Customers seek small businesses for the individualized and attentive service they don’t always receive from large corporations. While this personal touch is a competitive advantage, it’s under threat.
32 percent of organizations are shifting customer service from live assistance to automated service, likely as a long-term cost cutting measure. Robotizing customer interactions has hidden and often unconsidered costs though, especially as customers become more knowledgeable with easy access to online FAQs and user forums. When they finally decide to contact your business for help, they’re often experiencing a complex problem that can only be solved by listening intently and asking the right questions – something a chat bot simply cannot offer. The combination of these two factors explains why the biggest drop in the American Customer Satisfaction Index since the mid-nineties occurred between 2013 and 2015.
This drop is incredibly troubling for small business entrepreneurs. With smaller advertising and marketing budgets, excellent customer service is a crucial tool to keep customers happy and coming back. To keep your customer service personable in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), ensure that your organization invests in three key elements – quality, culture, and technology.
While robots can quickly complete simple requests, such as checking a balance, they don’t yet have the ability to give verbal cues that assure your customers someone is listening. If your goal is quality customer service, investing in AI-powered robots is likely not the best approach on which to rely. Not relying on AI, though, doesn’t guarantee quality. Consider these tips to help your team deliver excellent customer service experiences:
- Ask Your Experts – Marketers, product developers, and salespeople have a deep understanding of your products and services, so hold regular meetings where they can share their knowledge with customer-facing employees.
- Do Your Research – Employees need to know what the online world is saying about your products and services, and that of your competitors, so prepare them to counter any false or negative information.
- Update Your Standards – Ensure that your standards match modern customer service expectations – not old formulas – by rewarding employees who provide knowledgable, speedy, and realiable answers.
As a small business, your employees probably know customers by name and understand their unique needs. To preserve this crucial brand differentiator and prevent your organization from becoming another faceless business, don’t turn to robots. Instead, try these tactics for promoting a customer-centric culture:
- Start A Discussion – What’s more human than having a conversation with a real person? Make your business phone number public and invite customers to call to make purchases, report product issues, or yes, even compliment you.
- Stand For Something – Encourage employees to offer thoughts and perspectives in order to establish common ground with customers and invite them to become involved with your business beyond the cash register.
- Get Personal – Strive to make customer interactions sincere and memorable by ensuring that all correspondances are signed by another human being, or even following up with a phone call after a couple of days.
While replacing humans with AI can harm small businesses’ customer service initiatives, this doesn’t mean all technology is bad. In fact, technology can help your small business become more customer-friendly – but only if it aids employees’ job performance and productivity.
For example, if your employees spend a lot of time talking to customers over the phone, consider investing in high-quality cordless headsets. In a 2015 study, 56 percent of corded headset users reported that their productivity was negatively affected because they were restricted to their desk. Ensure that your employees can freely move around their workspace while on a call so they can request additional details from a coworker or double-check facts without putting the customer on hold.
Don’t forget to cancel out surrounding noise, either. Another study suggests that 89 percent of customers will leave for a competitor after negative customer service experiences, so choose a headset with a noise-cancelling microphone. This ensures that office noises, such as printers, keyboards, and chatter, don’t disturb conversations. If you’re not sure where to start on your headset-buying journey, take a look at Jabra’s Pro 9400. It delivers cordless freedom with outstanding sound quality to provide optimal employee productivity and greater customer satisfaction.
The human element of customer service is critical to providing personalized customer experiences, especially for entreprenuers and their small businesses. While it might be tempting to cut costs with AI and bots, remember that the decision could hurt you in the long run. Instead, invest in quality, culture, and technology that empowers employees rather than replaces them to perfect that personal touch customers have come to love and expect from small businesses.