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A few weeks back my daughter was shopping on Henry St Dublin and left her gift card behind. There was €100 remaining on the card despite having splashed out on a jacket. I immediately took out my phone to ring them but the one customer service number, covering all stores in the ROI, rang out (all the time). When I tried to email them I got a message back saying the email wasn’t operational.  I finally found them on twitter.

7 days later, after sharing my tale of woe, with countless different agents and different accents, in different geographies, sending pictures of receipts over and back via what’s app, my issue finally got resolved. It wasn’t overly complex. I had the receipt with the card number. They simply had to cancel the original card and re-issue a knew one.  I spent the equivalent of 6.5 hours across the entire week chasing this elusive gift card.

It made me think – since when have customers become such an inconvenience?

For decades companies fought hard to retain customers pushing the mantra the “customer is always right” to its absolute limits. Post pandemic, staff shortages and cost cutting efforts have really challenged this approach.

The golden era of customer service has abruptly come to an end!

According to a recent study by Qualtrics  poor customer experience is costing over €4.7trillion a year. According to the same study 53% of U.S. and U.K. customers last year switched providers because of poor experiences with 60% of consumers saying they would buy more from a company if it treated them better! (I hope my daughter has got the memo!)

Bad customer service is damaging to a company’s reputation, impacting revenue and driving churn. So why in 2023 has it become the rule rather than the exception?

Customer service is one of the business spaces that has been fundamentally transformed over the last 20 years. Yet the value of a problem effectively and efficiently solved is universal and timeless.

While digital adoption accelerated during and post the pandemic, customer service capabilities has failed to keep up. Automation and digitisation has delivered huge efficiencies in certain areas, and for standard problem free journeys, this solution works.  But the service gap begins to manifest for non-standard problems. The stuff that’s not routine. Which is more frequent than brands often like to think.  Like 12 years old leaving gift cards behind!

The more digital our consumer products become the more we use smart devices, integrated systems and shop online. Suddenly the complexity bar rises. These moments of truth become hyper contextualised yet many of these customer journey are ill thought through.

What must brands consider if they really want to improve their capabilities in this area?

Customer service metrics measure the state of your customer’s happiness levels and are good indicators of

  • What your customers think of you?
  • How easy it is to engage with you?
  • How well your support teams are doing in terms of delivering good levels of services?

Increasingly customer experience is measured using a combination of Operational data and Experience data. Operational data uses things like sales revenue, new customers, website visitors, call centre volumes, sales figures and more as an indictor of service credentials. But it presents only part of the picture – how something has performed in the past.

What is equally important is Experience data which provides the context for how customers have actually experienced the service and importantly why they feel the way they do about the brand.  This helps bridge the gaps between what you think is happening and what’s really happening for our customers.  Both metrics give a much robust indicator of the health of customer experience. The list below are commonly used metrics and include a combination of Operational data and Experience data.

  1. CSAT is a very common KPI used to track customer satisfaction. It essentially asks customers how they’d rate their over all satisfaction? Or how satisfied they were with the delivery experience etc. Customers are usually given a scale of 1 to 5 to record their answers.
  2. Customer Effort Score or CES is a single-item experience metric that measures how much effort a customer has to exert to get an issue resolved, a request fulfilled, or a product purchased or returned. It’s based on the premise that simplicity is a differentiator and organisations that are easy to deal with imbue greater loyalty.
  3. Net Promotor Score or NPS is seen by many as the gold standard experience metric. NPS scores are measured with a single-question survey and reported with a number from 0-100, a higher score is more desirable. Customers are then divided in to Promotors (9-10) Detractors (1-6) and Passives (7-8). Some might ask what’s the difference between CSAT and NPS. NPS tends to be a good measure of loyalty and CSAT more a measure of satisfaction with the product or service.
  4. Social media monitoring is a really useful real time indicator of customer service. Metrics like brand mentions over time, negative comments, technical or account questions, the volume of questions that could be answered through other support material etc, all provide a dip stick in to how customers are feeling and how customer support might change to improve the overall experience.
  5. Customer Churn also known as customer attrition, in its most basic form is when a customer chooses to stop using your products or services. This experience metric is trickier to measure because there’s no one predictor of churn – usually until its too late. Most industries have ways of signalling early churn indicators. For example, a customer who has declined in recent visits and gives a lower Net Promoter Score after their latest shopping experience, could have an increased probability of churning.
  6. First Response Time according to research by Forrester, 77% of consumers say valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide a great customer experience. When a customer reaches out with a question or concern,they want a fast reply, so measuring first response time can be a useful operational metric to ensure customer queries are being solved quickly. Here are some examples of first response resolutions:
  • Email or online form – 24 hours or less
  • Social media – 60 minutes
  • Phone – 3 minutes
  • Live chat and messaging – Instant
  1. Overall resolution rate: When your customer has a complaint or a query your goal is to close the loop. If you don’t respond or can’t provide adequate support, the customer may be reluctant to do business with you again. Rising resolution rates can indicate the effectiveness of your customer support team, making this operational metric worth your time.

These are just a flavour. There are more.

As consumers demand deeper, more human connections with the companies they buy from, it’s time for businesses to step up or risk falling behind. Let’s start to act more human.