Customer Care – It all starts here, and ends here too

With improving customer-care across sectors and functions, the expectations of the buyers are on the rise.

Customer Care – It all starts here, and ends here too

You want your customers to come back. Again and again. And your customer-care department plays a big role here

Business owners know how difficult it is to acquire new customers. Mix of advertising, email marketing, discount coupons, and free offers, among many other tactics, are needed to get the attention of a customer. Repeat customers are the ones that keep almost all businesses going. They are also the ones whom businesses cross-sell and up-sell. And poor service, indifference, and bad customer handling are all it takes to make sure the same customer never comes back. 

Customers never want to be treated like cattle being taken for slaughter. A common issue while dealing with large companies is of all complaints being dealt-with in the same way. You want your customers to come back. Again and again. And your customer-care department plays a big role here.

Expanding the role of customer-care

With improving customer-care across sectors and functions, the expectations of the buyers are on the rise. While most senior executives recognise and acknowledge customer satisfaction is important in gauging success, they focus on specific touch-points that have more weight in the overall measurement metrics. 

While "mapping customer journey" has become the buzz-word in marketing related discussions, not all teams have the patience to really map all touch-points, as that requires weaving-in lots and lots of information together, and then making sense out of it. The customer data resides in multiple channels throughout the enterprise. 

The customer-care department owns the largest chunk of buyer journey. By providing valuable insights into pain-points and customer expectations, it can help the vertical heads across functions visualise the big-picture and re-design the customer-care processes. It is high-time the perception of customer-care changes from a more sidelined "call-centre" function to a mainstream channel that can drive customer experience transformation for the company. 

Relationship in CRM

Most companies, especially larger ones, commonly use a term – Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – an approach to manage a company's interaction with present and potential customers. Over the years, CRM moved from marketing domain to the IT domain, given CRM softwares have taken over most of the customer interaction processes. A simple google search of the term throws up results of hundreds of CRM software companies. CRM automation definitely makes the life easy and streamlines lengthy sales and marketing cycle, but it also has the potential to take away the much-needed "human touch".

No two customers have exactly the same preferences, leave aside hundreds, or thousands, of them. While standardised responses through digital channels do serve the purpose to a large extent, completely depending on them can leave loopholes leading to a frustrating experience for the customers who look for specific solutions to their specific queries. It merits attention and efforts to deepen the automation process by personalising the messages to customers. For the smaller businesses, good old phone calls would improve the stickiness far more. Especially to the customers from whom they have not heard back for long.

Once the word spreads about poor customer-care it may become a big headache to rebuild the brand image. Not keeping a regular check on the front-line executives dealing with customers is dangerous for the business. They need to be trained, and re-trained, and reminded to avoid any negative situation with customers. Training in emotional-intelligence and keeping patience while dealing with customers could be helpful too.

Customer-care policies

There are numerous ways businesses can deal more sensitively by introducing small changes in the way customers are regularly dealt-with. Some examples of simple implementation of customer-care policies:

  • Thanking after every sale: Customers may not notice every time you thank them, but they will remember if you don't
  • Delivering on promise: Customers will not be satisfied with less. For them to be able to refer the brand and come back for more, delivering on promise is a must. Over-deliver, if possible
  • Holding more than a minute: A good practice is to check-back in less than a minute and request for holding the phone for some more time; the music should not be shrill or too loud as it might irritate the customer
  • Never interrogate: First listen to the customer, and then ask. Interrogating with multiple questions even before listening to the customers will make them hesitant of future purchase
  • Refund & guarantee: Promptness in refunds or exchange done with friendly attitude will make a customer comfortable and convey the good experience to friends and family
  • Waiting to pay: A common sight. Standing in line to pay is a wasted time for the customer. Customers might just walk-away without a sale. The manager must jump-in to help or speak to customers to ease things up
  • Rewards for suggestions: Customers bring-in a fresh perspective. Welcoming their suggestions and rewarding for the same would make them happy and improve brand recall
  • Talk to customers: Many customers buy from small businesses because they can talk to the owner. Never get too busy not to talk to them
  • Never forget a customer: If you have not heard back from a customer, reach out. You can get back a drifting customer by a 2-minute phone call.

There could be hundreds of such permutation-combinations. The idea is to sensitively think about the customers and iron-out all possible hassles.

Customers buy because they want to not because you want them to. While the large companies have the wherewithal to use massive advertising and ridiculously low pricing to lure customers, the small and medium enterprises have little choice due to budget constraints. Excellent customer-care could be the great leveller here. And a key differentiator too.