Making 2018 the Year of Customer Service

on December 27, 2017

If you’re a small business owner, you know the key to customer service is providing your customers with what they want — where they want it, when they want it, and how they want it. But there’s no magic formula that works for every customer. Sometimes, you might need to proactively solve their issues; other times, you might need to resolve a complaint immediately. The only way to be everywhere at once? Provide multiple channels.

A few outlets have gained ground with this omnichannel customer service. Amazon, shocking no one, has the best rating, scoring a 4.63 out of 5 in the 2017 U.S. Online Grocery Shopper Study. Walmart is on its tail with 4.41, way above traditional grocers that scored 4.32.

Small businesses don’t have to be Walmart or Amazon to reach the upper echelons of the omnichannel customer service realm.

A popular ride-sharing app, for example, allows customers to make complaints right in the app. Say the company charged you a cancellation fee by mistake. By answering a few progressive questions in the app, you get a refund right away. Not only is the exchange more convenient for the passenger, but it’s also not worth the capital to answer the customer complaint in person, which will just end up in a refund, anyway.

This devotion to good customer service isn’t about quick fixes — it’s about nurturing relationships with customers and retaining their business. According to a survey by Aberdeen Group, businesses that offer consistent customer service, no matter the channel, hold on to 89 percent of their customers. Companies that drop the ball only retain 33 percent.

There’s no one way to keep every customer happy, but there are some promising customer service trends emerging that, combined, can keep your overhead low and your customer satisfaction high.

Here are a few customer service trends to think about:

1. Make It Quick: Chat and In-App Messaging

Both of these communication platforms are convenient ways to meet customers when, where, and how they prefer. Messaging has a slight edge over chat (oh yes, they’re different), costing less than a dollar per interaction, while chat costs $3 to $5. Just make sure to use technology that incorporates natural language processing so customers still feel a warm, human-like touch.

The asynchronous aspect of chat and in-app messaging channels can be a plus, too. Brands that have tested using Facebook’s Messenger for business, such as Hyatt Regency hotels, have gotten a largely positive response. The first year the channel opened, Hyatt saw the number of messages it received via Messenger multiply by 20 within nine months. With messenger and chat options, customers can write in any time and get an immediate response, unlike with telephones.

2. An Oldie but a Goodie: The Phone

But don’t discount the phone just yet. The number of calls is expected to soar upward of 169 billion each year through 2020. This profitable channel is probably why companies like Google and Facebook have launched click-to-call features in their apps.

Click-to-call purchases fuel as much as $1 trillion each year, and whether consumers realize it or not, having the option may nudge them to visit your site or app. A reported 88 percent of website visitors are more likely to contact a company that has a click-to-call option.

3. Treat Yourself: Personalized Rewards

One of the simplest ways to keep customers happy and coming back to you is by rewarding them for their loyalty. Loyalty programs should be consistent across all channels, and they should be tailored to customers’ preferences, which you should be keeping track of behind the scenes by analyzing your customer data. If a reward coupon shows up when customers are browsing online, but their app fails to load the same deal while they’re shopping on the go, chances are the purchase isn’t going to happen.

Customers expect personalization across every industry — from Netflix suggestions to Starbucks promos, to free ride-sharing from friends to downloading an app. Take the time to master this aspect of your customer service department: Fifty-one percent of consumers believe that by 2020, brands will make suggestions and anticipate their needs before consumers even make contact.

Customer communication has changed drastically in the past few years, and those changes are still coming. As “digital-first” has become the norm, customer service departments have had to shift to keep up and help customers through their preferred channels. But those channels don’t have to cost a fortune as long as the experience customers receive is consistent — no matter how they reach out.

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