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The importance of good customer service

It’s easy to find a company that claims they care about customer service.

In fact….they pretty well all say it.

But finding a company that actually shows it has the actions to go with the words – that can be a bit harder.

In the drive to make more and more profit all the time, the notion of customer service seems to have been left behind by a lot of companies.

According to an Accenture survey on www.entrepreneur.com, only a somewhat pathetic 23 per cent of companies were actually able to deliver a great customer experience. That leaves three in four that are not meeting their customers’ expectations and it’s those people whose custom they rely on to survive.

Yet with increasing choice in many markets and social media giving both happy and unhappy customers a worldwide platform to air their views, the importance of customer experience is not something any business which aspires to long-term success can ignore.

Customer service is not just about the complaints

Customer service isn’t just about whether or not you call a customer a jerk when they phone up to complain about you.

It’s about every experience your customer has with you: visiting your website, being able to find goods in your store easily, interacting with your staff and how complaints are dealt with.

A website that’s poorly designed, a store where someone can’t find what they want, or a staff member who’s rude, can frustrate and annoy customers to the point where they abandon their purchase – to buy from one of your competitors instead.

That doesn’t just mean you’ve lost the one transaction – next time your customer wants the same or a similar product, they’re going to go back to the place where they were able to make a purchase easily last time.

And that may be the case even if that company was not the cheapest option: www.entrepreneur.com also reported that surveys have shown that as many as 86 per cent of customers will pay more for a better customer experience.

Like them or hate them, the massive success of Amazon is a case in point.

Their entire business model has been built around providing their customers with an unparalleled level of service. I have to admit that I buy everything I can through Amazon these days even if I can see something I want a bit cheaper elsewhere. I have faith in the brand; it’s so easy and convenient and it saves me bags of time.

It’s crucial to find out what your customers value most and make sure you’re providing it.

It’s a well-known fact that retaining existing customers is much less expensive value than spending to attracting new ones, in fact studies have consistently shown that it’s six to seven times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.

Let’s compare two experiences that one my friends had when online shopping which illustrate why customer experience matters.

He ordered something on retailer Argos’ website to collect in store but forgot to take his order number with him.

Staff found his order anyway using his email address and phone number.

My friend then also ordered an everyday product from another store, only to find he needed photo ID before he could collect it.

Guess which company he didn’t shop with again.

Happy people…….recommend a friend

Happy customers will tell their friends about you.

But so will unhappy customers, of course!

And not only is a customer recommendation a free advert, it’s actually much far effective than a real advert.

It should come as no surprise that in one survey, recommendation by a friend or family member was the top reason customers gave for trying a new product or service.

This reason was cited by 42 per cent of respondents, compared with only 3 per cent who cited advertising. We trust our friends and value their opinion – we know that if they recommend a product or service that they genuinely believe it’s of good quality and will be of interest to us.

Ignore online reviews at your peril!

Online reviews work in a similar way – perhaps surprisingly, given that they are the opinions of strangers.

Trustpilot says 88 per cent of consumers read reviews to find out how good a business is at providing good customer service.

These scores don’t carry quite the same weight as the opinions of people we know and trust but most of us are still of the opinion that online reviews are honest and generally from people who have no ulterior motive.

Online reviews can help you improve customer experience in more subtle ways too – for example, reviews for a garment can tell prospective customers how it fits, so they might choose to order the next size up if they know that other people have found an item tighter than expected.

This makes their experience better as they are more likely to choose the right product first time, instead of having to send the item back and ask for a different size.

So it’s actually a very good idea to encourage your customers to leave feedback.

If you can include specific questions which might help other customers (such as whether the item was the right size), that’s even better.

Sportswear brand Lululemon goes one better, using its Instagram account to ask customers to share photos of themselves in their outfits. This demonstrates that customers like the brand and are proud to be seen in its clothes – and also helps prospective customers visualise how they might wear the items.

And last but not least……complaints?

No business wants to receive any complaints but over time, they all do.

The big deal here is not actually the complaint but how you deal with it.

Customers know that businesses are run by humans and that everybody messes up. They also know that decent people say sorry when they get things wrong and do their utmost to put them right.

Employ basic courtesy – answer your phone promptly, acknowledge the complaint in a sympathetic and open manner and let the customer know you’re looking into the issue and will respond fully later.

If you’ve promised to respond within a certain time, do so. Above all, show that you actually care that your customer has had a bad experience and either put it right or make it up to them some other way if you can’t.

Nothing looks worse in response to an online complaint than “We’re sorry your experience with us was not satisfactory”.

Compensating your customer is likely to be far less expensive than losing all their future custom – and potentially the future custom of other people who they tell about your poor service.

An apology costs absolutely nothing….but could save you an absolute fortune!

At THP Chartered Accountants, we pride ourselves on building strong, trusting relationships with our clients, based on mutual respect and honesty.

We ask all our clients to tell us what they think about us using a very short survey and the results are collated and turned into a satisfaction score which can be seen here

Avatar for Mark Boulter
About Mark Boulter

Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.

Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”

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