As I write my blog, National Customer Service Week is drawing to a close. A few years back (too many to admit to!) when I managed a lively call centre team, National Customer Service Week was always a huge event. For those of you who work in call centres, you’ll know exactly what that means… lots of balloons, competitions, sweets and cakes all with a link (some more tenuous than others) to ‘the customer’.
I’ve been really impressed by some of the tactics I’ve seen to mark the week from companies up and down the country like this shopping centre in Milton Keynes, which offered free parking to random shoppers and handed out free gifts.
But what is it that really makes for an excellent customer experience? No doubt one-off free gifts and nice surprises help, but what is it that really creates long-term engagement and loyalty to a company?
While there’s been a huge drive to improve customer service across all industries over the last decade, fresh research this week by The Institute of Customer Services highlighted that we haven’t cracked it yet – a huge one in 6 of us say we experience bad customer service at least once a week.
And I can back this up with examples I’ve witnessed, such as Eurostar, who keep emailing me asking for feedback on a trip I haven’t been on yet – a reminder of the importance of having up-to-date customer information.
Thankfully, there are plenty of great examples of customer service – I love this recent one from Lego, and I’m always impressed by First Direct, who make it so easy to talk to a real-life person.
As to what makes a genuinely winning customer services strategy? My advice is to keep it simple. Of course, those companies who have 100% customer satisfaction scores have the luxury of pulling out the stops to impress customers, but time and time again I’ve seen companies put this ahead of what their customers really care about – having a problem resolved quickly by friendly, knowledgeable staff.
So while I’m all for creative tactics that surround National Customer Services Week (and who wouldn’t be in favour of sweets and cake!) we should remember that what customers really want most is great basic service, every day of the year.