Small business thinking for big business customer service

customer service

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The corner shops where the owner knew you by name and asked about your family are disappearing, to be replaced by sprawling malls. Here may be able to access a larger variety of products at competitive prices, but too often you’re just another person in the queue at the checkout.

Old-school customer service has, in many places, been supplanted by convenience, but perhaps it’s the approach big business needs to take in customer service.

The Customer Experience rulebook

Over the past few years, close attention has been paid to the concept of Customer Experience, with companies examining business processes to tweak these or overhaul them so that the customer feels like their expectations have been met, as per their preferences. This also applies to the service they receive within the contact centre environment. But have CX teams examined the corner shop approach when doing this? CX isn’t just about speedy resolution of interactions, it’s primarily about personalisation and the quality of the interaction.

“According to Harvard Business Review, in transaction-based businesses, customers who had the best experiences spent 140% more than customers who had the worst experiences.”

The corner shop experience was based on relationship, with the business owner gaining familiarity with their customers over an extended period and repeat interactions. They’d get to know what you like to look at, discuss and purchase, and also what you weren’t interested in. Great salesmanship and customer service is built on the principles of knowing your customers. Let’s say CX relies heavily on data analytics insights to derive context that translates to personalised service. Are the metrics in the right place to flesh out your view of the customer? Are you using the right metrics in the first place? You may not have the luxury of years of interactions to develop this relationship – you need to get a broad view as quickly as possible through limited transactions to replicate corner shop personalisation.

Know your customer – the data analytics approach

A complete picture of your customer is necessary. It’s not enough to stop at information that suggests the customer is ready to engage in one way without considering the opposite too – you need to give your customers options. The corner shop owner may know his products, but he still has to allow the customer the choice whether or not to purchase. Big business can have a bullying approach based on data that says “we know you more than you do”, and this can intimidate customers.

Going back to that Harvard Business Review quote, a key word is “transaction”. You’re not just throwing customer service at the customer, you want to listen to what they want and expect, too, providing space for feedback and, critically, acting on that feedback to provide a better, more personalised customer experience.

Empathy and knowledge in customer service

The intimate knowledge of customers sealed the deal for the corner shop owner – they knew when it was your birthday, your kid’s birthday or if you’d had a small car accident, and they’d bring that up in conversation. You don’t get much more personalised than that. And yet the data-constructed view that’s rolled out via the contact centre can offer such information if used correctly; you may not be invited to the birthday party, but you can personalise your interactions based on what you know, removing the impersonal approach that leaves customers feeling frustrated and adding a personal touch that will prompt a greater likelihood of customer loyalty.

Your customer, if you’re speaking to them and their needs, telling them you know and understand them, is going to be less likely to shift to another company that gives them the “faceless customer treatment”.


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First published on: ForbesAfrica