By Alyson Button Stone
A company’s success today lies in its ability to build customer loyalty by providing outstanding customer service. According to Bain & Co. research, a company that improves its customer-retention rates by as little as 5 percent may see increased profits that are 25 to 95 percent higher. At the same time, customer support is becoming increasingly complex as customer expectations rise in tandem with emerging customer support platforms – mobile apps, chatbots, and social channels all offer a megaphone to customer requests. Research shows that companies are aware of the change that this digital transformation brings – in 2015, 89 percent of companies surveyed by Gartner recognized that customer experience would be their primary basis for competition by 2016.
The pressure to provide the best customer experience has encouraged companies to subscribe to the philosophy of being customer-centric or offering a customer-focused culture. More often than not, however, this customer centricity is interpreted to mean funneling responsibility through the customer support team, expecting them to solve customer problems and keep them happy.
True customer-centric culture means far more than providing good customer support, or taking a reactive approach to customer needs. A customer-centric culture, when embodied by employees, means proactively providing an exceptional customer experience at every level of the organization. In doing so, you are guaranteed to have a competitive advantage; you will offer a stronger customer experience, while also saving your company time and money. As you look to build out your company’s customer support model, consider the following tips on embracing customer centricity in your company culture.
Engraining customer support into your company culture starts with making every employee part of customer support. While your company may have one customer support department, that department should delegate customer requests to the departments that can best answer them – be it sales, engineering, IT, or HR. In letting employees across all departments interact with customers, your company will ultimately be able to deliver a more cohesive customer experience, simply because all your teams – not just the customer support team – will be better versed in who your customers are.
Hire for customer centricity
Growing a customer-centric business requires hiring the right people with the characteristics suited to work with customers. Seasoned customer experience consultant and Forbes contributor Micah Solomon believes that a customer-focused candidate embodies the acronym WETCO: warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness, and optimism. Preferred character traits may vary per company, but ultimately you should always look for employees who can put themselves in your customer’s shoes.
Once you pinpoint what customer-focused qualities you’re looking for, use certain interview tactics to determine whether it’s a good match, such as asking a candidate to teach you something or having them write a customer support email. These will convey their ability to communicate and empathize, both crucial to delivering excellent customer support.
Have a system and process in place
A whole-company customer support initiative is nothing without an efficient system and process in place. Hired, a career marketplace that connects companies to candidates, developed a successful whole-company customer support system that exemplifies the benefits of having a set process. Hired fosters interdepartmental customer support by setting the expectation for all teams to provide customer support. Hired routes all inquiries through one email address, and a small team assigns them to the team best suited to address them. The same process stands for internal requests, which furthers customer understanding by having employees experience first hand what it’s like to use Hired’s customer support system. Ultimately, Hired’s company-wide support culture has paid off – its marketplace has grown to $15 billion in offers made by companies nationwide, and its employee base has grown to more than 200 customer-focused team members.
Review and adapt these processes
To find true success in any customer support system, you must always look for ways to grow. In a guest post on Shep Hyken’s Customer Service blog, Tema Frank notes that building a truly customer-focused organization requires reviewing what potential frustrations your past and current customers and employees have. No matter how successful your current process is, keeping your customers happy requires listening closely to their evolving needs and adapting accordingly. Whether it’s implementing new technology or expanding the support team, keeping a pulse on your customer needs will always be an important factor for any successful company.
Alyson Stone is in content marketing at Freshdesk (www.freshdesk.com).