Creating a customer service strategy to add real business value

Still unsure where the customer service strategy can help avoid awkward and expensive situations? The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently fined payday loan company CFO Lending an eye-watering £34m for treating customers unfairly.

The FCA result comes just months after regulator Ofgem fined Scottish Power £18m for the exact same reason.

And, it’s not just regulators punishing companies for failing to deliver good customer service. Customers are becoming increasingly intolerant of receiving a poor service themselves – research we undertook found that almost a third will move their custom elsewhere if this is the case.

Furthermore, consumers are growing in confidence when it comes to taking matters into their own hands – in fact, almost half (48 per cent) have withheld or defaulted a payment deliberately as a result of service issues, incurring what is known as “protest debt”.

So what do businesses need to do?

I spoke at an industry conference recently where I was asked of the importance of customer service and whether it can be linked to financial results. My answer was, of course, yes – there is a direct link between customer contentment and profitability.

And, it should be something threaded throughout the organisation, with board level engagement and buy-in. But what else should businesses be considering in order to create leading customer service strategies?

Truly listening

Customers like, and deserve, to be heard. It’s pretty obvious, but surprisingly there are many businesses that “hear” but do not “listen”.  This only serves to antagonise customers and create the impression a business does not care. In fact, it’s believed that in monetary terms, poor customer service is costing UK businesses a sobering £234bn a year.

One way to combat this as part of your customer service strategy is through the use of customer satisfaction surveys. Highlighting poor scores and negative comments in real time, these surveys can really help – provided the results are used to inform actions that benefit customers.

Having a robust process in place, that follows up quickly on customer feedback, enables issues to be effectively resolved before they escalate and ensures customers feel truly valued.

Embracing customer choice

Customers are changing. They are better-informed, and becoming more critical and demanding. Businesses must therefore also evolve and listen to what customers, collectively and individually, want, and understand the channels they wish to be contacted through, providing choice and making interaction as easy as possible.

For instance, research has found that while 53 per cent of people prefer face-to-face or telephone contact, 17 per cent would choose email in the first instance and a further 13 per cent prefer web self-serve.  Using the right channel in the right way is equally important – channel choice depends on contact type and complexity.

Digital self-serve, for example, enables customers to carry out basic, transactional tasks conveniently in their own time. Advisors are then freed up to handle more complex and emotive contacts, and be more proactive, driving customer loyalty and advocacy.

On the next page, read how being proactive can help the customer service strategy, the long-term value that can be created and more.

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