The newest Consumer Rights Act was issued recently, equipping customers with the power to protect themselves. It was the biggest change in consumer rights in a generation; more rights and protective methods are now available to consumers after they’ve made purchases than ever before.
On the back of this, companies now need to work harder than ever to build real relationships with their customers and ensure that their expectations are met, as they essentially hold a lot of power against your company.
It is clear that successful companies will be ones that focus on engagement with their consumers; consistent positive experiences are needed, and consumers now expect the service to be tailored to them personally – you should be reaching customers just as they need you (of course, this is easier said than done).
The Ombudsman Services’ Consumer Action Monitor was published recently, outlining how businesses are doing faced with the heightening of customer expectation that has followed the Consumer Rights ‘shake-up’. In short, businesses are not facing up well; in 2016, 3 million more complaints were faced by companies than the previous year (a total of 55 million). Furthermore, 19% of customers said that they didn’t believe companies listen to them when complaints are made.
Obviously, these figures don’t look good on the surface. The size of the problem is also magnified when the impact of these issues on the effected businesses is studied. Upwards of £37bn was lost by UK companies in 2016; this loss is down solely to the fact that more than a quarter of consumers spent less or took their custom elsewhere after receiving poor service.
It is clear that the evolution of customer expectations is climbing at a steeper rate than the evolution in customer experiences; a caring and seamless practice is now demanded by customers. The internet has sparked an era of comparison and brand infidelity – consumers are much more likely to switch allegiances than they were in the past.
The next question is of course: which steps should companies take to deliver a positive customer experience, retaining their customers’ business and avoiding bad press? We have outlined our tips below.
Another trend brought about through the wide use of the internet is a culture of immediacy. Businesses conducted in (close to) all market sectors now have some sort of online presence; a social media presence is often an essential part of getting in front of consumers.
Knowing this, a tweet or an email should be replied to as soon as possible; within minutes would be perfect but within hours is acceptable. Modern consumers have new needs, and customers will be lost without these tweaks.
Understanding your customers can be achieved easily online; the problem is that this shift in dynamic takes a lot of time to integrate and upkeep in your daily operations.
The importance of using social media platforms is clear; social media is now the most popular third party for customer complaints. Tools are available to aid social media integration into your business; customer relationship management (CRM) technology is now commonly used to help businesses keep up with new developments.
Using these services allows a snapshot of all information surrounding the complaint to be captured quickly, which can be a life saver. Knowledge of what the customer has bought from you in the past and any social media posts they have interacted with will give you the tools you will need to deal with the complaint efficiently and in the most appropriate way.
‘Friendly and helpful’ staff are often cited as an example of excellent customer service – but we all know this, right? The point here is that human touchpoints are needed; people talking with people is still a very critical part of delivering good quality customer service.
Ultimately, people need human interaction, but won’t like to be bombarded unless the information is relevant to them. Digital and human touchpoints are both important – sales representatives should always know the digital interaction the particular customer has been engaged in prior to contact; this will be critical in delivering the tailored customer service that consumers now expect.
Consumer confidence has been heightened by the 2016 Act, meaning that they now demand higher standards and levels of engagement. Having the correct systems in place will allow complaints to be handled effectively (and hopefully eradicate a lot of complaints in the first place!) If you want to keep your customers loyal and happy, taking the above steps will be essential.
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