. By taking the work off of your customers’ plates, you can both reduce their effort and delight them, as they’ll be more than a little bit surprised by your (unfortunately) unusual approach.

Finally, it may surprise you to learn that, according to the 2010 Customer Experience Report by Right Now, the biggest reason people stop doing business with a company is not due to price, product shortcomings, or advertising from competitors, but from a poor customer service experience. In fact, 82% of people have left a company because of a bad customer service experience.

On the other hand, creating good customer experiences and happy customers delivers a big — and predictable — return on investment: Happy customers, on average, tell nine people about their experiences.

Happy customers also reduce your costs, and the probability of selling to an existing happy customer is up to 14x higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.

So while bad customer service can crush you, delivering excellent customer service can help build loyal customer relationships, increase retention and referrals, and help you to quickly grow your business.


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