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As far as marketing concepts go, the benefits of providing top-tier customer service are, generally speaking, pretty easy to understand. Anyone who has made a purchase or two of their own can grasp why a customer would generally prefer to do business with the companies that treat them best.
And, as consumers continue to become familiar with different kinds of high-quality customer experiences, great opportunities await those who maximize their customer service potential.
But great customer service doesn’t just happen on its own. Brands need to embrace a customer-first mentality, listening closely to shoppers’ needs while delivering — and ideally, exceeding — those expectations.
This post reviews some of those expectations with a particular focus on the U.S., U.K., German, and Australian markets — along with some basic best practices to answer: What is good customer service?
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A particularly positive interaction can deliver benefits that go far beyond basic sales retention: Hit the right notes, and your customers may be delighted enough to convert into evangelists for your brand or product line. Engage their anger with empathy, and you may spin a negative review into a positive one.
Fall short, however, and customers will likely switch to a competitor who can meet their newfound expectations.
Many are taking this threat seriously: A 2022 McKinsey & Company “State of Customer Care Survey” found that customer care has now become a top strategic focus for a majority of responding companies, with most reporting that improving their customer service is a top-three priority over the next 12 to 24 months. Here’s an overview of how to adjust your customer service strategy by market.
American consumers adore ease and convenience — and loathe wasting time dealing with customer service issues. One recent survey found that nearly a quarter of Americans would reportedly rather shave their head — or even spend a night in jail — than deal with a customer service representative, notes SWNS Digital.
Were some of those respondents kidding around? Most likely. But it still speaks to the deep aversion many feel toward frustrating customer service situations. That same study noted by SWNS found that 52% of those surveyed wanted to be able to solve their issue without talking to someone on the phone, while 51% preferred multiple means of contacting customer support.
Lastly, American customers hate having to explain a problem over and over again, as well as receiving canned, robotic messages from support staff, according to Hiver. Empathy combined with thorough record-keeping can go a long way in resolving issues quickly while helpfully keeping your customer’s dread at a minimum.
Unlike their American counterparts, consumers in the U.K. tend to prefer phone calls, with 58% in one study identifying it as their preferred option for customer service, as noted by Ecommerce News Europe. Another 46% reported preferring email, with even less than that preferring online methods like messaging or social media.
And while those in the U.K. may enjoy chatting on the phone or taking the time to write a strongly worded email, they too have high expectations for a timely, relevant response when contacting customer service.
More than half of respondents reported that they expect a phone inquiry to be answered within five minutes, and another 48% said they’ll end a chat session early if their situation isn’t resolved within five minutes.
U.K. consumers seem to marginally prefer a “human touch” — as long as you can quickly get to the point.
French consumers tend to report fewer “moments of customer delight” relative to their counterparts included in other countries, according to a Medallia/Ispos survey — 36% reported such an experience in the past 12 months, in contrast to 51% of Americans and 50% of Germans. While these numbers might suggest a high level of expectation on the part of French consumers, they also reflect a potential opportunity for businesses willing to meet them too.
French expectations for online retailers appear a bit lower than average too: Only 40% “expect” to be able to receive real-time responses on their “preferred” channels, and only 30% reported they expect to chat with a live agent or representative, per the same survey.
It’s probably not a surprise that consumers all over the world appreciate quick response times, and German consumers are no exception, as noted by Ecommerce News Europe.
Consumers in Germany tend to prefer phone customer service as well, but prefer a sort of “warm hand-off” versus a cold call system. Most reported disliking speaking on the phone when the representative “doesn’t know what [the consumer] is calling about.”
Another note of interest about the German market: It tends to see a relatively high number of returns related to online purchases. To build trust with shoppers, make sure you have an impressive return policy that outshines your competitors.
While Australians may tend to have the most casual approach to customer service out of the four markets explored here, those times are beginning to slowly change.
A majority of Australian consumers expect speed, convenience, a feeling of appreciation, and a live person to speak with while engaging with customer service, a HigherLogic study found.
Even with lower expectations, however, it should remain a goal (and easier) to exceed them.
While those four markets all have key differences, for those asking, “What is good customer service?,” many common trends also present themselves. For example, per reports, consumers generally prefer speedy, relevant, and empathetic communications from customer support.
How can businesses best prepare to give customers the best experience possible?
Maintaining robust, authoritative records on your customer interactions — available to all service representatives — is an essential part of any customer service department. A single repository for this information, as well as any details regarding your products or services, ensures that nothing is lost “in the system.”
It also helps prevent your customers from having to repeat themselves on each call, and empowers your customer service representatives to make intelligent purchase recommendations or other forms of subtle upselling.
To be blunt, you can’t meet your customers’ high expectations if you don’t take the time to find out what they are. Even if your business has lofty goals, you can’t forget to listen to your customers to discover their pain points and ultimately resolve them.
“What is good customer service?” is a question with an ever-changing answer — don’t allow your organization to lose sight of that.
As mentioned prior, customers have all kinds of preferences when it comes to preferred communication channels. Variety is your best bet here — strive to offer as many modes of communication as possible to accommodate your wide range of customers.
If you must focus on a few channels (due to costs or other considerations), make sure they’re the ones your customers prefer to use.
Effective personalization is the result of artfully employing that collected data with the aim of creating a deeply satisfying experience for your customers.
Personalization not only helps speed along your customer’s experience, it can add a humanizing or even playful touch that will move your customer’s needle from “satisfied” to “delighted.”
Feeling valued is one of the most consistent consumer needs across markets. Directly showcasing just how intently you’ve been listening to them is a great way to make them feel heard.
Remaining competitive in a global market isn’t easy — especially as your customers become increasingly sophisticated and worldly in their ecommerce experiences.
However, with the right attention and consideration of your organization’s answer to, “What is good customer service?,” going above and beyond for your customers can be easier than ever.
Engaging, innovative shopping experiences are essential for modern shoppers — but how can brands and retailers achieve them? Check out Salsify’s “The Complete Guide to Building Winning Shopping Experiences” for expert insights on the latest trends worldwide.DOWNLOAD NOW
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