4 tips towards delivering consistent customer experience

Last week, I had an overcharge issue with my phone provider.

A tweet mentioning the service provider got me an unexpected and prompt response from the official Twitter account and I was advised to call up the service center.

But from there, things rapidly went south. After wading through a frustrating interactive voice response system, I was stuck in a queue for 30 minutes before getting to talk to a human being.

The conversation was probably carried on in the middle of a fire alarm because I barely got to tell my side of the story. Here is how it went:

Me: You guys are over charging me this month. I haven’t…

Operator: I am sorry, Sir but you will have to pay. We can look into the matter if you submit a ticket.

Me: Can’t you submit a ticket for me? How much time …..

Operator: I can’t do that. That’s done by customers online. It can take up to 6 weeks. Anything else?

Me: So, will I have to pay for these charges in my next monthly bill too? And will they go away?

Operator: I can’t promise anything. You have to pay the charges on your bill. Thank you for calling us.

Click.

See the disconnect here? If the Twitter response was like having coffee and a bagel at a corner cafe where you can sit and have relaxed conversations, the phone conversation was like having an unhealthy burger at a fast food chain with a generous helping of spit on the patty.

This is inconsistent customer experience and it can kill any business, big or small.

How do you avoid this from happening? Take care of these 4 things, and you can serve up customer contentment

1. Work on your branding

Your brand is much more than a pretty logo or a slick website. It is a set of mental associations that customers make when they think about you. Large businesses aren’t the only ones using this strategy, branding is important for small business too.

McDonald’s brand image is that they sell cheap food that tastes the same everywhere. Amazon’s brand image is that you can find any book you want to buy. Apple’s brand image is that they make computers and phones that just work.

What do customers associate with your brand? Is it a positive feeling that helps them move forward on their buying journey?

2. Develop a healthy work culture

Even in today’s highly automated environment customers will still interact with your employees from time to time. Whether you run a restaurant or a retail outlet, employees are at the faces of your company.

How your employees conduct themselves during these interactions does a lot in determining whether customers can get a consistent experience. If one of your employees behaves negatively with a customer, it takes 12 positive interactions to undo that bad impression. (Source: Understanding Customers, Ruby Newell Legner)

Don’t let that happen to your brand. One disengaged employee can give the entire company a bad name.

3. Focus on training

During hard times, training budgets in any company are one of the first to get cut. This is counterproductive because you need customers during recessions, and you won’t get customers if your employees don’t know what customer service pitfalls to avoid.

Employees do not become magically customer oriented, but if all of them get the same kind of training then they can get better at it.

While there is no silver bullet for delivering consistent customer service, a well thought out and properly funded employee training program is the next best thing.

4. Achieve unified customer communications

What makes a coffee shop or bar your favorite? Sure, good food and drink plays a role, but I am willing to bet that you like going there because you are always greeted by a friendly face that knows what you like and can even make suggestions based on your tastes.

No matter how big, every company should strive to achieve the same standard of intimacy with its customers. To achieve this, employees have to know everything about a customers’ past transactions, have access to the details of past communications and be aware of previous complaints or problems.

And the technology for this level of customer orientation is available, for various budgets, in the form of CRM software, data mining tools, and integrated live chat and ticket support systems.

Have you found these tips helpful?

What suggestions would you add towards delivering a consistent customer experience?

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