The stats speak for themselves (cont’d) …A look at some critical customer service statistics

When it comes to problem resolution, THE QUICKER THE BETTER

“Haste makes waste” or so we are told. But the same people who told us that also say that “A stitch in time saves nine.” So, which is which? Which of these two nuggets of wisdom are we to live our lives by? I believe it is all a matter of context. There are times in life when it is important that one takes his or her time to do sometime. However, there are other times when speed becomes very important.

This balancing act is very much a part and parcel of life. It is therefore no different when it comes to handling customers in a business setting. There are definitely times when one must take one’s time with a customer and there are other times when too much time spent with a customer will backfire. A delay could result in lost business.

In an interesting study carried out in April 2013 by Dimensional Research and sponsored by ZenDesk, more than a thousand individuals were asked to complete an online survey about their experiences as customers. Although the study was carried out in the United States, I am fully convinced that the results have global implication because customers are customer everywhere, aside slight cultural differences.

To ensure that the results could be extrapolated to the larger population, the researchers ensured that they catered for a wide range of demographics and socio-economic diversities. For instance, 56% of the respondents were female with 44% being male. The participants represented a wide range of ages—27% of participants were between ages 18—35, 35% were between ages 36—50 while 38% were over 50%. The participants also represented a wide range of household incomes.

For participants who claimed they had had good experiences with the company, a follow-up question was asked about what specifically had accounted for those interactions being good. The most important reason given by customers was “a quick resolution” of their problems. As high as 69% attributed their good customer service experience to quick problem resolution. Quick resolution was even rated higher than having a nice person to deal with. In other words, customers in this survey were more interested in having their issues resolved than how nice the one they are dealing with is.

It was therefore not surprising that those survey participants who claimed they had bad experience blamed it on their problems taking too long to resolve. As high as 65% of respondents blamed their bad customer service experience on the company taking too long to resolve issues. In the reverse, no matter how nice the customer-facing professional is, if the one takes too long, the customer would still consider the experience as a disaster.

A more recent study that buttresses the need for speed in resolving customer issues is found in the State of Customer Service Experience conducted in April 2017 from the Illinois-based global consulting giant, The Northridge Group. This study was also primarily conducted with US consumers. However, like the 2013 study by Dimensional Research, the findings have global implications.

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Among other things, the more than 1000 respondents were asked to rank the three most important characteristics of excellent customer service. It was surprising to note that “Ability to resolve my issues quickly” was ranked the most important characteristics of excellent customer service, by an overwhelming margin. It ranked higher than “Personalised and caring human support” and “Knowledgeable service teams.”

I can identify so much with the findings of these studies because I had a recent encounter with my satellite TV service provider. I was in mood for the sweetness that the lady who I dealt with was giving to me on the phone. I just wanted the service back on. Period.

Some have argued that it is not always right to rush through serving a customer. These are the people who hold to the belief that the kind of service that endears a customer to a brand should not be rushed. I must say that view is a valid one but I believe it is only valid when there is no problem.

Great customer service is nothing more than just serving customers well. However, to get to serve customers well, it pays to know the customer well enough. You will agree that getting to know someone calls for some quality time to be spent with the one. You cannot rush through the interaction and still get to know the customer well enough. Under those circumstances, haste will indeed make waste. When a problem arises, however, the entire game changes. Speed of resolution becomes a critical issue that will end up in either the brand winning a customer for life or losing a customer for good.

Every organisation that has been in business for more than a day knows that problems will always arise in one shape or form. Systems will crash during peak hours. The most reliable of employees will come down with a fever at just the wrong time. Murphy’s Law will pop up at the most inopportune time. It can be argued that the test of the customer service mettle of any organisation is what it does during these times. It is less about what the organisation does when all is rosy and more about what it does during these times that makes it customer-friendly or otherwise.

Smart organisations therefore put systems, policies and structures in place to ensure that problems are either nipped in the bud or they are dealt with as swiftly as they come. One thing smart organisations have that others do not have is a catalogue of all the potential problems that could arise and the way to resolve each and every one of them. They know which staff is in charge of what and at the exact time something is to be done. All these steps are placed in a “playbook” that comes in handy when problems arise.

Organisations that mean business also invest in technology that help them resolve customer issues as quickly as possible. They look at the various steps of the resolution process and automate those that can easily be automated. By so doing, they free up time to tackle the aspects of the process that might need real human intervention.

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When it comes to resolving customer issues, correct information is key. For instance, if a customer comes back with a faulty item, he or she would like to know when the matter would be resolved. At the time, the information he or she would be given would be critical to the one’s perception of the organisation. Any wrong information that is provided would go a long way to tarnish the organisation’s image in the eyes of the customer. Therefore by ensuring that they capture all customer queries that are brought to them, these organisations are able to quickly retrieve the necessary information to provide to customers.

Another way in which technology is helping organisations quickly resolve customer issues is through the magic of social media. It is an undeniable fact that more and more customers are spending more and more of their waking hours on social media platforms. Customers are tweeting updates on Twitter. They are posting images of themselves on Instagram. They telling the world what is on their minds on Facebook. They are posting videos on YouTube. In short, customers are virtually living a virtual life.

In order to reach those customers as quickly as possible, it is important that organisations catch them right there on social media. Because of its very nature of allowing customers instant access to information, social media has “spoilt” customers into expecting everything to be done as rapidly as possible. Social media has succeeded in creating customers who expected their queries to be resolved in a matter of minutes rather than days, as it was in times past.

But there is a reward for ensuring a speedy response to customer queries, especially on social media. A January 2018 experiment reported in the Harvard Business Review found that the quicker customers got responses to their queries, the more money they were willing to spend. Responses in 5 minutes or less resulted in customers willingly spending US$20.00 more. On the contrary, when response were over an hour, customers just spent a little over US$2.00 more.

It is a fact that speed plays a very important role when it comes to dealing with customers. Whether it is in just serving customers, where responsiveness is key or to dealing with an aggrieved customer, where quick resolution is vital, speed is a very important tool in the toolkit of the customer-focused organisation.

As today’s customers get more distracted by the many offerings available, time will continue to become a very scarce commodity. Organisations that are able to quickly resolve whatever issues that arise will continue to be highly regarded by their customers and will in effect, reap the rewards thereof. The stats are there to back this.

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