Companies are only as strong as their reputation. They put a lot of time, money, and energy into trying to both win and retain customers: they develop finely tuned advertising campaigns, look for endorsements, create loyalty programs, and build web sites.
While brands can try to manage how clients see the company, its products, and/or its services, most fail to build strong relationships with their current or prospective customers; after all, the customer/client relationship extends well beyond the point of purchase. In fact, it’s how a brand interacts with its customer base after they make a purchase that can have the biggest impact on its long-term reputation.
This has been amplified over the last decade with the dominance of social media sites like Facebook and web review sites. Before the age of the Internet, it wasn’t uncommon for businesses to do the bare minimum when it came to customer service; after all, what’s the worst that could happen? They tell one or two people about their bad experience, and it stops there.
Not anymore. The Internet is open 24/7 and the online community is talking. It doesn’t matter whether or not a company has an online presence, people are still talking about them—and what they have to say resonates. A whopping 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews to determine whether to visit a local business. On top of that, 79% of Web users say online reviews are as trustworthy as recommendations from family and friends.
To build a strong, loyal, and lasting customer relationship, brands need to listen to their clients and meet their needs more than ever. In this tough economic climate, customers are looking not just for the best prices, but also the best service. And if they don’t get it, they’ll take their business elsewhere.
For some people, the only interaction they have with a company is through their customer service experience. Customers have more power than ever before, and the consequences of not providing the best service possible can be devastating.
According to some estimates, up to $5.9 trillion in revenue is up for grabs globally as consumers regularly switch their product and service providers; in North America alone, that number stands at around 1.4 trillion. Interestingly, 66% of consumers switched companies due to poor service in the past year.
In the U.S. 51% of consumers say they switched service providers as a result of a bad customer service experience, up five percent from 2012.
What are some of the most common customer service frustrations?
1. Being put on hold for a long time (90%)
How long are customers willing to sit on hold for? Not too long. Six out of 10 said they will wait one minute or less, while a third of respondents give up after 1–5 minutes.
2. Having to contact a company numerous times for the same reason (91%)
3. Being asked to repeat their issue to multiple representatives (89%)
4. Dealing with self-help systems that cannot answer their questions (89%)
5. A company delivering something different than what they promise up front (88%)
But it’s not all bad news; a large majority (81%) said the companies could have done something different to prevent them from taking their business elsewhere. And here are some other important stats:
• 68% say it’s important to resolve any conflict on the first call
• 55% think it would have been good for the company to proactively contact them
• 45% want better service and support options via their mobile device
• 44% like preferential treatment (platinum/gold service levels)
The fact of the matter is that customers are willing to pay for excellent customer service. Two-thirds of consumers say they will spend 13% more, on average, with a company that provides excellent customer service. At the other end of the scale, over half left a brand based on poor customer service.
Consumers want value for their money, but that doesn’t just apply to how much they pay. Equally as important is how they feel they are treated when they contact the customer service department.
Customer service is about eliminating complexity and building relationships and loyalty. Brands that don’t are just sending business to the competition.
“85 Percent of Consumers Read Online Reviews to Determine Whether A Local Business is Good or Not,” ReviewTrackers.com, June 28, 2013; http://www.reviewtrackers.com/85-percent-consumers-read-online-reviews-determine-local-business-good
“2013 Global Consumer Pulse Research – Digital Customer: It’s time to play to win and stop playing not to lose,” Accenture web site, October 2013; www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-Global-Consumer-Pulse-Research-Study-2013.pdf
Hess, M., “Most companies fail customer service test,” CBS News web site, November 6, 2013; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-companies-fail-customer-service-test/