While there are miles of column inches written about the importance of good customer service, it’s apparent that too many companies neither hear nor heed the advice. At the same time, the percentage of customers who refuse to give further business to a company that offers them a lousy experience is on the rise. A study last year of 195 professionals and 165 college students by Ernest Ronan found that when customers had bad experiences with call center staff, they were less willing to buy from the company in the future. The strength of this reaction increased from 72 percent in 2005 to 86.3 percent last year.
So customers are getting more demanding, yet the companies they do business with seem to be in no hurry to improve the quality of their customer service. In a still sluggish economy, this offers an enormous opportunity to companies willing to put in the effort to provide excellent customer service. Why? Because happy customers buy more.
Satisfied customers are about one-third more likely to purchase again, according to a recent article by Peggy Carlaw on Business2Community. According to a study by call center solutions provider RightNow, 89 percent of customers began doing business with a competitor following a bad customer experience.
Companies that make extra efforts to keep the customers they have and win new ones away from under-performing competitors simply makes sense to the company bottom line. This means treating your call center as a revenue center and a place to generate opportunity rather than a sinkhole of capital.
“Rather than looking at your call center as a cost-center to be invested in only after other areas of the organization have recovered, look at it strategically as a profit center—one that can improve customer loyalty and reduce operational costs,” writes Carlaw. “With a little attention and a small investment, your center can achieve stellar results for your company.”
Improving the call center needs to involve huge investments. Most customer relationships are marred by the behavior of agents or by missed details that are relatively easy to fix. To start, consider evaluating current customer service processes to identify process or workflow hitches that customers are likely to fall into: too many transfers, overly long hold times, a lack of follow-up and having to repeat customer information. Help agents engage customers with more sympathy and helpful attitudes and better scripts, and empower the agents to offer customers with problems real fixes and not just false platitudes. Finally, be sure to measure your progress toward your goals.
“When processes are streamlined, call center employees are trained, and front-line supervisors empowered to support continuous improvement, you can not only expect improved customer satisfaction scores, but reduced costs as well,” writes Carlaw.
And who doesn’t need more loyal customers, new customers and reduced costs in an economy like this?
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Edited by Stefanie Mosca