Tucked in a corner of the British Museum in London is the oldest known customer complaint.
Nearly 4,000 years ago, a copper ore customer in Mesopotamia named Nanni, dissatisfied with the quality of the ingots delivered, set his grievances in stone. Words chiseled into the clay tablet read, in part: “What do you take me for, that you treat somebody like me with such contempt?” When it comes to high consumer expectations, things weren’t so different in ancient Babylon.
The full text of his complaint reveals that his servants set off several times, trekking through a war zone in pursuit of restitution, all to no avail. Thousands of years later customers still feel same the frustration. And while a lack of technology contributed to Nanni’s never ending quest for resolution, today rectifying customer problems swiftly is critical. In fact, more than 80% of consumers say that getting a problem resolved quickly is the most important factor in a great customer experience. Fail to deliver and your reputation will suffer.
You can do better for your own customers. The best place to start? By making it easier for your customers to find the answers they need and resolve their own problems on the road most traveled: your website.
Your website as customer service engine
Research shows that customers are increasingly turning to brands’ self-service offerings in order to find answers to their questions more quickly — which can be seen to correlate to a rise in searches made on brand websites. This trend makes sense when you think about it: Don’t we all grab our phones and start searching online when we need to solve a problem? So it stands to reason that a brand’s website should be the ultimate source of truth when it comes to finding information about that brand.
Unfortunately most of that critical information is hard to find because the majority of websites have poor — and in some cases, non-existent — site search.. Think about a direct-to-consumer brand that sells a trendy line of jackets. You can imagine that one of the most common customer questions before or after a purchase might be “what is your return policy?” By giving customers the ability to quickly ask a question and then deliver a clear, specific and official answer, then you’re one step closer to having a brand advocate — even if they return the product. The other benefit is it means one less call to customer support or ticket filed, and that means lower support costs (music to a CFO’s ears) and more room for the customer service team to handle the most important (and more complex) customer issues.
Excellent customer support can lead to increased brand affinity — and higher spending
Once you have your website ready to deliver a great customer experience via search, you can begin to reimagine the role of your customer support staff. When the website does most of the heavy lifting in terms of answering questions, your customer service team can become product or service specialists, providing a more high-touch experience which can, in turn, drive more business and improve customer loyalty.
To illustrate: A Salesforce survey that found that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, while Zendesk reports that nearly 90% of satisfied customers tell friends and family about good experiences with a company. (Note also that it generally takes 40 positive customer experiences to undo the damage of a single negative review.)
Conversely, 62% of consumers won’t complete a deal or return after a bad customer experience. According to entrepreneur Syed Balkhi, writing for Forbes, “Most people view companies like faceless enemies; they’re just out to make money; they’re just telling us what we want to hear.” But in reality bad customer service costs money. In fact, it costs five times as much to gain a new customer as it does to hang onto an existing one. The lesson here: hang on to your existing customers as best you can. And reimagining the role of your customer support team so that they can truly engage and delight your customers — rather than merely “checking a box” when someone calls in — is the best place to start.
A good customer experience pays off. Customers spend more money after an online chat, according to Zendesk, which also reports that 83% of all online shoppers require support to make a purchase, and offering assistance helps close the deal. A Harvard Business Review article contributes hard numbers to the mix, showing that customers who enjoy positive experiences spend 140% more than customers who report negative experiences.
And while Nanni didn’t have the benefit of a search-powered website or a highly skilled customer service team to chat with, there is a moral to his story 4000 years later: make sure your customer support system isn’t stuck in the stone ages.