Lose Your Customer: About five years ago I was hired as the closing keynote speaker to address the partners of a large law firm about client service. Earlier in the day one of the lawyers asked, what are you going to share with us? I told him that a lot of what I talk about is common sense that’s not so common. For example, lawyers should return phone calls quickly and respond to emails on a timelier basis. He rolled his eyes at me and walked away.

The speaker who was on before me was one of the law firm’s biggest clients who paid millions of dollars in what the legal profession refers to as billable hours. He was answering questions from the audience. The final question is the one that counted—at least for me. He was asked, “What can we do to provide a better client experience?”

His response was perfect. “Return my calls and emails quicker.” I looked at the lawyer who I had talked to earlier that day. His mouth was wide open, as he was astonished at the answer.

That was five years ago. Customer service was obviously important then, and it is even more important now. Let’s look at the travel and hospitality industry. I just received a copy of Netomi’s Customer Service Benchmark Report. They surveyed 3,000 of the world’s top travel and hospitality companies about how they deliver customer support on email and social channels. It turns out that, similar to the law firm, response time counts. Also similar to the law firm, their response time leaves much to be desired. Or, to put a positive spin on it, response time is an opportunity.

Speaking of opportunities, we can learn from the travel industry. Netomi’s findings may not apply to your company or industry specifically, but you can see what customers are starting to expect and what makes them disappointed. So, let’s dive into a few stats and facts and learn what we can do to better the experience our customers have when they do business with us.

· Customers Are Ignored: Nearly 70% of emails are ignored and 46% of direct messages on social media are never responded to. This is a chronic problem in many industries. It’s one thing to have slow response, but no response can spell the death of the relationship. I remember a poster in my dentist’s office that asked, “Which teeth should I floss?” And the answer, “Only the ones you want to keep.” Putting it in business terms, “Which customers should I respond to?” … “Only the ones you want to keep.” (Did you really need me to give you the answer?)

· Responses Are Not Thorough: Even when the company does respond, it doesn’t necessarily help. According to the Netomi survey, 97% of email responses do not provide a meaningful answer in the initial email and 72% of companies don’t provide a relevant response on social media. If you want the costs of managing your customer service and support to go up, force the customer to call back, email again, etc. The point is, if you get it right the first time, you not only have a happier customer, you also save money.

· On Time Response: Thirty-two percent of travel companies that prioritize email respond within the first hour. Maybe there is a silver lining in the dark cloud—at least for the customers who use a company that falls into this 32% statistic. For the rest (68%), too bad. Approximately 25% of companies will respond within one and three hours and almost 28% will get back to you between three and 24 hours. For the rest, if they respond at all, it could be days.

Whether your organization is a law firm, an airline, a travel agency or any other company in any other industry, know this: Your customers want you to respond when they reach out to you. Not the next day or a week later. And, when you do respond, make it count. One of the big concepts we teach in our customer service training workshops is the concept of Always. When the customer uses the word always followed by something positive, you are creating a predictable experience. The customer says:

“They are always so helpful.”

“They are always so knowledgeable.”

And, as it pertains to this article, “Whenever I reach out to them, they always get back to me quickly—and with the right information.”

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