How to Evaluate Customer Service

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Social media changed the customer service game, and consumers know it. Bad service gets called out online and good service gets celebrated. In fact, globally, 96% of consumers say customer service is important in whether they stay loyal to brands, and 91% of consumers report that they’ll consider leaving a brand after just one bad service experience.

For companies looking to improve business, they’ll need methods of evaluating customer service, because without good service, it’s arguable that nothing else matters. In the digital age, it's easier than ever to know what consumers think of brands. Are you listening?

The Power of Customer Service

If you’re looking for motivation in cooking up a customer service evaluation checklist, these numbers drive home the value of making people happy.

  • According to American Express, happy customers tell 11 people about their customer experiences while angry customers let 15 people know about it. But, on social media, only 35% of users grouse about bad service (and only one in 26 tell the brand directly, while most just leave), while 53% tell their friends and followers about a great experience.

  • When companies improve consumer services, their revenues grow around 8% on average, says a Bain & Company study.

  • Not all is lost after bad experiences; 70% of formerly unhappy customers will try again if the brand resolves their problems — but it’ll take up to 12 positive experiences to undo the memories of that bad one.

  • A shocking 2016 study by Accenture proved customer service is far more valuable than companies realize, as over $1.6 trillion was lost in 2016 by American companies when dissatisfied consumers took their business elsewhere.

  • Those doubting the ROI for doubling down on customer service should think twice on this one: 64% of consumers report that customer service is more important to them than price when they’re debating giving brands their business.

  • RightNow says that 73% of loyal consumers say they fell in love with the brand because of friendly service reps, and 93% do repeat business on the basis of great service.

Customer Service in the Online Age

There has never been a better time for businesses to understand what people love or loathe about them, since social media and peer review sites like Yelp and Google Maps allow for consumers to rant and rave with incredible ease. Reviews aren’t one-sided, so companies can reply and resolve matters, transforming experiences, which influences those who read reviews (and unhappy reviewers can change their rating if they feel heard!). Such reviews are a learning tool, too, since companies can learn what people are happy about and what’s displeasing them.

When reading peer reviews left by consumers, note the time and date, since people often do reactionary reviews following their experience, so managers can guess which shift, maybe even what employee, led to such a poor experience.

That’s why the first method of evaluating customer service is simply to stay on top of your online mentions. Who’s saying what, and why? Get into the conversation and engage those willing to take time to comment. If you’re not savvy at this, there are all kinds of social moderation and social listening companies looking to help you take control of online sentiment on all the varying platforms.

Customer Service Observation Checklist

Getting going on evaluating and transforming customer service can only be done by being open to what consumers are experiencing – and that means giving them ways to tell you. Social media accounts are part of using online methods of communication, but there’s no sense in opening accounts if no one is following them; and social media is 24/7, not 9 to 5, so companies should have after-hours online service too.

After that, other methods of customer service evaluation are the same as they ever were. Including:

  • Mystery Shoppers: Employ someone to visit your business for the full experience. Give them a problem to have resolved by asking for extra help. They can report about all the factors — friendliness, speed and so on — to give management a professional’s objective perspective about how the staff is doing.

  • Surveying: Comment cards are a great way to get targeted information back on customer experiences. Position cards at cash registers and exits, along with pens or pencils and a box to submit their comments in. These days, email lists are also a popular way of conducting surveys on service. Entice people to answer surveys via card or emails by offering a token gift, like 10% off or a free coffee, both of which help encourage a repeat visit and more loyalty.

  • Observation: Simply be sure to monitor service and consumer engagement — watch, listen. Recording phone calls, watching from across the room and eavesdropping are all methods of monitoring service. Pull staff aside after to not only let them know where they can improve, but also where they’re doing great, because the team that has good morale and invested management is a team that’s much more likely to go the extra mile in delivering good service.

Service: It Takes a Village

Great customer service isn’t some elusive dream, it’s simply a matter of good training. Great teams come from great management and a good working environment where there are established protocols and resources to help them do their jobs well. To make sure employees can be excellent at service, management must ensure employees have all the answers and the authority to give consumers what they need.

Product databases, product knowledge, accessible supervisors and other kinds of support being available are the first steps toward ensuring customer service teams leave a positive impression.

A Service Checklist for Employees

Employees can tick off their own customer service evaluation checklist as they consider how they rise to these consumer expectations of good service:

  1. Friendliness: An upbeat and helpful manner is much loved by consumers, but beware of being overly buddy-buddy, especially in a restaurant or retail situation where a customer is looking for friendly service and not a new best friend. Clear but positive communication will leave a favorable impression too.

  2. Expertise: Consumers know staff may not have all the answers, but they’ll resent being told best guesses by staff who don't try to get the right information. On the flip side, if staff know exactly what to say or do, that’s a win. Even if service reps don’t have the answers, if they call a manager or attempt to get the information in a speedy manner, that’ll satisfy most consumers.

  3. Trustworthiness: A customer should never be told what they want to hear, but rather, what they can trust. Give good, honest advice about how to proceed, don’t sugar-coat the truth and don’t dumb things down unless asked to do so.

  4. Respectfulness: Make eye contact and have a tone that shows respect for the customer. This doesn’t mean peppering every sentence with “ma’am” or “sir,” but speaking in a professional tone while maintaining focus on the person. On the phone, this can mean not leaving long gaps after questions are asked, for instance, so the caller knows they’ve not been abandoned. With respect also comes patience; give them time to speak and absorb information.

  5. Speed: Whether in person or online, expedited service is rewarded. In restaurants and other service environments, people know they’ll need to wait, but if it’s too long a wait, there’s much to gain from just acknowledging their wait and informing them of how much longer it might take. Online, people have a bit more patience but 10 minutes is the proven threshold for when patience begins to lag.

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About the Author

Steffani Cameron is a professional writer who has written for the Washington Post, Culture, Yahoo!, Canadian Traveller, and many other platforms. Some writing projects have included ghost-writing for CEOs and doing strategy white papers. She frequently writes for corporate clients representing Fortune 500 brands on subjects that include marketing, business, and social media trends.