“Let me talk to my manager…”
(or let your employees be professionals)
Part 1 of 4
People, we have a problem. Worldwide, customer service sucks. And this isn’t just about shopping in a store, it’s with enterprise sales as well. Salespeople high and low can’t answer basic questions when you ask them. And that has a cost, a high cost. Your prospects may not end up becoming customers, your current customer loyalty drops, your salespeople get frustrated and disengaged from work, and your bottom line sinks. No one wins in this situation.
There is some good news though. Companies across industries are realizing this issue needs to be fixed. The strong economy has brought competition, which means customer service is a basic necessity for a company looking to be competitive. In fact, a 2018 consumer survey conducted by Gladly confirmed the notion that customer service satisfaction directly affects a business’ revenue. When the bottom-line is affected, executives listen and make changes.
Why Your Customer’s Experience Matters:
- Customers are willing to pay more for exceptional service: I’m a busy man, and my time is precious. Your customers are likely the same way. To busy professionals, time and experience can be more valuable than money. The data confirms this: A study by American Express found that customers are willing to spend an average of 17% more with a company who has strong customer service. Another study by Walker found that the importance of customer service will exceed price by 2020.
- Companies lose customers and money due to poor service: I don’t know about you, but there are certain companies and stores that I refuse to use or go to because their customer service sucks. Bad customer service can literally result in personal boycotts. But don’t take my word for it… The stats speak for themselves: A Salesforce study found that 74% of customers are willing to switch brands due to a difficult purchasing experience. Accenture found that companies in the United States lost over $1.6 trillion last year, due to poor customer service.
- Better customer service means higher customer retention. Something that causes me constant frustration is seeing companies valuing prospects over current customers. Just like any dysfunctional relationship, your current customers will one day get fed up with being underappreciated, and LEAVE. Why is this a problem? Because according to the research, your current customers are more valuable than any prospect. Check it out: Bain and Company found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase overall profit anywhere between 25% to 95%. Harvard Business Review reported that it is 5–25 times more expensive to gain a new customer instead of maintaining a current one.
A prospect’s attitude towards a company is dramatically shaped by their first physical interaction. Think about your own experiences — after a terrible first experience with a company, would you give them a second chance? Unless there is some extremely compelling reason, I’d be willing to bet money that your answer is a big NO! This is why it is so important to provide your customers with great service from start to finish. To me, this means employees must be knowledgeable, well-trained, motivated, and authorized to make the necessary decisions to complete the transaction.
The question is, how do you make that happen? There are two ways to look at people management and information — one is centralized information and the other is peripheral. Centralized information is the style where the person working with the customer knows only a little and as such they always need to ask their manager for help. Peripheral means the people in front of the prospect or customer have the information they need, or the authority and resources, to answer your questions and give you help as needed.
While a new-hire won’t be able to answer every question from day one, they can be given the training to understand how a company thinks and be given the authority to make a decision when needed.
For store workers most of the answers should be common sense, e.g. how are returns handled, can store merchandise that is flawed be sold at a discount, and if so — what discount?
In enterprise sales the questions are different, and more likely to change with industry, but if your salespeople don’t have experience in your space and understand consultative selling, then you have more issues than just peripheral versus centralized information management.
There’s no question that no matter your industry, solid customer service is a must. The real question is how to improve it so that your employees are not constantly having to “ask a manager.” This series will address three problems which deal with the root causes of subpar customer service: 1. Improper distribution of employee information 2. Improper distribution of employee power and 3. The apathetic employee. My next post will focus on the first problem of distributing employee information, and how to fix it. Stay tuned!