National Customer Service Week: What are the main barriers to providing great customer service?

National Customer Service Week: What are the main barriers to providing great customer service?
Paul Clark is CEO of customer complaints and feedback specialist Charter UK.

Picture credit: Carsten Knoch/Flickr

This week, National Customer Service Week, presents an opportunity for customer service teams to showcase the people, systems and processes that come together to provide a seamless customer journey. The week is also an opportunity to reflect on why some companies are lagging behind, and the hurdles they need to overcome to transform negative customer experiences into positive ones, build their Net Promoter Scores and turn concerned customers into brand advocates.

So, what are the main barriers that these companies have to overcome to provide better customer service?

1. Failing to deliver on promises

No matter what service level a company operates at, the expectation level of its customers is the single most important benchmark. Companies that over promise and under deliver will be deluged with complaints, whilst companies that under promise and over deliver will often fail to attract customers in the first place. The key to high quality customer service is for an organisation to rigorously assess its service offering, market those capabilities effectively (and honestly) and then to live up to that commitment. Rather than being ‘wowed’, most customers are content with a ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach. Organisations should concentrate on establishing this foundation before attempting to go the extra mile.

2. Inability to connect the dots

In order to understand the voice of the customer, firms need to have a comprehensive view of customer contact across all touch-points. Integrated customer feedback systems are now a need-to-have, rather than a nice-to-have, as they mean that all customer feedback is captured consistently across the increasingly wide range of channels now available to the consumer. More importantly, it gives organisations a holistic picture of their customers’ needs and wants, and therefore the ability to service them more effectively. After all, how can you possibly act to remove the issues causing detriment if you do not have an accurate view across your entire organisation of what they are?

3. Falling behind the curve on social media

Social media is no longer new, but the challenge it represents for customer service teams is still a burden. Social media used to be a last resort for frustrated customers to escalate a complaint when they had failed to elicit the appropriate response through traditional channels. However, it is increasingly becoming the first port of call for those choosing to bypass phone and email in the hope of capitalising on the public nature of these platforms. The urgency and negative public potential of social media can also pressurise customer service teams into seeking instant appeasement of unhappy customers by cutting corners and operating outside of established systems and processes. Firms wanting to get a handle on social customer service will need to ensure that any complaints – or compliments – are fed into their central feedback engine so that they are aggregated and acted upon in the same way as all other data. Consistency across all channels is critical. 

4. Not taking a forensic approach to root cause analysis

Businesses thrive on the satisfaction of their customers, and whilst many are happy to gauge the voice of their customers via polls and surveys many do not interrogate their complaints data enough. By understanding the drivers of dissatisfaction, businesses can remove these barriers and ensure that future customers do not have to contend with the same issues. Identifying the root cause of a problem – and then fixing it – will always be the best way to improve customer satisfaction, boost retention, and enjoy the financial benefits related to more effective systems and processes.

5. Missing the opportunity to turn feedback into actionable insights

Customer satisfaction aside, the other key benefit of customer feedback is the insight that it can provide to businesses. By mining this data firms can see their systems and processes from the customer’s point of view. It can often help to prevent unexpected processing errors, customer-service bottlenecks and other inefficiencies from impacting efficiency and causing irreversible damage to the brand. Of course, this feedback doesn’t only come from customers: employees, too, can often provide incredibly useful insight due to their position on the frontline of customer contact. 

Organisations in all sectors will need to overcome these barriers by encouraging a culture whereby customer service is valued from the top down.  Company culture needs to drive customer focus throughout the organisation. If customers are treated fairly and their needs are handled efficiently, firms will quickly begin to benefit from the rewards that a loyal, satisfied customer base brings.

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