How to increase customer satisfaction

[date-stamp]When running a company, the focus is normally on getting new customers. Not everyone thinks too much about how to keep the customers they've already got, and even less on how to do it.

Why is customer satisfaction important? I'm sure you've heard about companies with bad customer support, a friend of mine once said she'd "burn down Comcast's headquarter" because of a bad experience she had with their customer support department. Being on the receiving end of that kind of feedback is not fun, and is something which must be avoided.

Here are 5 steps to increase customer satisfaction:

1. Use a support system

Zendesk is a support system I've personally used for years, and it works the way a support system should. It is easy to get started with, there's no need for any expensive training or anything like it to get it up and running. Using Zendesk, customers can contact you through email, phone, your website, Twitter, Facebook and chat. Being available for your customers is important, so you need a support system which supports a lot of ingoing channels.

Being able to use your support system from a tablet or smartphone is increasingly important. Is a key employee which is the only one who can solve this critical support case out travelling today? Having the support system available through an app or webpages suited for mobile devices solves that problem, and the critical support case can be solved quickly even though your team is geographically located at your office and at an airport.

Some support requests can be tough to solve, and several of your employees may have to chip in and contribute in order to get it solved. So a tool which supports easy cooperation with your colleagues is helpful, and with Zendesk you can add internal messages to the support ticket so both the internal dialogue and the customer communication about this one support ticket is in one place.

Having standalone tools may work, but integrating your tools so they talk with eachother is better. So using a support system which supports integrations with a wide range of the other tools you're using; like your CRM system and defect tracking system.

Zendesk can do all of this, and this is one of the reasons they have become one of the most popular cloud applications for enterprises.

2. Respond quickly to support requests

Be responsive, that's the number one rule to achieve customer satisfaction. Customers contact you for a reason, and are not willing to wait a week to get a response. So being alert and have resources set aside for responding to customer requests quickly is vital.

Espesially when customers contact you on social media, a quick response is required. Companies which respond to messages on Twitter and Facebook within minutes are making a statement about their embrace of the social media and how important they value a conversation with their users. On the other hand, if a response takes days this tells customers that they really do not care about you. Event worse, if a message on social media is not answered at all, that may be the first step in losing this customer.

Compared with the situation some years ago, response time expectations are more demanding now. The increased use of social media, and the real-time nature of social media, is the main reason for this.

If a customer does not get a response from you, they may turn elsewhere for support and maybe get an incorrect answer. And others again might give up on you and turn to your competitor, resulting in a loss of this customer.

I have seen many companies which combine the support role with programming or other tasks to do when there's a lull in the activity from customers. This may seem like a good idea to utilize someone's time to the full, but in my experience this creates unfocused employees which are unable to finish that programming or other task that (s)he was assigned. Letting employees focus on one type of task is required for them to excel.

3. Customer communication must be high quality

When a customer asks about something, answer that. And if the customer repeats an earlier question, answer it again in a polite and humorous manner. Having your facts right and appear to be in full control creates a good and trusting relastionship between you and your customers.

Customers may have sent you emails in the past which are relevant for a support request. Stay on top of all information available in your company and use that knowledge to provide excellent customer service. This requires that your tools talk together, or that your employees manually search through all of your tools to find all information relevant to this one support request.

The "normal" way tools are introduced in a company is one-by-one, and not too much thought is given to how well they work together. This is an unfortunate fact, and requires many companies to start the process of acquiring the right tools over again, and then they get it right. Using tools which talk together and helps you locate relevant information not only saves time for you and your employees, but also gives your customers the impression that you're really on top of things when you can point to the various pieces of information used to solve a support request. Solving customer requests in a way that leaves the customer impressed with the quality of your service is the ultimate goal and creates loyal customers.

4. Act - Learn - Refine

After doing customer support for a while you see what works and what doesn't. Not everyone likes that huge signature you put in every reply? Then remove it or scale it down. Customers like to contact you using Twitter instead of using email? Make sure your support system is configured to pick up every mention of your company name and product name(s), and participate in discussions with your customers.

The most important thing here is to listen to your customers, and make changes to the way you handle support requests based on this feedback. Create an Act - Learn - Refine loop, where you look at the way support requests are handled now, learn from your customers what they like and not like about their experiences with your customer support and then refine the way your company works based on this feedback. This is much like agile software development works; get feedback from the customer often and adjust the course underway.

5. Use analytics

Use analytics to measure the performance of your company, so you have hard data to base any decision to change things on. The performance of a company when it comes to support can be measured in many ways.

For example, run a customer survey every two months or so to figure out how you are doing. Here you get direct feedback from customers, which is very valuable. If your customer support system has any way of giving customers a way to rate the support they have been given, use that as a continuous customer survey.

Also, take a look at the number of new support requests for a month compared to the number of solved requests. Have more new requests been created than you have solved, or was it the other way around? Knowing this is very useful.

In short, know what's going on in your company and how you are working today, and make changes based on how you want your company to work tomorrow.

StrategyStein J. Gran