Seventy-six percent. That’s the percentage of consumers whose perception of your brand can be made—or broken—by their experience with your customer service. It’s not made or broken by your ability to create an awesome product or your proficiency in offering a great service, but simply by how well you can address questions, issues, and requests in an effective and timely manner.
According to consumers, the way a company’s customer support team treats them or resolves their issues impacts how they perceive that brand, and one in three said it also affects brand loyalty. Therefore, excellent customer service is a piece of your organization’s puzzle that has the power to create long-lasting relationships and ambassadors who will evangelize the solutions you provide. No amount of innovation or product-market fit can overcome a poor customer experience.
The question isn’t whether customer service makes an impact; it’s whether your company is doing enough to keep it at its highest standards—even in the face of agent shortages and spikes in call volumes. Here are four key ways customer service and brand impression help give your customer-service strategy the attention it deserves.
TRUST AND RELIABILITY
According to Dimensional Research, offering excellent customer service is the most important factor for consumers when determining their trust in a company. People want to work with—and buy from—companies they trust. If your customer service experience falls short, it’s no stretch to assume you could lose them forever. Buyers need to know they can trust you to deliver the product or service you say you will, that it will work the way you’ve promised, and that you will be there for them should any issues or questions arise.
Customer service plays a major role in the building—or eroding—of trust. Having the right technology in place can be a key part of the equation. Consider an airline passenger who missed their flight: automation can handle rescheduling for this passenger, giving an agent additional time to assist another family with booking hotel accommodations when their red-eye was canceled. The passenger and the family will receive a quick, accurate, and appropriate level of customer service that can help solidify trust in the airline. Conversely, if every agent is busy handling simple rescheduling, everyone loses and attention is given to whoever was first in the queue versus those with the most urgent issues.
One of the primary reasons customers contact customer support is because they encounter a problem. Maybe they were accidentally charged twice and need help fixing the billing issue, or the new piece of software they bought keeps crashing and they need tech support. Either way, they’re contacting you with the expectation that you can solve their problem.
So, do you? Is your customer service experience one in which the customer is guided smoothly through automated support and then expertly handed off to a knowledgeable agent? Or are you adding to their problems instead?
When a customer is reaching out to you for help but you make them wait on hold, pass them around from agent to agent, and ultimately fail to resolve their issue, all you’ve done is pile on to their existing problems (and frustrations). Improve your customer service instead and your brand will be positioned as a proactive problem-solver, not a reactive problem-maker.
You might think the software solutions your company uses behind the scenes are irrelevant to your customers. But the tech you have in place matters greatly to your customer service experience and, therefore, your brand impression.
Consider that 72% of customers expect customer service agents to “know who they are, what they have purchased and have insights into their previous engagements” when they begin a conversation, according to a Microsoft survey. Yet, this isn’t the experience most often offered. Customers complain of long wait times and needing to re-explain their issue(s) while being ping-ponged between agents. These points of friction are a technology problem at their core.
Customers also experience your systems indirectly. When it takes an agent five minutes to issue an RMA in the system, the customer has to wait on hold until the task is completed. Using automation means that many customers’ issues will be resolved quickly via an intelligent machine (one that offers the same rapid personalization and context-gathering) before they have to be routed to an agent.
Contact-center automation bypasses the user interface of internal systems and communicates directly via APIs, shortening the time it takes to resolve an issue. Modern contact-center automation can decrease average handle times and deliver equal or higher customer satisfaction scores than those of human agents. This approach is attractive to customers, with nearly 80% indicating they would speak to a machine to avoid long hold times and 57% saying they would do so even if the hold time to speak with an agent was only five minutes.
All of these elements create your customer service experience and your agent experience. So how can you improve your agent experience too? One way is by using contact center automation, which helps remove stress and friction from your agents’ days, leaving them more satisfied. It also gives them more time and energy to devote to the customers they speak with, and a potentially happier demeanor overall since their days aren’t spent in a pressure cooker resolving repetitive issues.
Your brand’s approach to customer service has a trickle-down effect from your agents to your customers. When agents are at ease and properly equipped in their roles, they can represent your company in the most positive light possible—helping to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty along the way.
There’s no doubt that customer service significantly impacts brand impression, which is actually very positive. The hand-in-hand nature of these key areas offers a great opportunity for businesses to raise the bar in one area and naturally raise the bar in the other. Now is the best time to seize the opportunity and enjoy the rewards.
CEO & Co-Founder at Replicant