Customer Satisfaction 101
In this guide, we’ll delve into the key drivers and measures of customer satisfaction that not only result in a great customer experience, but also increase the chances that you’ll have a customer for life.
Why Does Customer Satisfaction Matter So Much?
Customer satisfaction isn’t something that’s either good or bad. Unfortunately for those of us that measure it, it’s not something that can be so precisely defined. Instead, it’s always wavering - based on every customer’s unique experience with your company and brand.
In short, the more positive, helpful and engaging experiences a customer has with you, the higher their customer satisfaction will be and then as a result, your opportunities to convert them into a kind of “brand ambassador” who wholeheartedly trusts and recommends your products without hesitation.
Invesp conducted a study that showed that acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer, and yet 44% of companies surveyed admitted that they have a greater focus on acquisition while only 18% focus on retention.
That’s a lot of incredible customer experiences just waiting to happen. But what can companies do to convert new customers into loyal ones, and keep old customers coming back? Let’s take a closer look at the main motivations that act as the driving force behind not just great customer service, but absolutely astounding customer service.
Uncovering the Driving Forces Behind Exemplary Customer Service
There are lots of little things you can do to make sure every customer experience is a stellar one, but all of them can be grouped into three main categories:
- Be Responsive
Do you have a backlog of help desk tickets? Are customer hold times frustratingly long? Customers want to know that they’re valued (and no, simply telling them so with an automated recording isn’t going to cut it). You’ll want to take steps to reassure them of this, in addition to taking measurable steps to improve the response time of your customer support staff.
Having an easy-to-navigate, well-organized knowledge base can contribute considerably to their success in this regard, since having an outline of steps to take or other actions to try can demonstrate to the customer that you truly are focused on successfully resolving their issue.
- Be Helpful
Being efficient as far as answering customer inquiries promptly won’t do a bit of good if the advice given isn’t actually helpful. Your product or service should be designed to help the customer resolve an issue, and if it creates more issues than it solves, then there is going to be a serious bottleneck that your support staff has to untangle.
- Be Attentive
These days, it’s no longer enough to be both efficient and helpful. You have to consider the support that you offer as yet another brick in the foundation you’re building upon which will culminate in a fantastic customer experience. Customers don’t just want a resolution to their problem. They want to feel understood, not degraded. Appreciated, not patronized
These days, customers want to feel valued. And the good news is that there are certain steps you can take to make them feel that way, and they’re all-too-willing to reveal them to you. According to a December 2019 survey by Ometria, customers surveyed remarked on the following methods that companies can use to win them over from a service point-of-view.
Notice how nearly 50% of those surveyed commented that “they ask for my feedback on purchases and my overall customer experience”. A customer service survey not only lets you see how well your company performed on the three markers noted above, but it also shows the customer that you eagerly want and act upon their feedback.
But, like with all worthwhile qualitative measures, there are ways to go about creating and positioning your survey so that it feels less like an afterthought to the customer and more like an investment in helping them get the best possible service (while helping you get valuable data about your company’s customer support service and measuring that against the right metrics which we’ll delve into below).
Creating a Worthwhile Customer Survey
No matter what you’re soliciting feedback about, there are some things that you should do in order to make it as simple as possible for them to fill out, yet easy enough for you and your staff to hone in on areas of improvement.
The last thing customers want is a long, drawn-out survey that asks for a ton of information. By the same token, you want to be sure that what you’re asking for will actually allow you to reflect on the current levels of service that you’re providing and take steps to improve it. In short, you can’t improve if you don’t know what to improve upon!
First of all, allow them to rate their level of customer satisfaction. How happy were they with the service they received? Secondly, as them to demonstrate, by way of a sliding scale, how easy it was for them to seek out support? This is known as the Customer Effort Score or CES. Was it easy to find support where and when they needed it, or was your customer support area hidden behind countless flaming hoops?
Finally, give them the opportunity to explain their answers. This can be as simple as placing text fields in your survey to allow them to expand on the information they’ve provided. Here again, authenticity is crucial. If they’ve taken the time to fully answer and comment on the service they’ve received, you can bet that they didn’t do it simply to waste your time. It’s something they sincerely want you to know.
How Else Can You Measure Customer Satisfaction?
Beyond surveys, what other methods exist to help better measure the levels of customer satisfaction you’re providing? There are lots of quantitative methods, including:
- Retention and churn rates
- The number of complaints received over a specific period of time
- The ratio of the number of complaints to the number of resolutions
To get into the meat-and-potatoes of these numbers, you’ll want to look at things like customer feedback, reviews, social media posts and so on. Surveys can tell you a great deal, but analyzing these other forms of feedback will provide you with many other facets that you can draw upon when figuring out the best plan forward to improve your customer satisfaction levels.
In order to better understand how to actually measure how well our customer support team is adhering to the aforementioned three key motivators (while reducing complaints and churn), it’s important that we look first at how to actually quantify the measure of customer satisfaction. Here’s where we can get into the weeds.
The truth is that customer satisfaction is subjective. What constitutes “exemplary customer service” varies from industry to industry and even between customers. The dedication and attentiveness you receive when eating at a 5-star Michelin-rated restaurant is going to be completely different than what you receive at a chain restaurant drive-through. Just doing what you’re “supposed” to do and hoping for the best isn’t going to cut it anymore.
So What Exactly Constitutes “Good” Customer Service?
With all this talk of quantitatively and qualitatively measuring customer service, we’ve only briefly touched on what is actually considered good customer service. Sure, you can be efficient and attentive, but what does that actually mean and how can you not just make it happen, but turn it into a cornerstone of your business? Here’s how:
Realize that Every Decision You Make Affects Your Customer
Large or small, every business decision you make affects your customer experience with your business. Imagine, for example that you switch suppliers in order to save money on shipping. But the new supplier can’t keep up with demand, which makes you late shipping your own products and forces your own customers to wait even longer to have their orders fulfilled.
Your customers won’t care that at the core, it’s your supplier’s fault that your own orders have slowed. All they see is that they placed and order and it can’t be fulfilled. In order to make the customer experience an integral part of your business, it has to be intrinsic to what you do, and a part of every business decision you make. In short, it has to be part of your front-office, your back-office, your actions and more. Putting the customer at the center of everything you do ensures that you keep this focus and keep everything else in proper alignment with your business procedures.
Don’t Just Follow the “Golden Rule” -- Follow the “Platinum Rule”
The Golden Rule -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is somewhat flawed when it comes to customer service. In essence, it says “treat your customers the way you think you’d like to be treated if you were a customer”.
While that sounds like a great idea on the surface, what if you completely removed yourself from the equation entirely? So that you end up with the Platinum Rule: “treat your customer the way they want to be treated”. For years, Apple floundered behind its competitors, and its products were looked at as overpriced and useless simply because they based their business around what they thought customers wanted, rather than what they actually wanted.
It wasn’t until Apple took something that that its customers found difficult (playing media files from a variety of sources, seamlessly) and transformed it into a self-contained product -- the iPod -- that people’s opinion shifted. Today, Apple products may still be expensive, but it’s focused on the user experience and delivering the kind of seamless integration that has sent its competitors reeling and scrambling to recover.
Set High Expectations, Then Exceed Them
Customer loyalty is a hard mountain to climb. Every time you exceed their expectations, you raise the bar that much higher for the next time. If they don’t continue to receive the same (or better) service than the last time they contacted you, they can just as easily switch to your competitors. Then, depending on the service your competitors offer, they may either stay or go.
It might therefore seem like a losing battle to keep trying to appease someone so fickle, but in doing so, you reap much more than the benefit of their continued loyalty. You also help craft the experience of a company that goes above and beyond to help their customers at any cost -- and greatly increase the chances that they’ll tell others about the amazing experience they had.
And not only that -- as word spreads, more and more people take notice. Twenty-five years ago, people wouldn’t dream of lining up outside an Apple store for hours to wait for the latest product release. Now, we’re still talking about their complete 180-degree brand shift all these years later.
Always Be On the Lookout for Ways to Add Value
One of the best ways to make your customers feel valued is to give them more than they anticipated. But that doesn’t mean that you have to just give, give, give. By adding value in every interaction, you’re helping them solve problems before they ever become a major stopping point.
For example, if a parent is buying their teenager their first electric guitar, they’ll also likely need an amplifier, guitar picks and some basic instruction on how to get started. What better opportunity to upsell, cross-sell and otherwise make sure their rockstar-in-training has everything they need to jam like a professional?
Doing all of these things and keeping up consistent customer service is a tall order to fill, but there are ways to make the process easier.
Commit to Omnichannel or Multichannel Support
No matter how customers choose to contact you, you want them to have a fantastic and memorable experience. This is where omnichannel and multchannel support comes in. Whether they call, email, contact you over live chat or social media, you want them to come away from the experience feeling satisfied.
With multichannel support, customers have multiple channels to choose from, but each of these channels cannot communicate with each other -- the support agent is the only thing they all have in common, so it’s up to them to create the standard to which the customer is accustomed to no matter what channel they choose.
With omnichannel, each of the communication channels are integrated, so if the user starts the process via help desk ticket and then completes it via email, all of the systems will communicate with each other and keep the agent updated at all times. Both methods have their pros and cons, so be sure to carefully consider both options and which could be the right fit for your specific needs before you move forward.
Help Customers to Help Themselves
If you are a startup or a small business, you might not have the capability or bandwidth to manage omnichannel or multichannel support. In these cases (and if nothing else, to help relieve the stress on your customer support team), there’s one other avenue you may not have considered which is to help the customer help themselves.
Whether they’re troubleshooting an error code or they need assembly instructions, having a self-service knowledge base can help cut down considerably on the support backlog. Although this should not be used as a substitute for a superior, customer-centered service team, it can help alleviate support bottlenecks before they become pervasive.
You may not think that a self-service knowledge base will bring your customers the same kind of satisfaction that they’d get talking to an actual human being, but you may be surprised. By helping them find their answer quickly and without cumbersome wait times or playing phone tag with support, you’re already setting the stage to create a positive first impression.
And last, but certainly not least:
Happy Employees Mean Happy Customers
Employees that are recognized for their efforts, happy to help and who understand the ripple-effect of great service can exude happiness in every call or chat. The customer can feel that the employee is happy to be of service.
This kind of happiness isn’t born overnight, but it’s nurtured over time. In order to reach the level of engagement and involvement in creating a superior customer experience, employees have to feel as if their own needs are being met. They need to feel like they are more than just a cog in the machine. In short, they need to have the tools and feedback to help them grow.
And feedback isn’t just something that can be used to nurture employees, but it can also be used to help teach them. If you’re actively asking for customer and employee feedback, don’t just hoard it like a dragon would a treasure -- actively use it to improve your company, both on an individual level and culture-wide in terms of how you do business.
Don’t just tell customers that they are important to you -- show them.
Customer Satisfaction in a Nutshell
Customer satisfaction seems simple enough on the surface, but much like the motivational iceberg, if you dive deeper, you’ll see that below the surface there’s a lot more making it possible. By staying focused on the task at hand and taking many small but significant steps to improve, you’ll be able to position yourself not just as a leader within your industry, but a brand worth reflecting on and a brand worth aspiring to be.
Emil Hajric, 2020