How Painless Problem Resolution Creates Lifelong Fans

Is quick and easy problem resolution a top priority for your company? It should be. Great customer service is a leading way to create loyalty among your customers, and when it comes to return on investment, a study by Watermark Consulting shows that it can't be beat.

After analyzing the stock portfolio performance of publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking, Watermark found that the top ranked companies handily outperformed the overall market, while the bottom ranked companies trailed far behind overall.

Their conclusion? "The Customer Experience Leaders in this study are clearly enjoying the many benefits that happy, loyal customers deliver: better retention, greater wallet share, lower acquisition costs and more cost-efficient service."

We've all experienced terrible customer service when trying to return an order, contest a charge, or troubleshoot a malfunctioning product. Customers often expect it to be a hassle, which is why if you can wow them with your company's problem resolution process, you can cement their loyalty.

Is your company driving people away with these customer service problems?

Not being there for the customer

The first step to great customer service is making yourself easy to find. Having multiple forms of contact, like email, web chat, phone, and in-store customer service makes it easy for customers to choose what they're most comfortable with. You must commit to excelling at each form of communication, however, or you'll risk angry customers. Long hold times, dropped phone calls, lines for customer service that stretch nearly to the front door, emails that are never returned – each of these scenarios raises your customers' blood pressure, and all that ire will be directed at your company.

Wait times can be excruciating, but that can be ameliorated by letting customers know how long the wait will be. Use a recording on the phone to estimate time, or use an autoresponder email to let customers know when to expect an email reply.

Making it too hard to solve the problem

The last thing a customer with a problem wants is to be thrown into a labyrinthine nightmare of poor customer service. Make things easy by providing a clear path to a solution – nothing is more aggravating than not knowing whether to push 1 or 2 to get through a phone tree, or not being able to find a company's contact information on the website. Spell out exactly which steps a customer should take to get her problem solved, and she'll arrive at customer service ready to work things out, rather than being combative and annoyed.

Juggling your customer from person to person

We've all been there: you just get finished explaining the problem in detail to one representative when he transfers you to his manager – where you get to explain the problem all over again. It's infuriating to say the least. The 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer from American Express reports that 26% of customers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution of their problem.

One solution is to empower your front lines to solve problems without having to pass customers from rep to rep. If it's necessary to transfer a customer, put systems in place to minimize the amount of re-explaining that needs done. Have the rep give a brief overview to his manager before transferring the call. The manager can then verify the details and clarify questions with the customer, rather than making her start over from scratch. This builds an amazing amount of confidence in the customer, who otherwise might feel as though she's trapped in a hamster wheel.

Not listening to customer feedback

Customer complaints are a treasure trove of information. As easy as it can be to get defensive, it's important to take customer feedback into account, and act on it. According to a study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only 4% of unhappy customers actually bother to complain – which means you can assume that for every complaint that's filed, there are 24 unhappy customers who said nothing.

Use those complaints as an opportunity to make your customer service shine, and customers will reward you with loyalty.

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