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Do You Offer Customer Service Or Company Service?

Do You Offer Customer Service Or Company Service?

Sometimes, when kids ask “Why” a few too many times, frustrated parents might find themselves hauling out the age-old response, “Because I said so!” Children are rarely satisfied with this kind of answer — just like customers who hear a phrase like, “That’s just our company policy.” Customers may

Sometimes, when kids ask “Why” a few too many times, frustrated parents might find themselves hauling out the age-old response, “Because I said so!”

Children are rarely satisfied with this kind of answer — just like customers who hear a phrase like, “That’s just our company policy.”

Customers may bristle at the word “policy” because it doesn’t give them enough information. It sounds like something the company is trying to hide behind, rather than address their questions or concerns. It feels like a wall they’ve suddenly hit, where their hope for resolving a problem comes to an abrupt end.

You need to have policies in order to help the team know how to handle common situations, but to customers it can sound like you’re not willing to support them.

Instead of customer service, it seems more like you’re offering “company service” — something that was primarily intended to further the interests of the business, rather than the people to whom you sold your products and services.

In an age where phrases like, “customer-centric,” “customer-first” and even “customer-obsessed” seem to be spoken at almost every business conference, expectations about how organizations should prioritize service and support are at an all-time high.

There are, however, some risks of taking customer centricity too far. If customers complain and you automatically refund every single purchase with no questions asked, profitability will obviously suffer. The same thing can happen when you have to spend too much time addressing the service needs of a customer who spends relatively little and ignore higher-value customers, who then leave for a competitor.

Offering discounts, or providing lots of additional training or hand-holding can help make customers happier, but they can also tie up resources and increase overhead.

If you want to avoid being accused of providing “company service,” take the following steps to create a better balance between meeting expectations and not doing your company long-term harm:

1. Calculate the kind of customer service you can afford to offer

In the past, companies had to make their best guesses at how many agents they would need to staff a contact centre, or what the volume of product returns or refunds might be in a particular quarter.

The rise of tools like Service Cloud mean companies can not only provide customer service more efficiently and effectively, but also that they’re collecting valuable data about trends and patterns as they do so. This should be what you use as the basis of your policies.

Look at what you typically need to underwrite in terms of satisfying customer service needs today, and how well that aligns with what you’ve been forecasting to spend on it during a given period. If your forecast is off, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hire a lot more customer service agents. There are self-service tools like online customer communities or chatbots that could help.

Lots of companies will say they offer top-notch customer service, but you need to use the data to determine what “top-notch” means in your case — and what it will cost to deliver it. This ensures you don’t over-promise and customers feel somehow cheated later on.

2. Craft detailed, transparent responses to use in tough Conversations

You can’t please everyone, but often what happens in poor customer service interactions is the result of something an agent says because they weren’t properly prepared to say “No” in a way that seems reasonable.

Do the work up-front to think through the kinds of scenarios where you have to communicate a policy that’s necessary for the good of the company, but that may not allow you to fully satisfy the customer. Look in the data for instances where this kind of “No” has had to be given in the past. Usually there will be at least a few instances where a more comprehensive explanation brought things to a less acrimonious conclusion.

Create templates or scripts that agents can have on when these sorts of situations arise.

Being crystal-clear and consistent in your policies may not always make the customer happy, but they’ll know where they stand, and that you’re acting in a professional way rather dismissing them with a mysterious set of rules.

3. Demonstrate a commitment to co-create better customer experiences

Even if you can’t bend over backwards to the extent a customer asks or expects, you can still get more details about what they want and why they feel they need it.

Make sure there is every opportunity to capture feedback from customers, no matter what kind of channel they’re using. Try to help them see what happens to their requests and suggestions. If they think the conversation disappears into the ether, it only adds to any negative emotions they might be feeling.

Instead, if you can map out how the data you’ve captured will be reviewed by your company’s leadership — or that you can provide more detail and context around the decision in some kind of followup — they may at least feel their situation is being given the proper urgency and consideration.

Customers are like all of us in that, more often than not, they just want to be heard. “Company service” is where the business simply spits out its policies and moves on. Customer service is listening, doing what you can, and then continuing to listen some more.

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