How to Beat Customer Expectations with Better Service

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Your business offers top-of-the-line products or services—but does your customer support provide the same experience to your customers? If your company has spent millions in designing a stunning website and advertising to attract customers, but can’t cough up the cash to provide a fast and seamless customer support experience, there’s a clear mismatch in your values. 

And trust us, your customers are going to notice as soon as they need to get in touch about a support issue and get stuck on hold for 15 minutes just waiting to get ahold of a human being. That kind of customer experience leaves a rotten taste in their mouths that often carries right over into terrible online reviews and even viral complaints on social media. Your glossy influencer campaigns and slick videos are no match for a horde of angry customers.

In order to make sure your customer experience is more Zappos than Verizon, you’ll need to focus on understanding customer expectations in your industry so that you know how to beat them. Here are some tips for getting started.

Start with a Customer Expectations Survey

You shouldn’t wait for customer complaints to roll in to realize when you’re getting things wrong. Be proactive about understanding exactly what high-quality customer support looks like in your industry by soliciting feedback from your customer base, a survey of target users, or even from a focus group of people who are interested in your industry. Questions you might ask include:

  • How do you prefer to get in touch with a customer support request? (i.e., phone, email, chat, social media)
  • How long are you willing to wait on hold for phone support?
  • How long are you willing to wait for an email customer support request?
  • How quickly do you expect a company to respond to a customer support request via social media?
  • Do you expect an omnichannel support experience?
  • What types of support requests do you prefer to handle via self-service v. a guided service experience?
  • What brands in this industry have provided you with great customer service, and what’s impressed you about them?

We’ve previously gathered some common customer service benchmarks for all companies to use as guidance, which include:

  • Acknowledgement rate: 100%
  • Time to first response: 60 minutes
  • Total handle time: 24 hours
  • Number of replies per ticket: less than two
  • Resolution without escalation rate: more than 68.8%
  • Customer satisfaction: 85%

That said, customer expectations will vary from one industry to the next, so it’s important to take a personalized approach to determining your company’s plan of attack. For instance, Hubspot found that the average handling time (the time it takes to resolve a customer’s issue from start to finish) varied by more than 30% from one industry to another, with average handling times of 10 minutes in the games & gambling industry, and nearly 17 minutes in the web hosting industry. 

Spy on Your Competitors

Just as you do competitive research in your marketing efforts, it’s also important to research how your competitors handle customer service issues. Purchase a product or service from a competitor, and pay attention to the service experience throughout your buyer’s journey. Is the browsing experience intuitive enough for you to easily find what you’re looking for? Are you able to easily set up account preferences? If you have a question, are you able to easily find the information you’re looking for through self-service in most cases? When you need to ask for more personalized advice, are you able to quickly connect with a customer support representative via phone or chat? 

Pay attention to which competitors provide the best customer experience, and take notes on what you can learn from them. You can also check out third-party reviews sites, such as TrustPilot or G2, to learn more about other customers’ experiences and what they liked or hated about their customer service experience.

Build a Customer Support Strategy

Now that you’re armed with data on what your customers expect from the service experience, and what types of experiences your competitors are providing, you’ll need to audit what you’re currently doing and build a strategy for exceeding customer service expectations.

  • Scale your support team sustainably to match your company growth
    Pay attention to your growth rate: If your customer base is currently growing by 10% a year, you’ll need to make sure that you’re either increasing your customer support team at that same rate or introducing technology to optimize the customer support experience. For instance, incorporating a self-service tool like Solvvy will enable you to reduce overall ticket volume, since customers won’t need to request hands-on support as frequently.
  • Make sure you’re responding to all support channels
    Some customer questions or support requests might come in via email, while others may come in via chat or phone. But what about customer complaints you receive via Twitter tweets and other forms of social media? Pay attention to any channel that a customer might use to communicate with your brand, and create a clear communication protocol for responding and tracking their communication across omnichannel platforms. And, while not technically a support channel, make sure that your customer support team tracks your online customer reviews—although the customer has already complained, it may not be too late to provide a remedy that will satisfy her.
  • Build a triage plan
    For those customers who do require help from your customer support team, create a triage strategy so that you can easily identify complex problems that require high-quality, personalized support, versus those that can be handled more easily based on existing scripts. Build clear paths for routing your customers to the right support team: Enable them to type in their question, and if they’re not able to find an answer via self-service, they should be instantly routed to a support agent in the correct department, whether they’re asking about shipping, returns, product details, or another topic.
  • Follow up to track how well the problem was resolved
    Make sure that your customers’ expectations were met (or, ideally, exceeded) by sending automated follow-up customer satisfaction surveys, or even having a support agent call the customer to see how well the problem was handled. If the customer is still upset and there are other action items that can be taken to improve customer satisfaction, such as providing a credit for a future purchase, make sure that you do so—it’s far more expensive to attract a new customer once you’ve lost an existing one.

Why Great Customer Service Is So Important

Having a great product isn’t enough to maintain a loyal audience. Today’s consumers are focused on building strong relationships with the brands they care about, so high-quality customer service is an integral part of their experience. Today, 80% of companies believe they’re providing great customer service, but only 8% of customers agree.

Customer expectations can vary greatly across industries, and you’ll be benchmarked against what your competitors are doing, so it’s important to conduct your own research as we’ve outlined above. By taking the time and effort to gain a strong understanding of your existing customer experience, conduct industry-specific research, build a solid game plan for a best-in-class customer support experience, and then continually track your customers’ feedback, you’ll be able to build and continually grow a strong and loyal customer base that will advocate for your brand. 

Eight in 10 consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience, so by ensuring that your customer satisfaction levels are off the charts, you’ll be able to future-proof your brand’s staying power as upstart competitors come on to the scene. 

Building a best-in-class brand starts with beating customer expectations on every front. 

Learn more about building a game-changing customer experience in our free ebook.