Technology companies stand at the forefront of innovation, but when it comes to customer service, their performance often lags behind. For the second year in a row, telecommunications companies and Internet providers such as Comcast, Time Warner and CenturyLink fell at the bottom of Temkin’s annual customer service ratings, based on a survey of 10,000 customers rating 278 organizations in 20 industries. An Ipsos survey yielded similar results, with 38 percent of U.S. adults rating telecommunications providers of TV, Internet and cellphone service as having the worst customer service representatives in the country, second only to government offices in frequency of complaints.
Entrepreneurs in technology-oriented businesses should take note of this trend, particularly in light of the fact that customer experience is on track to surpass price and product as the biggest competitive marketing differentiator by 2020, according to this Walker Information report. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, in addition to delivering an innovative product, you need to compete on customer service.
Empower Customers With Self-Service Options
You can keep your customers happy while reducing your own customer service workload by providing self-service options. Seventy percent of consumers expect company websites to include self-service options, and 40 percent would prefer to solve their own problems online rather than dealing with a representative, according to a global market study of 2,750 consumers conducted by Steven Van Bellegham.
You can enhance your website with self-service capability by adding features such as video demonstrations and tutorials, FAQ sections and discussion forums where visitors can post questions.
Respond Quickly with Omnichannel Service
When customers do need help from a representative, they expect it quickly. They will be dissatisfied if response time is slow. For instance, a survey from Software Advice, the online service evaluating IT help desks, found that over twice as many respondents in the 18 to 34 age bracket generally prefer live chat to phone compared to those 35 and over.
The best way to address this is to complement your website’s self-service options with omnichannel alternatives, including live chat, phone and email. When implementing these options, be aware that customer communications preferences can vary by issue and by age. For instance, a Software Advice survey found that over twice as many respondents in the 18 to 34 age bracket generally prefer live chat to phone compared to those 35 and over. However, about half would prefer live chat for answering online shopping questions, whereas three-fourths would prefer the phone for complex financial questions.
Connect Customers With the Right Personnel
When customers contact your help center with a question, it’s important to quickly connect them to employees with the training and expertise to answer their questions. Apple Rubber representative Craig Ross says one reason his o-ring manufacturing company can deliver superior customer service is that all staff engineers have years of experience, making them more knowledgeable about products and solutions than the sales representatives distributors typically use to field customer questions. Make sure your customer service procedures steer customers in the right direction quickly when they contact you for help.
Listen Empathetically to Identify Problems and Find Solutions
One technology company that gets customer service right is Apple, which provides store representatives with detailed instructions on how to handle consumer inquiries. Apple representatives approach customers with a personal, warm welcome, establishing friendly rapport. They then probe politely with open-ended questions in order discover what the problem is. Representatives follow up by proposing a solution, listening for any issues or concerns that need resolution, and ending the visit with a fond farewell and an invitation to return. Teaching your customer service representatives to follow this type of standard operating procedures can help ensure that your customers feel valued and go home satisfied that their problem has been handled with genuine concern.