According to new report from CFI Group, customer satisfaction levels have experienced a slight decline over the past year. Data compiled from consumers across various sectors reflects a customer satisfaction score of 68 (out of 100), a four-point decline from the previous year.
This year’s reading is the lowest score since the report was first issued and it represents the uphill climb many companies face in satisfying increasingly demanding consumers.
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So what are some ways companies can drive customer satisfaction in today’s consumer-centric landscape? The following is a curated list of 25 different tactics to improve customer satisfaction, from a variety of sources:
1. Develop Customer Service Communities
“The most advanced companies are using [customer service] communities to generate product ideas and test new products. Seventy-two percent of respondents [who participated in a Get Satisfaction survey] are using communities to get feedback on how existing products are used; 67 percent use them to collect ideas for new products or features from customers; and 46 percent rely on them for feedback on prototypes or beta products.”
(Source: Smart Customer Service)
2. Treat Customers Like You Would Want to Be Treated
“Remember that your customer wants to see the sunny side of you and your business, so have your filter on and put yourself in their shoes.
A good way to instill this attitude among your staff is to do some simple role play in which they act out a few scenarios that involve both easy-going and difficult customers. Observe how they handle the situation and coach them on areas to improve.”
(Source: U.S. Small Business Administration)
3. Provide Multichannel Support
“With newer communications channels such as social, mobile, web chat, and email becoming increasingly important to customers, companies must develop an omnichannel approach to their customer service in order to connect with customers on the channels they prefer to use. Multichannel support not only offers customers a seamless transition between channels; it also prevents them from having to repeat information they may have already provided to different call center agents, which can be both irritating to customers and potentially damaging to a company’s reputation.”
4. Make Employee Satisfaction a Priority
“Simply put, when your employees are happy, they can provide better customer service. Studies have proven that employees often perform better at the jobs when they feel appreciated. Give each employee a personalized ‘thank you’ every now and then, and introduce an employee of the month program, if you don’t have one already. If you can help your employees take pride in their jobs, their work performance will also improve.”
5. Encourage Agents to Take Ownership of Problems
“Encourage operators to take ownership of problems and spend time dealing with the customer, rather than escalating or passing over the problem. This gives advisors a real sense of pride in their job and means they are taking their own action and really shows excellent customer service.”
(Source: Call Centre Helper)
6. Turn Customer Survey Data into Action
“Good data reflects the experiences your customers actually have with your company. Furthermore, good data equips your company to take action. [The key is to] develop a satisfaction survey that probes truthfully into the heart of your gaps and opportunities.”
(Source: Smart Customer Service)
7. Figure Out What the Customer Really Wants
“Figure out what the customer really wants, if you can solve the problem they will pay; the value is often not in the discount you can offer but rather in the solution you can provide.”
8. Focus on Company Culture
“The best companies put a focus on culture. They implement training programs around their cultural values to ensure everyone shares the same values and that they are consistently demonstrated when dealing with customers.”
“In a world that is heavily dependent on the internet, consumers are quick to hop online and share how they feel about a product or service. Take the time to log onto the internet and observe what people are saying about your business. Find out what people enjoy, as well as what they’d like to see improved. The reviews you stumble across might surprise you and introduce you to areas of improvement that you had not previously considered. An expert from Meyers Transport Ltd says problems with shipping and receipt of goods, especially, can often be identified through customer reviews. Being aware of these issues is the first step towards resolving them.”
10. Offer Proactive Customer Service
“The key here is to contact your customers before they need to pick up the phone and contact you! To be effective, these contacts should be timely, personalized and relevant to the consumer.
The best proactive strategies make regular contact throughout the consumer lifecycle. Examples include: payment reminders, fraud monitoring, and personalized loyalty and reward schemes. This strategy can reduce inbound calls and improve agent efficiency. This proves that offering great customer service isn’t just good for the consumer, it’s good for the business as well.”
(Source: Call Centre Helper)
“In everything you do, make sure the customer feels like he or she is the only one that matters. Use the customer’s name, refer to personal information and congratulate a customer on his or her birthday. Make them feel at home.”
(Source: Tech Target)
12. Slash Wait Times
“Everyone is busy, and if your company can’t provide the highest levels of service your customers won’t hesitate to find someone who can. Customer wait time needs to be eliminated or managed. Bureaucracy needs to be replaced with customer-friendly processes. Be easy to do business with, and your customers will reward you over and over again.”
13. Put a Social Media Plan in Place
“Customers are increasingly demanding speedy responses—sometimes as quickly as in real time—to their complaints on social media. A company that isn’t paying attention can wreak havoc with its reputation.”
(Source: Smart Customer Service)
14. Rethink the Approach to Doing Business & Building Relationships
“Because consumers are operating differently today, and more differently tomorrow, companies must embrace the environment in which we’re operating. It’s only fair to customers that companies rethink their approach to doing business and building relationships with them.”
15. Demonstrate Product Knowledge
“One of the most important aspects of successful customer service revolves around product knowledge. In other words, any and all agents who have direct customer contact should know the company’s product and/or service inside and out.
In many cases, developing robust product knowledge involves managers helping agents build their confidence so they’re motivated to succeed. To do this, managers might try mapping out their assessment of an agent’s product knowledge and compare it against the agent’s, identifying any gaps that exist and making it easier to put together a professional development plan for the future.”
16. Benchmark Customer Satisfaction
“Benchmarking is the process of comparing your own organization or operations against other organizations in your industry or in the broader marketplace.
You might compare your most successful competitor’s customer processes and satisfaction with your own. Or, you might look at a firm outside of your industry known for remarkable customer service practices. Establishing a benchmarking initiative is an important component of measuring and improving your customer service and satisfaction.”
(Source: the balance)
17. Set Clear Expectations and Exceed Them
“Nothing is more frustrating for a consumer than wandering around in a digital world unsure of what to expect from a business, or when. Let customers know up front what your standards and practices are. How long will they wait for a response or a callback? Will that response truly be on target and accurate? Removing the customers’ uncertainty about such common issues in customer service lets them know that a company is committed to their success and satisfaction, especially when the business builds in enough leeway that it can routinely exceed expectations.”
18. Study Complaints and Compliments
“Every message from a customer presents an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction. Compliments show you what to reinforce, while complaints point to new ideas and action steps for improvement.”
(Source: UP! Your Service)
19. Hold Daily Stand Up Meetings with your Team
“Problems tend to come in waves. You might have a bug of the week, a new release causing more questions or a seasonal volume increase. Instead of letting agents figure out how to deal with this on their own, take it on as a team with daily stand-ups. You’ll start the day on the same page and fire up.”
20. Ask How Your Clients Would Like to be Responded to
“One way to increase customer satisfaction is to communicate with clients through their preferred method. For online consumers, email is the standard method. This allows them to maintain the anonymous status which is important to online consumers. Even when consumers provide a telephone number, they may be surprised when you contact them by phone. If you decide to place a call, take into consideration that it is a more personal and perhaps invasive action.
Prepare notes or a list of questions beforehand to ensure you cover all your points and maximize the time. By contacting people in their preferred method, you will most likely have a better chance of reaching them with that reasonable time frame, communicating effectively and achieving your goals.”
21. Provide Additional Benefits
“Who doesn’t like added benefits? Or, a special offer once in a while? Surprising your customers with a free goodie unexpectedly can go a long way in building concrete relationships.
Sometimes, an unanticipated discount on the products your customers have been eying for some time can work. On other events, you can consider throwing in an additional accessory or a week’s worth post-purchase support for free. You would be amazed at how effective these little things can be in building a positive image of your brand. It helps in increasing customer satisfaction immensely.”
(Source: Tweak Your Biz)
22. Offer Free Product Training and Support
“This is a clear, business-winning decision. Nothing decreases customer satisfaction more than being confused with how to make a product work. And free product training and support will be how you alleviate this customer frustration. Why does this work? For starters, when people spend money on something, they tend to doubt themselves and their ability to make the product work right. With detailed, free training, you’ll alleviate that self-doubt and win a life-long customer.”
(Source: social triggers)
23. Press Reset After Every Call
“Dale Carnegie said “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer.”
Each new customer interaction should be entirely fresh and new for you. I used to imagine an actual reset button that I would press after something frustrated me. Shed any frustration before you interact with the next customer with a few deep breaths. Then, visualize the amazing potential of your new opportunity to interact with your next customer.”
24. Ask for More Feedback
“Sometimes, it can be difficult to find ways to improve customer satisfaction. But there are always more customers who have valuable insights that they haven’t given to you. It’s up to you to go fishing, not for compliments, but for criticisms. In your survey, after asking customers how satisfied they are, you should provide a form where they can type out a response. You have a few different options here. It’s most common to ask customers to explain why they gave you the score that they did. You can pick more customers’ brains by phrasing your question/statement more clearly. For example, you could ask: “What could we have done differently to improve your experience?” By being upfront about what you’re asking, customers will provide you with more insightful responses.”
25. Empower Your Agents
“Agents who have been carefully hired and properly trained then need the authority to handle customer issues before they need escalation. No customer really wants to have to ask to speak to a supervisor they want to be talking to someone who can solve the problem in the first place. Giving your reps the power to make their own decisions makes your customers happy, and it also keeps your reps happy, reducing agent turnover. More operational cost savings!”
(BONUS WAY!) Leverage 100% of Customer Conversations “Contact center conversations are a treasure trove of meaningful data. Most contact centers record every call and maintain records for every chat and email correspondence. Imagine the difference between a CX data set that covers 100% of interactions with your organization and what your best survey response rate might be. Applying speak analytics to this data set will often uncover CX issues you didn’t know you had, and just as often point the way to how to solve them for improved customer satisfaction”
How Do You Define Customer Satisfaction?
There are a number of definitions of customer satisfaction flying around, but they are all focused on the same thing – how a company’s product or service measures up to customer expectation. Companies place a great deal of focus on customer satisfaction because it can have a major impact on revenue – the higher the level of customer satisfaction, the more likely customers are to remain as customers. Furthermore, a high level of customer satisfaction increases the likelihood of revenue generated from customer referrals and helps you to build your brand.
Many call centers use customer satisfaction surveys at the end of calls. Customers are asked to complete a quick survey after every call to and rate the level of service they received and understand how the customer feels about your business. Customer satisfaction surveys help companies to uncover problems with their service in a timely manner. They also provide visibility into the performance of each member of your team.
If your call center uses customer satisfaction surveys it is important that you turn the data you collect into action. If agents are consistently getting low scores in surveys, coaching sessions should be set up to identify and eradicate the behaviors that result in negative customer sentiment.
What is the Importance of Customer Satisfaction?
Customer satisfaction is an important metric for companies as it provides an insight into things like customer loyalty, likelihood of churn, and also helps identify issues with the product or service. Companies that provide a high level of customer satisfaction can also use it to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
The importance of customer satisfaction was highlighted by a 2008 survey conducted by Accenture which showed that poor customer service, and not price, was the main reason for customer churn. By increasing the level of customer satisfaction you can reduce customer churn rates at your company.
Similarly, a high level of customer satisfaction reduces negative word of mouth. McKinsey estimates that an unhappy customer tells 9-15 people about their bad experience. One thing companies who provide a low level of customer service sometimes overlook is the collateral damage caused by unhappy customers. It is bad enough losing business because you provided a customer with a low level of service, but what about losing 15 more customers as a result? Customer satisfaction can have a massive impact on your business and appropriate care should be taken.
You should also remember that acquiring new clients is a lot more expensive that keeping the clients you already have. Misallocating resources and overlooking customer happiness as you chase new business opportunities is a common mistake that must be avoided.
While there’s no one solution for improving customer satisfaction levels, the key is to develop a customer-centric mindset that will help inform decisions and company direction. Staying up to date with call center best practices is also something to keep in mind. The above list of recommended tactics from a wide variety of sources represents only the beginning – the possibilities are endless.
Additional Resources On Customer Satisfaction
To help you learn more about customer satisfaction and what you can do to increase customer satisfaction at your company, check out the following resources:
The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency
10 Reasons Why Customer Satisfaction Is Still a Crucial Business Metric
Customer Satisfaction Surveys & Research: How to Measure CSAT
Why Customer Satisfaction is Important (and How to Focus on It)
How to Measure Customer Satisfaction: Do You Overlook these 4 Key Customer Satisfaction Measurements?