The difference between good and great customer service
The world of customer service has changed considerably in the last decade.
It used to be that companies could rely on offering a good product at a reliable price – get that balance right, and the business should be on track to succeed.
However, in a digital world where communication is critical, customers expect more from their transactions with companies.
Businesses must invest in an excellent customer experience to stay competitive. They need to keep their audience happy. Provide a less-than-satisfactory customer service experience, and buyers can simply head elsewhere.
According to a study by Microsoft, 90% of customers use customer service as a factor when choosing to buy from companies.
So, you can’t afford to settle for good but need to strive for excellent customer service, but what’s the difference? How do you make that improvement? Let’s examine the change in mindset that needs to take place.
Customer support, not service
Businesses must meet customers’ demands and expectations or risk their target market heading elsewhere.
But, realistically, we need to move away from framing this as a way of protecting the business’ bottom line.
Excellent customer support goes beyond ticking a box to satisfy a customer. It should be rooted in organisational values to offer genuine assistance and guidance to customers, elevating them from their status as consumers to more like friends or family members.
We should think of this as authentic, empathetic customer support instead of old-fashioned customer service.
People over profit
Excellent customer service professionals don’t treat the dialogue as an interaction between the company and consumer but as human to human. They offer heartfelt assistance and build a rapport, not because it’s their job, but because it’s the “right thing” to do.
This is what we refer to as the mindset shift. You need to divorce your customer service team from the notion of protecting profits.
This is about helping people, not helping the business.
The old mentality used to be – we should keep customers happy, so we provide good customer service, so they will hopefully be return customers, so we can keep making money.
You may think there is nothing wrong with this model at its core. After all, what could be wrong with a desire to keep customers happy?
However, customers are becoming more astute in seeing through this facade. They see that, in their view, businesses don’t have their interests at heart since profitability is all the companies care about.
So, to ensure excellent customer support, businesses need to see its provision as a moral obligation – a separate and distinct entity wholly removed from the capitalist nature of the enterprise.
Of course, the irony is that by shifting your customer service team from the service to support model, you are more likely to protect profits in the long run – you are just getting there via an alternative, people-focused route.
Why does your business have a moral obligation to support customers?
It’s a subject of much debate in the corporate world – to what extent is your business responsible for the customer’s wellbeing?
According to a National Bureau of Economics study in the US, only ⅓ of adults worldwide understand basic financial concepts.
This means that they are vulnerable to financial mismanagement and unwise purchasing decisions.
But is this your fault? How far should you go to ensure customer wellbeing, to protect people, even when it may be counterintuitive to your progress as a profit-pursuing business?
As corporate social responsibility increasingly takes centre stage, businesses need to revisit their strategies and objectives especially the ones heavily focused on financial short-term wins, which can end up creating more disadvantages for vulnerable customers. Playing long-term game almost always brings better outcome for both the customer and the business.
Ethical business behaviour based on open and honest customer engagement pays from a long-term perspective by securing lifetime customers while promoting customer wellbeing.
So, to revert to the question at hand relating to the difference between good and excellent customer service, businesses should take the time to:
- Educate customers on all the implications of their purchasing decisions as best they can.
- Promote individual responsibility among customer service agents.
- Take confidentiality seriously – the conversations between customers and company should be sacred unless discussed otherwise.
- Embed in their customer service agents the mentality that the wellbeing of customers are more important than profits.
Whether your business has a moral obligation to implement these best practices is, ultimately, a question for your business to reflect on.
In the current climate, it’s irrelevant whether you believe in the moral obligation – your business simply won’t survive without understanding that ethical business practices are increasingly necessary in a competitive marketplace.
We believe that customer service based on open outreach is the best way to ensure a profitable business while providing helpful, actionable guidance to your customers.
Supporting vulnerable customers
Many people face an uncertain financial outlook. Families all over the country face an onslaught of challenges contributing to financial hardship. Inflation rates just hit a 20-year high in April and experts predict further rises in the near future. Homelessness driven by persistently rising unemployment is also on the rise.
Mental health and financial struggles often go hand-in-hand and presently more people than ever before are unable to pay their bills or manage their debts due to the rising cost of living. Vulnerable customers are those who are facing challenges, mentally, financially or both and who don’t have the support or tools to combat the problem.
Vulnerable customers can be disengaged, lack trust in their supplier companies, are unlikely to open up about their issues, and are not aware of available support from both charities and the suppliers themselves.
A customer engagement strategy that frames your customers as your most valuable asset will do wonders for your brand and long-term financial success. Conversely, customer disengagement leads to low awareness of support in a negative feedback loop.
At Sigma Connected we help businesses support and engage their customers through a program called ReachOut. When a company – a lender or supplier – reaches that point of dilemma where they have customers disengaged and ill-disposed toward the business, they can rely on Sigma Connected for support with their specialist ReachOut program.
ReachOut looks to break that loop of low engagement and low awareness of support concerning debt management. It has proven that there is a better solution to re-engage these customers by providing a safe and welcoming environment.
Contrary to the traditional Debt Collection Agency model, the trained Pathfinders at ReachOut take a holistic approach to debt management, approaching the situation with empathy, ready to listen as much as advise. And they simply won’t collect any money.
Find out more
Providing excellent customer support can be a challenge, but we believe that brands have a pivotal role in customer wellbeing.
For various reasons, we also see that doing so not only provides people with the care they need but also has a long-lasting positive effect on your business.
Ryan Rayner is located in Sydney and leads our Australian growth and development team.