by Rich Shapiro
reposted with permission from richardrshapiro.com
A new year is approaching and time to tap into what’s here and now. What should your company focus be to make it the best? All businesses, any size, any industry should examine some of the trends I see.
1. Chat is here to stay
More brands than ever before are offering chat as an option to ask questions and discuss issues. This doesn’t mean that fewer consumers will be emailing or calling; it indicates that companies will now have the opportunity to interact with more people who would have not contacted them at all.
2. Customers expect help when they need it and that means 24/7
Customers have the expectation of around the clock service. Whether or not you’re a global organization, sunrise to sunset service is what’s in. Corporations may need to extend hours or outsource their calls for after-hour support to accommodate this growing desire for 24/7 service.
3. Reward your employees who reward your customers
It will be a vital component of every business model to calculate the ROI of frontline associates and determine those who should be rewarded. Businesses are developing targeted programs to recognize employees who are instrumental in creating and maintaining customer relationships. Since loyalty can begin and end at the employee level, these reward programs are essential to success.
4. Brick and mortar and online retail is blending
Companies recognize that shopping online and in the store must not only be consistent but integrated. Whether the initial interaction was online or at the retail store, the experience should be seamless. Every interaction must be easy, personalized and coordinated to meet the needs of the individual customer.
5. Customers want to be brand loyal, but will quickly jump ship
It’s simply human nature to resist change. Therefore, customers are predisposed to loyalty but will seek out the competition if they are not welcomed, listened to and treated with respect. It’s almost impossible to get customers to return once they feel unappreciated.
6. NPS, Customer Effort Score, and CSAT are all valid but…
One measure is not enough when it comes to customers because one size doesn’t fit all. It is vital to evaluate the customer experience. Obtaining specific feedback and using it to improve is golden. One number doesn’t always tell the whole story in spite of what any proprietary research may show.
7. Response time has become just as important as the actual response
This is a critical piece of the puzzle. A major indicator of an organization’s efficiency and commitment to customer service is the lag time between a customer’s question and the answer. The longer it takes to respond can directly impact how a customer feels about your company. Make your customers feel important and respond timely.
8. Establish customer service guidelines, not rules
Inflexibility breeds unhappy customers. Creating adaptable, thoughtful guidelines and eliminating stubborn rules is a cornerstone of good customer service. Empowering your employees to make decisions within those guidelines completes the package.
9. Text messaging is the new business tool
The banking and airline industry have been leaders in leveraging text messaging to proactively service their customers. In 2015, more businesses will begin to follow suit. But beware of going too far. Use your judgment and utilize text messaging wisely.
10. Customer reviews are king
Where are customers getting their information about hotels, restaurants, etc.? They look at reviews on sites like Trip Advisor to evaluate where they want to stay or eat. More establishments are concentrating on increasing their reviews in all business arenas. But be cautious, consumers are wary of paid ads on review sites that tout doing business with certain recommended establishments.
11. Invest in technology to improve the customer experience
Even budget conscious organizations are finding the need to invest in technology to enhance the customer experience and create seamless service delivery for an integrated channel approach. Spend the dollars to differentiate yourself.
12. “Please call us” responses in social media are so 2014
When consumers post a question or complaint on a brand’s social media site, the days of asking them to call you are coming to an end. Consumers expect a response in the same channel of communication. If your brand has a Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. page and you invite consumers to interact, then companies truly need to respond; that’s the definition of interaction.
13. Once you opt-in, you can never opt-out?
The answer is NO. I can’t stress this enough. Customers expect it to be as easy to opt-out of communication as it is to sign up. Having a transparent and simple way to opt-out for all channels; text, email, and phone will eliminate frustration.
14. Engage your employees to get the competitive edge
According to a recent Gallop survey, 63% of global workers are not engaged and 24% are actively disengaged. Employee engagement, creating an environment of participation and involvement goes a long way to generating a competitive edge and research has shown a positive impact on customer satisfaction.
15. The customer experience continues after the transaction
Last but certainly not least, it makes good business sense that a transaction does not end when the cash register closes. In fact, it’s only the beginning. Customers must be shown they are still relevant when the transaction is complete.
About Richard Shapiro
Richard R. Shapiro is the founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR), which provides research, training and consulting services to Fortune 500 corporations on how to improve the customer experience. His first book is The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business.