The first step to solving a problem, according to the old philosophy, is admitting that you have one. While statistics show that Americans are increasingly unimpressed with the quality of customer support they are being offered today, the companies providing this substandard customer support remain largely oblivious. According to research by Lee Resources, 80 percent of companies claim to deliver “superior” customer service. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service. That’s a pretty big disconnect. One could almost use the word “denial.”
In many cases, dragging the company up from doing a lousy job on customer service to doing “a pretty good job” on customer service will be an achievement in itself. It still won’t be enough, however. Customer service needs to be an “all the time” sort of proposition that your customers are able to count on, if they’re going to be able to trust your company and grow loyal to it, according to a recent article by Forbes’ Micah Solomon.
Throwing out a customer support plan and hoping it sticks simply doesn’t work. Companies today need to keep their fingers on the pulse of customer satisfaction at all times, and this means finding extensive and creative ways to measure the customer experience. Hotels, which operate in one of the most competitive and cut-throat industries in the world, have had to evolve a number of processes for obsessively tracking quality metrics. Mystery shopping is one of those techniques, but organizations that embark on it need to ensure that they’re not punishing creativity by customer support staff, according to Solomon.
“Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian has spoken to me eloquently about learning that Hyatt’s existing secret shopping methodology was only ‘grading [ourselves] on conformity’ and thus penalizing employees who provided creative, authentic customer service,” he wrote. “Upon discovering the problem, Hyatt revamped its entire mystery shopping approach.”
Providing a creative approach to each customer means that customer support quality isn’t a concept that can be applied to a broad swath of customers. A reputation for a great experience is something that happens customer by customer, and this means approaches have to be personalized. This means collecting and using personal details about each customer, according to Solomon.
“Now, I know that computer-assisted personalization of the customer service process can become creepy if it’s overdone–if the omniscient abilities of digital tools come to dominate the customer experience,” he wrote. “However, this isn’t a reason to back off from developing the kind of personal relationship with your customers that, say, a small-town grocery would have had with his, the kind of service intimacy that can only be grown by paying attention to detail and customizing your service based on those details.”
One-size-fits-all service is an oxymoron. Commit to one-on-one customer engagement by tailoring the experience to each customer according to preferences. Be sure, however, that you have the right feedback channels in place so you can know in an instant if you’re under-serving or over-serving the customer. Building a great customer experience process isn’t a one-and-done deal after which you can sit back and watch the results. It’s a minute-to-minute process that needs to adapt to each customer…and make course correction quickly if turns out to be the wrong approach.