Revealing the true cost of customer service

Revealing the true cost of customer service

Published: 18-02-2020

Why it’s vital for your business and how to do it well.

Revealing the true cost of customer service

It only takes one. One bad review, one bad experience, one bad phone call.

Negativity works fast and if a business doesn’t have the knowledge or experience to deal with it, the damage is done.

Think about your own behaviour. We’ve all been swayed by the bad, whether it’s being put off a restaurant by a less than favourable TripAdvisor review or deciding against an online purchase because of critical comments. Rightly or wrongly, every one of us has allowed the experience of others to inform our own decision making.

In flipping this thinking, we realise the importance of the good. One great review can put a restaurant on the map. One great customer service experience can ensure your company is recommended to a circle of friends. One person’s actions can stop a customer taking their business elsewhere.

It was for this reason that when First Direct launched phone banking back in 1989, they revolutionised the whole financial industry by hiring ‘people people’ over banking people. Their reasoning was that it was commercially advantageous to train naturally empathetic, warm people in banking than to do the opposite. They were right, and it paid off. Literally, with 200,000 signed up customers in their first two years of trading. The quality First Direct provided meant people trusted them and so these customers became powerful brand advocates.

Keeping this in mind is important. It costs far more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Not only is this true in hard monetary terms (Forbes puts the cost of customer acquisition at five times the cost of customer retention), but it is also true in terms of brand loyalty, brand advocacy and lifetime value. Imagine a pub without regulars. No matter how good the offering, the pub would lack that familiar, warm atmosphere. Without regulars, would a pub remain relevant to a community? Without loyal customers, is a company really relevant?

As you can see, the true cost of customer service is immeasurable and the true value is priceless.

As CEO of Watch Shop, I am incredibly proud of our customer service team and see first hand how they always do what’s best for the customer, and what’s best for the company. That’s why their expertise is vital to our sister company, WS Ecommerce Solutions.

But how do you get it right?

Above all things, empathy is vital. Agents need to understand a customer’s situation and their emotions. By taking the time to listen and put themselves in the customer’s shoes, an agent is able to think of different ways to achieve a satisfactory resolution to a problem. Whether a customer is upset, angry or confused, unless they feel that they have been listened to, there is no way forward.

We empower our agents to use their initiative and treat customers as they would wish to be treated themselves. Not only is this important for our customers, but it makes our team feel respected and valued. Yes, the customer comes first but it’s only when the staff in charge of them are motivated and rewarded too that service really shines.

A great example is from the run up to Christmas 2019. Of course, it’s an exceptionally busy time of the year for Watch Shop and we’re often dealing with hundreds of calls, emails and live chat conversations every day.

When a call came in from a customer telling us that the watch she’d bought from us as a gift had become water damaged after being left outside by a delivery courier, the agent dealing with it had to act quickly. There were only a few days to go before Christmas. The agent sent a free returns label over immediately and as soon as we got word the package was back in the post to us, a replacement watch was despatched successfully. Even though the issue wasn’t our fault, prioritising and fixing the problem kept our customer happy.

Of course, it’s not always easy. There are difficult customers, angry customers and frustrating situations where we are limited as to what can be done. But by remaining focused on the standards we want to reach, our agents are able to protect our reputation and our business.

The last point to make is that I encourage all our staff to get involved too. Listen in to customer service calls, read the customer emails that come in, ask questions and listen to how they deal with issues. Ensuring that there is company-wide understanding of the rewards and challenges faced by our frontline staff makes for a better team culture.

For any business looking to improve their customer service or for any start-up looking to get it right first time, think people first. It shouldn’t be difficult to go the extra mile when you care.

Thanks for reading and I’ll leave you with a quote from Henry Ford: It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.

Written by Robin Phillips
CEO, Watch Shop and WS Ecommerce Solutions Ltd.

Robin Phillips CEO
WS Ecommerce Solutions

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