Customer service today—what is it?
Customers have gained so much power that business can’t get away with a “buyer beware” mentality anymore. With the heightened visibility of reviews shared on websites, blogs, and social media, it’s more fitting to say: “Seller beware!” Customers are more than happy to discuss their buying experiences publicly. Many are all too willing to share the nitty-gritty about their entire buying journey, and that doesn’t reflect well on your company.
To remain competitive, customer service must adapt to a more comprehensive view of customer care. The entire customer experience has to be scrutinized, not just when the customer calls to complain. This more holistic view of a company’s relationship with a customer is called customer experience.
Customer service vs. customer experience.
For too long, businesses have conceptualized customer service as merely a department that fields customer calls. They answer questions, handle concerns, and put callers on hold where they’re left to wait for the next available agent. They’re a response for AFTER the customer makes a purchase.
Customer experience (or CX), on the other hand, is the set of perceptions a customer accumulates throughout his or her encounter with a brand. It’s a comprehensive view of all touchpoints, communication channels, and devices used during customer interactions. This includes customer service interactions, and so much more.
A helpful way to look at customer experience is to realize it’s not a direct line from Point A to Point B. That’s not how customers operate these days. They move back and forth through a continuous experience cycle. It’s almost impossible now to separate that experience into neat little boxes marked “research,” “pick,” “pay,” “use,” and “maintain” moments.
In the traditional model, customer service only applies during the “use” and “maintain” moments. What this fails to take into account is that the customer could also simultaneously occupy the “research” and “pick” moments for other products you offer. That’s why it’s essential to deliver a seamless customer experience across all possible touchpoints.
How do you begin improving customer service in particular and the customer experience in general? For starters, you can only improve what you measure.
How to measure customer service.
Customer service is defined as providing professional, helpful, high-quality service before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met. On the business side, you can often measure service employees’ knowledge and the friendliness they exhibit as they handle customers. But customer service success hinges primarily on how the customer feels after the interaction. That’s where the measuring should start—with the customer.
Many businesses use customer surveys to gauge success. An effective survey can identify your team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as other essential elements like:
- The customer’s expectations.
- Where they felt you failed during the interaction.
- How the customer feels a competitor would have treated him or her.
- Any emotional aspects involved.
- Whether the interaction helped or hurt the customer’s brand loyalty.
- Any wait times.
- What communication channel the customer prefers.
Feedback on customer service is always valuable, even when your customer comes away unsatisfied. Failure is often more educational than success. But don’t forget that analyzing your customer service ignores all the other moments in a customer’s experience with your brand. You can’t hinge too many of your business decisions simply on customer service metrics. You also need insight into your customers’ overall experience.
How to measure customer experience.
There are hundreds of metrics out there to measure customer experience. But customer experience is such a holistic concept that it’s hard to find a single, consistent measurement. Many companies try to break up the problem into smaller pieces, like:
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer retention
- Product solutions
- Implementation and onboarding
- Innovation rate
- Lifecycle management
- Sales and setup
- Price performance value
The problem is when they try to put all these pieces back together into a comprehensive score. With so many pieces, it’s still hard to get a clear view of the entire customer experience. At Jive, we employ a simpler solution, a single metric: NPS (net promoter score).
NPS is an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research. It also requires customer surveys, but operates on a fairly simple principle. If you like using a brand’s product or service, you want to share it. The idea is that customers can sum up their complete impression of your brand by answering a single question. “On a scale of 0–10, how likely are you to recommend [brand] to your friends, family, or business associates.”
How do you measure NPS?
NPS breaks your customers down into three different categories based on their responses to the question:
- Promoters. These are the customers who give you a 9 or 10 score.
- Passives. These respondents give you a 7 or 8 score.
- Detractors. This is everyone who gives you a 0 to 6 score.
NPS can range from -100 to 100. Your promoters pull your score into the positive half of the scale. A score of 0 or more is considered “good.” A score of +50 is “excellent” and above +70 is “world class.” Detractors drag you into the negative.
For example, let’s say 10 percent of your responses are detractors. However, 70 percent of your customers are so impressed with your company that they gave you a 9 or 10. You’d subtract the 10 percent from the 70 percent, placing you at an impressive +60 NPS. Companies that excel at the customer journey and have a corresponding score include Apple (+72), Amazon (+69), Netflix (+68), and Jive Communications (+68).
Improve NPS by improving relationships with customers.
Companies must broaden their scope to include metrics for customer support and customer experience. While both deserve attention, customer experience, as newer and more modern concept, is often underutilized. Your company can’t afford to overlook customer experience today, so add a customer experience metric, like NPS.
Once you’ve identified your NPS, you’ll need to look for ways to improve it. Remember that NPS prioritizes your relationship with the customer above all else. You can build those relationships (and goodwill) by engaging with both promoters and detractors on an individual basis. You should also cut their wait times, don’t nickel and dime them, and engage with them using the channel they prefer. After all, customer service and customer experience help each other out. If you have a good relationship with customers, then they’ll forgive the occasional customer service fail.