In an era where competition has never been fiercer or more abundant, customer satisfaction is the key to sustained success. Only by delivering an outstanding customer experience can businesses stay one step ahead of the competition and ensure that fickle customers become loyal brand advocates.
Yet, as hard as you work to provide outstanding customer service, it’s not always easy to gauge the impact your service has on the customer experience.
This is why Customer Satisfaction Surveys are an essential data collection method to help businesses ensure that they’re consistently delighting their customers. But erratic response rates and disappointingly low scores can be extremely frustrating for businesses that feel that they’re doing their level best. The good news is that there are practical and actionable steps you can take to boost your customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and develop a reputation for excellence.
Look after your employees
Of course, one of the surest ways to boost customer satisfaction is to invest in optimising the people delivering it. Your frontline staff play a key role in the customer journey, and if they’re undertrained, understimulated or underappreciated, it’s likely to impact the level of customer service they’re able to provide.
Some actionable ways to ensure that your employees are able to deliver outstanding customer service include:
A comprehensive onboarding
Even the most promising candidates need to be given a comprehensive onboarding to ensure that they can hit the ground running and deliver outstanding customer service from day one. Not only should your onboarding equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to do their job, but it should also ensure that they are fully conversant with your workplace culture and how they can and should embody it in their day-to-day activities.
A well structured and transparent incentive scheme
Paying your employees a living wage is a sure way to ensure both loyalty and productivity. But if you want to give them a little something extra to ensure that they always deliver on customer service, you may want to join the many companies that use incentives schemes where rewards are intrinsically tied to customer satisfaction scores.
Just be wary that incentive schemes can be “gamed” by employees. They may say something disingenuous along the lines of “Give me 5 stars or my pay will be docked” which could actually detract from the customer experience even if the net result is a great CSAT score.
An employee recognition programme
Monetary incentives aren’t the only way to motivate your employees. An employee recognition programme can allow you to share and celebrate employee achievement. It can ensure that each and every member of your team knows that their contributions are valued and that the company’s success is their success. Investing in an employee recognition tool can make this even easier.
Ongoing professional development
Of course, if you want to deliver consistently excellent customer service, training cannot be something that you abandon after the onboarding process. Each employee should have their own programme of ongoing professional development to help them excel in their jobs and meet their career goals.
Happy, motivated and well looked after employees are far more likely to deliver the kind of genuinely outstanding customer service that ensures that the customer feels valued and fills out their CSAT form.
It can help you to perpetuate a culture that makes employees feel valued
What is your brand? Is it the colour scheme on your website? Is it your logo? Or is it the culture that you strive to create and perpetuate? A culture that embraces and values the contribution the workforce makes to the company’s growth and evolution rather than attempting to belittle and undermine it?
Run a gap analysis
You can either wait for your CSAT scores to roll in and adjust your strategy accordingly… or you can get proactive. And running a gap analysis is one of the most useful and effective ways to do that.
A Gap Analysis encourages you to take stock of the kinds of customer service attributes that are most meaningful to your customers. For example, most gap analyses take into account the speed of service, knowledgeability of staff, warmth of welcome etc. The first step is gathering data from your customers to determine which customer service attributes matter the most to them. The second is to develop a rubric for how you will assess each of these attributes on a scale of 1-10.
This will allow you to identify which areas of improvement are your customers’ highest priority and which are most lacking in your business. Thus, businesses are able to measure the gap between the standard of customer service that they feel they should be offering and what they currently offer.
Build short and long term strategies
The trouble with improving your customer satisfaction score is that it requires you to play the long game and the short game simultaneously. If you concentrate on what you’re going to deliver next month, next week or tomorrow, you’re likely to get so wrapped up in the minutiae of operations that your efforts will eventually fizzle out and you’ll be more or less back to square one.
On the other hand, if you set your sights squarely on long term strategies and goals, even if you have a clear idea of how you’re going to achieve them, your team may not. As such, you need to outline clear long and short term goals and ensure that each member of your team understands how the operational changes you implement will help you to achieve them.
Adapt your customer service blueprint or draw up a new one from scratch. Make changes to your CSAT forms to ensure that the data they collect is more meaningful to customers and more actionable to you. Make changes to the way your data is collected and parsed to draw more accurate conclusions and better inform your long term strategy (more on that later).
Develop a proactive and multi-platform approach to customer support
You can’t deliver value to the customer if you’re not there for them when they need you. As such, you need to be proactive in bringing customer support to them on their own terms. For instance, a customer service helpline is useful… but what about when customers need support from you outside of office hours? And what about those customers who prefer not to speak over the phone but via email?
It’s up to you to implement a system that helps customers to feel supported at all times (even if a member of your team can’t get to them straight away). Some options worth considering include:
Use chatbots to handle customer queries and help them feel supported outside of working hours.
Use automated email replies to assure the customer’s query will be dealt with as soon as possible (and actually follow through on this).
Give customers a name to use as a point of contact. Make sure employees take ownership of resolving customer queries.
Use an out of hours emergency contact service which is staffed outside of business hours (even if it means outsourcing to a virtual assistant).
Make sure you have easy and transparent access to your performance metrics
The key to delivering outstanding customer service is being able to harness and leverage the data your customers provide you with.
CSAT scores are a useful performance metric, but by no means are they the only data that can be used to gauge your performance. First Response Times, Net Promoter Scores, Customer Retention Rates and, of course, what people are saying about you on social channels are all great indicators of customer satisfaction which can flesh out the data in your CSAT scores and provide greater context for more actionable strategies and tangible results.
The trouble is that not all companies have easy access to that data, especially if they have a decentralised management structure. Moreover, even if they do have access to Key Performance Indicators, it may be difficult to interpret them in a useful way.
Fortunately, there are software platforms that allow for centralised collections of KPI data, presenting it in transparent and easy to understand terms. This will help to inform decisive action and provide useful strategies to boost customer satisfaction and improve customer retention in the long term.
By mastering your data and keeping a close eye on KPIs, you can consistently deliver outstanding customer service and reap the reward of consistent satisfaction and customer loyalty.