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In a world full of instant gratification, “please hold” is no longer an acceptable response when it comes to customer service. Consumers don’t need to hear that your call is important to them – they need you to prove it. 

With various platforms available for consumers to reach a multitude of different companies, social media has become one of the most frequented. Consumers can directly contact any given business in effort to rectify their issue without having to leave their home or even pick up the phone. Harvard Business Review recently conducted an experiment via Twitter to see just how satisfied consumers are when it comes to customer service, and how they got there. One of their main findings appears to be self-explanatory, but essential nonetheless. They found that “Customers who had interacted with a brand’s customer service representative on Twitter were significantly more likely to pay more for the brand, or choose the brand more often from a comparably-priced consideration set, compared to our control group of customers who had no such interaction.”

In terms of keeping a consumer’s loyalty unwavering, the response – any response – is most important. Even the most irritated of consumers can be soothed if they feel like their problem isn’t being dismissed or ignored. Of course, it can’t hurt to resolve the dilemma at hand, but responding and making a customer feel significant and that their problem is being heard is the first and most vital step to a positive interaction. A consumer may hope to give their business to a brand without flaws, but they are willing to accept and embrace a brand’s flaws if they feel personally connected to it.

Both HBR’s research as well as our own found that after the communication between representative and consumer has been initiated, there are two important components to the interaction which build off one another, differentiating one-time buyers and loyal consumers: a sense of urgency and a personal connection.

Our research has found that companies who report better performance in average response time to customer requests improve in service metrics by 13.8% year-over-year, in comparison to All Others who decrease -0.9% year-over-year. If their dilemma is resolved, their service metrics increase even further (18.2% vs. -2.6%), but responding in a timely fashion is integral to the beginning of a successful interaction. HBR dug deeper into this aspect and found that businesses are losing revenue the longer they take to respond. As shown in the graph below, not only does responding quickly ensure a more satisfied and loyal consumer, but one who is also willing to spend more money in the future. It becomes very clear that any reply provided in a timely manner leads to a more favorable experience as well as greater profits.

 

A sense of urgency is the first of many building blocks that are key when a representative begins to develop a personal connection between the consumer and their brand. Responding quickly makes a consumer feel not only like their issue has been heard, but that their time is valuable. A rapid response gears the conversation towards a more personal encounter. To further this connection, HBR suggests addressing consumers directly by using their name, in addition to giving them the name of the person who is assisting them. By doing so, the interaction feels more like a conversation rather than a transaction. However, treating each consumer as an individual goes beyond knowing their name and billing address.

The next step in creating a personalized and tailored experience is knowing background information about their previous interactions with the business, both positive and negative. Our research has proven that building a unified view of customer data is integral to making the experience feel personal, ensuring a customer’s satisfaction within their product or service. Keeping any given customer’s data in one place that can be accessed by every representative produces a more knowledgeable experience; the consumer is under the impression that the business is running cohesively and has kept tabs on their different experiences with the brand. They can continue working along with the representative to solve their problem without feeling like they’ve been lost in the masses. As a result, the consumer feels valued and remembered and, in turn, will value and remember that brand the next time they shop.

So, keep it simple: be personable, be efficient, and most of all, keep in mind that even the angriest of customers are hoping for you to win back their allegiance – even if you can’t solve their problem.

 

Jessica Burns is a blogger and communications professional.

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