If you’re in business, the last year has probably been a bit of a crash course in solving unexpected problems. But have you been taking the right approach?
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make when dealing with an issue is not considering the needs of the customer. That might sound obvious, but it can happen at any level of the customer service experience. Whether you’re considering making a major operations change that will affect your entire client base, or you’re dealing with one disgruntled customer on the phone, keep this thought at the forefront of your mind:
You should always solve problems in a way that makes life better for your customers, not your business.
This is not to say that you should take a ‘customer satisfaction at all costs’ approach to every dilemma. After all, if your business can’t run profitably or efficiently, that is too high a price to pay even for happy customers. However, by thinking creatively, you can achieve the best of both worlds when it comes to problem solving in the workplace. Here are our two top tips for taking a customer-centric approach to problem solving.
Prioritise your customer’s convenience over your own.
Sometimes, changing the way you work may seem like a drastic step to improve performance, but it could have a huge pay-off in terms of customer satisfaction.
Let’s look at an example. Your business offers next-day delivery but the courier company you chose has been failing to meet targets, resulting in customer complaints. Switching to a more reliable company would incur higher costs and mean adjusting to an earlier collection time. What do you do?
You may not want to absorb pricier shipping fees or change the way your despatch team works in order to accommodate a better courier. But the alternatives are either continuing to use an unreliable courier or ceasing to offer next-day delivery altogether.
Either way, the customer misses out on a useful service that may mean a lot to them. In a competitive world, it may ultimately prompt them to take their business elsewhere. It’s a lose-lose situation, which could have been salvaged by putting your customer’s needs first.
After all, the likely benefits of improving customer service – repeat business, great reviews, higher purchase volumes, more frequent orders – are likely to significantly outweigh any extra costs over time.
Put yourself in their shoes.
Having empathy for your customer isn’t just about being sympathetic and helpful when they report a problem, although that is certainly an important part of customer service skills training. Thinking about the needs, preferences and lifestyles of your target market should be central to every choice you make.
For example, if you have a help desk or support line for customers, what methods of contact do you offer?
Say you’ve found that most inquiries can be quickly and effectively dealt with via email or instant messenger. In contrast, inquiries made by phone tend to take longer to resolve and are taking up too much of your employees’ time. So, you’re thinking about boosting efficiency by removing the phone option from your website.
Before you do that, think about who might be contacting you and why. It’s unwise to assume that everyone has access to email, a computer or a smartphone at all, let alone all the time. Literacy issues may also make it difficult for some people to express themselves in writing.
Even without those obstacles, some problems are hard to outline in a few sentences. Sometimes, when people are concerned about an issue, they simply need the reassurance of talking it through with a human being.
You could still achieve time savings by directing all inquiries to an automated chat box initially, using a filtering system to move them towards email, IM or a phone call. Any customers who really need to speak to someone in person can reach that option, but your business will receive fewer calls overall.
Showing your customers that you care can be as simple as looking at problems from their perspective, rather than the CEO’s!