When was the last time you evaluated how your business handles customer service? A lack of complaints or negative reviews doesn’t necessarily mean your service levels are where they could or should be.

You’ve almost certainly heard these two pieces of customer service knowledge before:

  1. It’s cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one.
  2. Exhaustively trying to “delight” customers won’t foster loyalty, reducing the effort required on their part will. If your customer service strategy isn’t aligned with these truths, you might be misplacing money and time that’s better used elsewhere. Periodically spot-checking how you tackle customer service can shed light on inefficiencies in your process and mistakes that have fallen through the cracks. Here, we’ve outlined four essential questions to keep in mind when you’re evaluating one of the most important facets of your business.

Are you accessible?

Smartphones are everywhere, giving customers more ways than ever to communicate with businesses. Largely, customers prefer to use mobile messaging to talk to companies, though businesses have been slow to adopt this option. Preferences shift however, when significant decisions or high-value purchases are involved. In these more sensitive scenarios, customers want to talk to a qualified expert, usually on the phone.

Of course, an omnichannel support system isn’t viable in every industry. There’s no use in establishing a high-tech support infrastructure if your customers are perfectly content calling your phone number. The goal is making your support system accessible wherever is most convenient for customers, be that over the phone, email, or on social media.

Finding out where this is might take some time. Analyzing phone reports and social media analytics or even just asking your customers what’s easiest for them isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s important to know if you’re on the right track.

Are you personalizing the experience?

One of the reasons customers enjoy access to multiple channels of communications is that it puts more control in their hands—it allows them to personalize their experience and feel like a valued customer rather than a name or number, which is proven to improve perception of a brand. Tailored experiences like these are becoming the norm in all industries and a baseline expectation from customers.

Source: Onespot/Marketing Insider Group

Brands are making impactful changes to their customer relationships with personalization on all scales. You probably know of these examples:

Spotify’s Discover Weekly and Daily Mix playlists are custom-made for each user based on comparing listening histories to other playlists, creating a unique experience every single day.

Amazon’s home page is different for each user, reflecting their search history and interests, which makes unplanned purchases far more likely.

These are examples from massive companies, but you can personalize an experience without complex algorithms. Small details with a personal touch count for so much—personalized emails are opened 6.2% more than their standardized counterparts. We can all spot (and ignore) an automatically generated email a mile away, so taking that extra step to use a customer’s name and personally write an email doesn’t go unnoticed.

Are you responsive?

The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report found that 58 percent of respondents noted their expectations weren’t met because companies were unavailable by phone or email. This one’s simple: you must respond to customers promptly. It shows you value their time and business.

This often presents a challenge after hours or on weekends, especially for smaller teams. If your  staff is consistently struggling to respond quickly, it might be worthwhile to consider outsourcing. That’s a concept with frightening connotations that brings forth memories of untrained call center agents and mind-numbing hold music, but better options exist. Recently, a new crop of customer service solutions has sprung up in the form of answering services built specifically to deal with this issue. Though their services might not necessarily be cheap, the cost of losing customers because of unresponsive service can be far higher.

Is Your Service Helpful?

67% of customers list a bad service experience as their main reason for churning. Word choice matters here: “A bad service experience.” It’s singular, meaning the majority of customers won’t forgive a business for a bad experience even once.

What’s worse: only one out of 26 customers who cut ties with a business makes any kind of complaint. The other 25 (that’s 96 percent) silently take their business elsewhere, leaving you without a clue as to why. The point here is that every interaction should be treated like what it is: your one and only chance to make a positive impression.

Clearly, it’s imperative that you invest in developing a service staff that are capable, confident, and sharp to minimize the likelihood of these bad experiences.

Is your in-house customer service equipped to handle whatever a potentially disgruntled customer might throw their way? Is your infrastructure such that they can do so without leaving them on hold or routing their call half a dozen times?

Customer service is one of your front lines of communication with a fickle and ever-increasing customer base. As such, the learning and training that guides their work shouldn’t end after a two-week on-boarding. Service training should be an ongoing process where performance is regularly audited and coached, and agents are consistently given opportunities to learn rather than just do.

Why this matters

Though none of what we’ve just covered is groundbreaking knowledge, it is both vitally important and frequently glossed over. Rapidly developing technologies and a shoddy customer service strategy could be quietly hemorrhaging your business behind your back, which is why a careful evaluation of the systems you’ve put in place shouldn’t be overlooked—it might just save your operation.


About the Author: Julian de Sevilla is the marketing specialist for PATLive, a 24/7 live answering service. He manages the company’s social media accounts and blogs and oversees overall content strategy.