There’s a reality that we’ve come to accept in 2022 – disruption seems to be the new constant. With prices sharply rising in the UK in recent months and general global uncertainty for everyone's future, businesses are facing new challenges to overcome this year.
Over the last two years of the pandemic, customers have often put up with erratic, disjointed or downright bad customer service, as brands scrambled to change their business models and adapt to the shifting environment. But excuses of disruption as a reason for poor service won’t cut it for retailers anymore — nearly half (47%) of European consumers report that they have higher customer service expectations than before the pandemic started, according to recent research.
Meanwhile, four out of five of consumers say they are willing to spend more with companies that can personalize the customer experience. For companies that can connect their service with the digital purchase experience, the opportunities to retain, deepen and grow their customer base are significant.
What does good customer service look like in this new world?
Millennials and GenZers especially tend to have much stronger opinions about what a good customer experience should look like, and they are more critical of companies that don’t measure up. Increasingly, what matters to customers is not just the speed of service – how quickly a customer service agent can resolve a query or complaint – but the quality of service they receive too. In order to provide a competitive experience, brands must now look to build longer-term relationships with customers that go far beyond a disparate string of ticket resolutions. Instead, each communication needs to build on the previous ones and be reviewed for opportunities to provide deeper, more valuable customer engagement.
Online travel agency Klook reports doubling down on its messaging channels and help centre during the pandemic to give its customers always-on support and open-ended conversational experiences. Together with pivoting its business model to offer more options for domestic travel and staycations for people who wanted to stay closer to home, it was able to maintain a great customer experience by staying in sync with its customers.
If the past two years were all about businesses reacting, the coming year will be about getting ahead to unlock the benefits of digital connection. With fresh uncertainties affecting the EMEA market, adding to those brought about by the pandemic, business leaders are looking to customer service as a key driver to help them grow. More than half (64%) of EMEA business leaders surveyed say that customer service has a positive impact on their business growth and nearly three quarters (73%) report a direct link between their customer service and business performance.
Optimize your customer service for business growth
While many businesses have already made customer service a key focus for 2022, not everyone has a clear strategy on how to optimize in this critical area. Here are three ways to help service positively affect business performance this year:
- Widen the metrics scope – When measuring customer service performance, companies can often take a narrow view by focusing solely on metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT). But by widening their scope to focus on things like customer retention and loyalty, they can better understand the impact of customer service on their bottom line. This is in line with a greater focus on business impact. A deep understanding of customers’ immediate needs can also inform and create opportunities for agents to drive profits through upselling and cross-selling.
- Get C-suite buy-in – 40% of EMEA businesses report that their customer service still isn’t owned by the C-suite and only a fifth (20%) of leaders report viewing customer service metrics on a daily basis. Without a clear commitment at the very top, companies risk missing opportunities to weave customer insights into their larger strategic framework. Customer inquiries serve as a vital feedback tool for highlighting what’s working – or not – with products or services, in real time. But to gain the most value from them, company leaders must be actively engaged in reviewing, disseminating, and acting on these insights, in order to more closely align with customer wants and needs.
- Invest in the right tools and training – It’s impossible for businesses to offer high-quality customer experiences if their agents are bogged down by cumbersome workflows or inefficient processes. Automate repetitive tasks, focus on education and training for agents, look to personalize service by making customer information readily available to them, and make sure channels are fit for purpose. This will require investment, which must be budgeted for, but makes solid business sense in the context of viewing service as a revenue-generator, as opposed to a cost centre.
None of us knows how the second half of 2022 is going to unfold, and market conditions are already turbulent. However, businesses that treat customer experience as a key pillar of their business strategy are in a good position to drive bottom-line growth – even in difficult times.