Think Tank Thursday: Five Customer Service Questions to Ponder

Customer service guru Teresa Allen wrote this as a year-end blog post last year but the information is a good one for business owners to remember all year around. Here are five questions she has for you to ask yourself to see if your company’s customer service—whether you’re in a two-person shop or employ 100—is up to snuff.

1. Are we becoming more or less connected to individual customers?

Customers are not served as a group; they are helped one at a time. Thus surveys showing the percent of customer satisfaction is somewhat worthless if it is not supplanted with specific individual feedback from different customers in varied points on the customer journey. When examining survey data, do not overlook individual customer comments (and if you don’t have a place for comments, add them NOW!). Customers can be the best business consultants if we will just ask them how we are doing and LISTEN to their answers. This can be achieved through surveys but also through conversations. Since it is likely that front-line employees have more in person contact, either face-to-face or telephone, it is critical to tap into their insights in both formal and informal ways. Direct supervisors should solicit customer feedback information at least weekly if not daily. They should then report in a formal written way the feedback received to management and specifically to marketing. Do you have a means to collect this feedback? If not, make it a priority.

2. Have we automated routine customer tasks?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is one of the rising stars of customer service metrics. This is common sense of course, as the most valuable asset of any human being living today is their time. What has been done to minimize the effort of customers at various points on the customer journey? These critical points include the product/service search, the inquiry, the order process, the delivery, and post-sale touchpoints. Be careful here however … while customers want routine tasks automated, growing evidence suggests that more complex interactions indicate a preference for human touch. In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! While I might prefer chat for a routine question, I may want to speak to a live representative when you have completely messed up my order!

3. Are we working to minimize the points of dissatisfaction on the customer journey?

The answer to this question implies that the customer journey has been mapped which can in and of itself be a daunting task, especially for a smaller business. Do not be intimidated … you can start small and grow your understanding and use of this critical tool, but make the commitment to get started! Not doing so risks silos in your organization where none is accountable to the customer for the overall experience. A great first step is to review reports on customer complaints, and then to talk to individual customers about how and when the process failed them. Information can then be used to design training to avoid these points of dissatisfaction.

4. Are our competitors out-serving us?

While we may not have access to our competitor’s latest internal reports on customer satisfaction, in a transparent world of customer interactions much information is available to us. We must monitor not only our own social criticisms and accolades but those of our competitors as well. In so doing, we can strengthen our weaknesses and market to our strengths. What channels are competitors using to serve our common markets? Recent studies show that the wider our channel options, the more likely our customers will receive the service they desire. Caution must be used here however … just because our competitor has launched a new social media channel does not mean we should immediately jump in blindly. The only thing worse than not being in a channel is being there and not being ‘present’ due to a lack of research, preparation, and ability to follow through.

5. Does every customer feel appreciated?

Customer appreciation needs to happen every day. Look for ways to connect with customers through individual appreciation. Remember that your front-line staff will most likely not show appreciation to customers if they do not feel appreciated themselves! It is also critical to realize that no two customers wish to be appreciated in the same way. Take the time to get to know what makes–especially–your most important regular customers tick, and look for opportunities to strengthen your relationship through unique appreciation sprinkled throughout the calendar year. Doing so only at the holidays risks that our message is lost in the waterfall of cookies and cards.

Certainly the world of customer service has gotten a lot more complicated and it is sure to continue on that path. Taking a specific inventory of where we are and where we need to go will eliminate some of the stress caused by the changing world of customer service!

Teresa Allen is a highly acclaimed customer service speaker and is the author of Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines. Visit her website to find more ideas on building your customer service culture. To contact Teresa call 800-797-1580 or email: