By Nicola Brookes, NewVoiceMedia

Your marketing team could be working round the clock to acquire new customers, but if your customer service lets them down at the first hurdle, you may never hear from them again.

It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. Quite simply, excellent customer service is important because without it, there is no alternative that will lead to long-term success.

As a result, you’d imagine that customer service around the world was absolutely fantastic. But surprisingly, only 1 percent of customers surveyed in a YouGov poll said that they never felt frustrated by call centres. That’s a huge amount of exasperation, and whether it’s the result of technical issues or badly trained staff, it’s a big problem.

Do you live up to your reputation?

In many ways, customer service is an opportunity to prove you’re as good as you say you are. Every business says they’re amazing, but this is put to the test when a customer makes contact with your call centre.

Everything you do as a brand is designed to build your reputation – with a logo that builds trust, a website that emphasises your unique selling points and marketing campaigns that blow your own trumpet at full volume. Over the phone you can’t see any of this cleverly-crafted material. All your customers have is the voice (or lack of) on the other end of the phone.

If you deliver a poor customer experience, all the layers of marketing and branding you’ve built up around your business come crashing down and all your customer is left with is a bad experience.

Your contact centre is an opportunity to show your values as a company. A customer call is a personal interaction with your business, and a conversation means so much more than reams of marketing material, so you need to get this right.

The economics of loyalty

Excellent customer service is the difference between customers that come and go and loyal customers. It’s simple – no one would want to continue using a business that doesn’t make them feel appreciated.

And it makes financial sense to invest in loyal customers. These are the people that will buy from you time and time again, recommend you to friends and are more likely to spend more. A good example of how loyal customers make up a huge part of business revenue is Starbucks, who gets 80% of its revenue from return customers, who visit their store an average of 18 times per month.

Customer service is the new battleground for brands

NewVoiceMedia found that half of UK consumers are taking their business elsewhere as a result of inadequate service. Consumers switch to another business because they know they can get a better service elsewhere and they’re often prepared to pay more for it.

£12 billion in revenue is transferred from one company to another due to bad service is the UK. If you can’t deliver the same or better customer service as your competitors, your customers will switch, and with them goes a huge chunk of your revenue.

In an internet age it’s almost impossible to compete on price and you can end up racing your competitors to the bottom to win, eating into your profit margins. Instead, customer experience should be your key differentiator and investing in your contact centres is a good way to achieve long-term success.

How does your contact centre perform?

Good customer service starts with something very basic – the agent picking up the phone – and it goes up from there. Too many call centres don’t even get this right though.

You need to be sure you have the capacity to answer all the calls you receive – and whether that means taking on remote workers during peak times, or just updating your IT infrastructure to improve efficiency, you need to invest in this.

53% of customers in the US are put off from even calling a business because they think their call won’t be answered – so prove them wrong! An accepted level of success is getting 90% of your calls answered within the first 10-20 seconds.

You can see on our interactive map of the world how the global contact centre market compares. The map shows how many calls are answered within an individual set target, but also another key performance indicator: call handling time.

The map shows the average call handling time for most countries, so you can see how your own contact centre compares. CHT is good indicator of how efficient your call centre is because it shows how long it takes to resolve a problem and this not only reflects on the skills of your agents, but the technology they are using to help find the answer.

But it’s about more than just figures; good customer service involves resolving the complexities of every individual’s problem. This can begin by routing your customers through to the right agent, based on their previous calls, but extends to the idea of really understanding your customers by having all the information you need at your fingertips.

It’s clear excellent customer service is essential, and the key word here is ‘excellent’ – not just ‘good’ or average’. If want to stand out in a rapidly expanding global market, then customer service has to be your top priority.
Why do you think customer service is so important? Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?

By Nicola Brookes, NewVoiceMedia