The basics and essence of customer service are to a large extent timeless. However, one of these timeless principles is “know your customers”–and customers are changing all the time. Here are ten trends in customers and their customer service expectations that I’m seeing clearly in my work a customer service consultant, speaker, and author: trends that should be influencing how you’re doing business.
Do these match what you’re seeing? Are there others that should be on a top 10 list? Feel free to let me know.
1. Customers’ definition of what’s fast and what’s not has grown more extreme on an almost daily basis. An escalating expectation of timeliness doesn’t just apply to product and services delivery (where amazon.com has so dramatically set the lead). It applies to the speed of response they expect from you to any issue they have or query they shoot your way. Remember, “we respond to all inquiries within 24 hours” means you’re answering in about 46 days, I figure, if you do the conversion to internet time. It’s simply not good enough.
2. Customers expect accuracy. Typos are no longer acceptable in a cut and paste world. Nor are inaccurate claims of what is in stock, or missed delivery dates, considering the technology and process improvements that your competitors have made, and that customers have grown accustomed to. However…
3. Customers are more willing than ever to assist you (or, I suppose, assist themselves), participating in the service process on a self-service basis, including typing in their own contact info and hard to spell names to avoid the unacceptable typos I refer to in point 2.
4. Customers expect extended hours: 24/7 or as close as you can get. When I interviewed Google not long ago for Forbes, they quietly mentioned to me that they offer support to their adwords advertisers in 42 languages, including offering English-language support 24/5. That’s pretty good, considering we’re talking about B2B, non mission-critical support. And it puts pressure on those of us who aren’t Google to up our game, or at least our support hours.
5. Customers expect just about everything to come with a money back guarantee, implied or explicit. You can put in all the fine print you want, but they’re going to expect you to waive it and take the damn dog back, period. Even if it pulling it off means, ultimately, sticking it to your own vendors. Amazon of course set the lead here, both in offering the guarantee and in doing the back-office vendor stickage [which I don't actually encourage] required to pull it off.
6. Customers don’t want to pay for shipping, or other “hidden fees,” for that matter. Amazon yet again set the lead here.
7. Customers expect omnichannel integration. I hate to get buzzwordy, so I apologize for this one. It just means that customers expect you to honor the same offers in all channels (web, in-store, phone, mobile), and they expect you to let the customer move between channels without it being a hassle. A credit card given over the phone should be on file when you try to shop in the store. A purchase made in a store across town should be returnable by ups. And so forth.>>>