Tips for taking the customer experience to the next level

Less than 10 years ago a customer would call or email a company and expect a response within a couple of hours or so. Even a day or two was generally considered to be acceptable. Now, that same customer might send a message or share a concern over social media, and she expects a response in less than five minutes.

The speed of getting information and providing service has accelerated at an unbelievable rate — and with rapid advancements in technology come higher customer service expectations.

“The experiential bar has clearly been raised. If we look at the customer experience over the past five or 10 years, it’s changed like never before,” says Jasmine Green, Vice President and Chief Customer Advocate at Nationwide. “You have to ask: ‘What do our customers really want,’ and then deliver what they want, the way they want it. This is especially true if your company provides an array of products and solutions like Nationwide does. It’s all about being nimble, quick and consistent.”

Smart Business spoke with Green about how to make strong customer service even stronger in today’s world.

What are the biggest customer-service challenges?

It’s understanding who your customers are and quickly providing the service they want, how and when they want it. Today, new technology is at the center of providing customer service solutions that align with our new real-time service environment.

Another key is understanding the social media space. A few years ago, it was mostly Facebook and Twitter. Now, there are more social media applications becoming available every day and companies need to be focused, nimble and forward thinking as customers’ service expectations continue to evolve.

Companies also need to be agile as today’s customers continue to change their views on the end-to-end customer experience. Many customers view the value they receive based on the quality of the product, the guidance or information received to help them make the right purchase decision, and the service experience after the sale. This customer dynamic is particularly important to companies that provide a wide range of services and products.

Another key tool is an engaged and active social media team. In addition to timely responses to customer inquiries, this team needs to listen and monitor social media channels to address customer concerns and share stories of customer wins — important activities that impact the health and reputation of a brand.

Lastly, if customers have more than one product or service with a company, they need seamless access to the right people, at the right time, across the company. At Nationwide, for instance, the wide breadth of insurance and financial services solutions requires a sharp focus on helping members have a seamless, integrated experience across the company.

How can a company better understand its customer?

It starts with talking to and knowing the customer. For example, Nationwide uses customer insights and data analytics to gain an understanding of customer needs and preferences in order to better serve its members.

Nationwide also regularly has associates and leaders shadow claims associates and participate in agent ride-a-longs to better understand members’ experience. Technology is clearly helpful, but nothing replaces spending quality time with your customers and business partners.

How can employers ensure employees provide best-in-class customer service?

It’s everybody’s job to promote, service and live the brand.

Training is key, with a strong culture of learning and development. It starts with a comprehensive onboarding program, where new hires are taught the company culture and history.

It’s also important to not over-engineer the customer experience. Most customers simply want a product or service to meet their basic needs first — deliver on that expectation and they will buy more.

As the saying goes: Don’t over promise and under deliver. Be sure you know your customers, engage them where they live (in-person and using technology), and deliver on your company’s promise. That’s how you’ll win today and well into the future.

Insights Insurance is brought to you by Nationwide