Businesses can’t avoid bad customer experiences, it doesn’t matter how established or diligent you are. Take the bent iPhone saga of 2014, the exploding Samsung debacle of 2016, or even the Woolies spider surprise of last year. Customers assume that brands like Apple, Samsung, and Woolworths always undertake the appropriate quality checks, but as these examples show, no business can completely avoid bad experiences.
In this new era of customer engagement, businesses must be prepared to deal with the unexpected. And with the retail giant and customer service champion, Amazon, setting its sights on the Australian market, Australian businesses must turn customer service into a competitive advantage.
In a world where everyone is constantly connected, retailers are playing a high-stakes game. There are more ways than ever to deliver praise and complaints and, thanks to Google, competitors are just a few clicks away. Consequently, it’s important for businesses to make sure they are meeting the ever-evolving expectations of their customers. A task that is not a walk in the park.
Retailers who cannot provide a seamless, drama-free customer experience risk losing the foundation of customer loyalty that yields long-term results. Research from Ovum found that 82 per cent of Australian customers have stopped doing business with a brand after one disappointing experience. It is even higher for those on mobile devices. While these numbers can be scary, there is a lot retailers can do to turn an unfavourable experience into a positive one. So, how do you make customer service a competitive advantage?
Once you become aware of a disappointing experience, you should let the customer know immediately that you are doing everything possible to rectify the situation. Constant communication across the customer’s preferred channels will ensure they are kept updated at every stage, and are aware of your efforts.
According to EY Sweeny’s Australian Consumer Survey, less than half of respondents who experienced a consumer issue (47 per cent) reported that the problem was resolved to their satisfaction. Going above and beyond the call of duty will help restore the consumer’s confidence in your brand.
You snooze, you lose
You may miss a consumer’s first point of complaint, as people turn to social media or other third-party platforms to vent their frustrations. While some consumers still choose to make an angry phone call, complaints may not always be made directly.
This means you should monitor all platforms for complaints to ensure your customer service team can be responsive to that first interaction, and quickly rectify as much of the damage as possible. Whether customers require further information or have received a faulty product, customer service staff must be equipped and empowered to provide the support necessary to repair the damaged relationship from the first point of contact—regardless of the channel.
According to Ovum’s report, 78 per cent of Australian customers would choose a channel of communication other than a phone call if they knew they could get a resolution on the first attempt.
Actions speak louder than words
A sincere apology, while necessary, will only get you so far. Taking the time to resolve the problem is the best chance businesses have of retaining a currently unhappy customer. A recent customer satisfaction report by Ipsos Loyalty found that 60 per cent of Australian customers perceived they had to do the bulk of the heavy lifting to resolve their issue. The report also suggests customers are likely to stop doing business with a company that doesn’t lift its game to salvage the relationship.
Customer support teams should be reminded of this in their training, and they should also be empowered to explore every possible avenue necessary to rectify the problems they are presented with. A resolved complaint is paramount to rebuilding customer confidence in a brand.
Build an unshakeable business
Employing best practice and forming good habits can help businesses avoid customer experience issues. The key to a successful brand with satisfied and loyal customers is investment in offering a quality product or service. According to EY Sweeney’s report, the most common types of Australian consumer issues are related to things that businesses can control: faulty, unsafe or poor-quality products (30 per cent), poor customer service (26 per cent), and the provision of incorrect or misleading information (24 per cent). In an ideal world, complaints are an anomaly resulting from ignorance or unrealistic expectations.
Beyond this foundational business principle, there are three other important things to consider:
- Training: You need to develop a customer service strategy that equips agents with the tools and training they need to be successful.
- Know your customer: Know who they are, what they want, and how they like to interact. Ensure all channels of communication are available, work seamlessly together, and effectively deliver resolutions.
- Evolve: Businesses must constantly evolve to survive. The products you are selling and the services you are delivering should always be improving.
In this new era of customer service, it’s important for all retailers to strive to deliver a superior customer experience at every turn. Of course, even the most well-established brands occasionally put a foot wrong, but the most unshakeable businesses know how to right wrongs using the art of customer service. A negative customer experience is never ideal, but thankfully it doesn’t always mean game over.
Lindsay Brown is vice president, APAC, LogMeIn. With 20 years’ experience in growing and scaling companies in the Asia Pacific region, Lindsay leads LogMeIn’s APAC team in delivering intelligent engagement that puts customers first.
Want the latest retail news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up to the weekly retailbiz newsletter.