Customer service is an industry as old as time. So you'd be forgiven if when you think 'cutting edge,' the customer service industry isn't the first thing that comes to mind. However, regardless of what industry you're in, you have customers; therefore, customer service should be something everyone keeps front and center - especially the c-suite.
Being a c-suite dweller is no excuse to ignore customer service. If that's your mentality, you either need to change it (and fast), or look for another line of work. Ignoring your customers isn't in anyone's best interest. You must, however, be at the forefront of how your sales and marketing teams (and everyone else) are looking to innovate, as technology continues to change customers' needs. You need to become immersed in every aspect of your company. The c-suite shouldn't be an ivory tower where you perch yourself, unaware of what goes on down in the trenches.
Here are three things to keep in mind on how you can improve the customer experience:
Unique In-Store Experience
This may sound like a no-brainer to many, but if the c-suite isn't connected to what's happening on the floor, you are already at a major disadvantage. One gets one chance to make a good first impression, so if a customer walks into a store and the staff is disengaged, needless to say, that's not a good thing.
But how does that affect me in the c-suite?
Simple. If you don't treat your customers right, there won't be many profits to cheer about. No profits, no business. No business, no you in the c-suite. It's all connected. So what to do? You start by treating every customer like a king or queen. Give them a basic greeting and express a genuine desire to assist them with their purchase. What's next? Employ the use of technology to enhance the experience.
Nowadays, consumers expect one consistent experience across all platforms - in-person store visits, social media, online, email or phone. As a brand, the company needs to provide a consistent experience and messaging throughout. Customers no longer distinguish marketing from the product itself or differentiate between the in-store experience and the overall experience. It all has to match.
Cutting Edge Technology
Technology and customer service are two industries that are constantly evolving and looking for that next big thing that'll get everyone talking. According to a report from Deloitte and eBay, one in three consumers have used multiple channels to make a purchase. Consumers are expecting a seamless experience across all platforms, so why not give it to them?
There are several brands out there that have earned high praise from their customers because technology is making it easier for customers merge their online and in-store experiences. Luxury brand Burberry is at the top of that list by equipping in-store sales associates with iPads, enabling them to create and view customer profiles wherever they are. These steps help the brand have a better understanding of the changing consumer trends, almost in real time.
While self-service will grow in importance in the near future, as other features like speech recognition, virtual agents, video chats, mobile service and even biometrics are added, brands need to remain on the cutting edge in order to gain a competitive advantage - and that includes the c-suite. Everyone, from the store clerk to the CEO, need to know all the tools available to them and know them well.
Social media has emerged as an effective way to provide customer service - and even have consumers engaged by a live human being, even through a computer or mobile device. For example, social media sites saw an opportunity to reach even more customers hoping to improve the overall customer service experience. But why would customers want to engage with brands in a place where they communicate with their friends? Because of the quality of the experience and by the almost immediate engagement they receive, which is leaps and bounds better than the typical automated hell we're used to.
Consumers are demanding a whole new level of personalization and are expecting businesses to understand their intentions, preferences and desired level of interaction. Brands like Amazon, Netflix and iTunes are regularly searching through mountains of data in order to understand customers' specific interests and are delivering relevant content based on a customer's viewing history, purchases, and known preferences.
Other brands like KLM Airlines, Hyatt and Wal-Mart have taken to using Facebook Messenger to interact with customers on a more personal level. Hyatt was one of the first brands to start using Messenger to help guests with their customer service needs. They want to communicate with their customers, presumably business travelers, who are always on the go and don't have the time (or patience) to remain on hold for long periods of time. As a frequent traveler myself, I can tell you I appreciate this level of expedited customer service. A quick private message from a customer service representative instead of trying to remember your log-in information while switching terminals at the airport can make a big difference for any traveler. As customers, we remember this type of service and it encourages us to do repeat business with that brand. For the brand, they reach a new level of customer loyalty and isn't that the ultimate goal? Happy customers mean more business. More business means more profits, which means a happier c-suite and investors. It's a win-win for everyone!
Customer service has the power to elevate a company/brand from good to great and delivering this requires everyone in the organization to step up, be a leader and provide exceptional service. One must always focus on the customer, and not the money they're making for you. While there's no such thing as 'perfection,' providing the customer with the "perfect experience" should be the ultimate goal for every company and every brand.
Rule of thumb: appreciate your customers. They'll appreciate you back!