I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
No matter what business you’re in, customers today demand immediate solutions in real time. What they need, when they need it, and how they want to receive your product or service are important factors that drive consumer buying decisions. High demand for speed and accountability require businesses to ramp up both technology innovations and customer service capabilities to be the first, the fastest and most reliable.
Most companies and business leaders understand this, but more should put into action the following basic rules to maintain a competitive edge in the battle against the clock and themselves:
Make customers your top priority
Realize that your customers are your business. Meeting their needs must be a core value and integral part of your business model and philosophy. Only then will you dedicate the resources and attention needed to keep them number one.
Work around the customer’s clock
In this age of round-the-clock digital access, it’s imperative to have a system in place that can serve your customers and meet their needs in a wired and wireless world. When your customers interact with your product determines their definition of timely delivery. If you are an Internet-based business, when do most website visits take place? When are the most orders placed? This insight allows you to staff appropriately to meet customer demand and establish processes that work to exceed their expectations. Since most of our customers submit loan applications to CashNetUSA between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, we accept and process loan applications up to 9 p.m. Central Time. We’ve extended service to the latest hour possible to offer our customers every opportunity to receive needed cash in their bank accounts the next business day.
Think beyond fast, think instant
Consumers can be impatient because they know in today’s competitive business world someone is willing to deliver for them. It had better be you. How can you enhance your analytical capabilities and even leverage big data to speed up the ability to deliver your product or service? When our customers apply for an online loan, they want to be notified within that website visit that they’ve been approved, or they’ll search for a different provider. We’ve designed our advanced analytical systems to provide automated and real-time approval of loan requests, not the hours or even days that some more traditional lenders can take.
Be accessible all the time and through multiple platforms
Customers want service literally around the clock. Keep your website mobile-aware so that customers can easily access their account or create a new account at any time and from any place. Mobile apps are quickly becoming a requirement. Be sure to train your customer service agents on different mobile technology platforms so they can provide tech support to customers having trouble accessing your site on their smartphones.
Customers not only want 24-hour access to your website, they want to be able to talk to a customer service representative at any time of day or night. If the customer is choosing to business with you because of your ability to deliver quickly, the last thing they want to hear is a recorded message saying your customer service department is closed for the evening. Evaluate the advantages of having customer service staff available 24/7. A warm, comforting voice can be quite soothing to help solve a problem in the middle of the night. And given today’s over-reliance on automation over human interaction, you will definitely stand out. We now keep customer service reps available for live online chat and phone staffing around the clock, which may have a lot to do with our consistent customer satisfaction scores of 90% or better.
Use social media to build relations and immediately respond to customer concerns
We use Facebook and Twitter as a means of accessing and addressing customers’ issues in a quick and transparent way. Using Facebook, one customer pointed out an easy adjustment to our application process that we were able to make for all future customers. And in today’s social media environment, customers are using Facebook as a customer service channel, letting us know of any issues they’re having and allowing us to research and address their concerns quickly. Leveraging the power of social media to address customer concerns means you need a social media team members who are not only digital experts, but knowledgeable writers who can deliver strong customer service through thoughtful and thorough responses without delay.
Listen to your customer
Work closely with your customer service team to hear the voice of the customer, listen to what you hear, and act on it. Only then can you make systematic change to processes and continually improve. We have a 500-person customer call center in our corporate headquarters, and employees from every department are required to spend time on a regular basis listening in to customer calls to improve their attentiveness to customer issues. We also survey our customers on a monthly basis allowing us to continue to exceed their expectations.
Providing customers with 24/7 exemplary service – including live online and human access and reliable solutions – is a core value that no company can afford to ignore in today’s fast-paced, highly demanding business environment. Remember: Your customers are your business. Treat them accordingly.
Arad Levertov is the Vice President of U.S. Operations at online lender CashNetUSA.com. For more information on this successful Internet business model, which has experienced annual growth rates of 31%, check out www.enova.com.