The Evolution of the Customer Experience

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I remember a time when collecting customer feedback meant handing out a paper survey and asking the customer to fill out. Only to get a handful back letting us know how we needed to improve. When checking in with customers meant trying to track them down during work hours over the phone and hoping to catch them at a good time to discuss “how we did”. All that effort to merely get a glimpse at our ability to service a client’s needs and meet expectations. The customer experience has always been the cornerstone of the service industry. Companies that are able to deliver a great customer experience thrive and generate significantly more re­ferral business from existing customers and vendors than those that suffer from a bad online reputation or no reputation at all.

The property restoration industry is no different. At the end of the day contractors, agents, and adjust­ers strive to maintain a great customer experience for every claim. Yet many are still haunted by a negative experience, upset customer, or bad review. To make matters worse, the average return rate for customer feedback is about 20%. This means the majority of surveys sent out are left unanswered. Even at the top end, companies that receive upwards of a 40% return rate are considered to have an amazing customer response ratio. Even with the advancements to tech­nology and the overall number of people who have adopted, this percentage has not increased drastically over the past decade.

It has, however, provided an easier way for cus­tomers to voice their negative opinions. The unfortunate truth is that customers are three times more likely to leave provide feedback if they’ve had a bad experience than a good one. Why is this important? Well because 89% of consumers make a decision on what company to use based on reviews they read. As all service-driven businesses know, it takes only one unsatisfactory interaction to throw off the en­tire experience.

Stop Waiting for the End

Believe me when I say that it is harder to win back over a customer who has had a bad experience than dealing with issues head-on and ensuring you do everything whatever it takes to make it better. These days, restoration businesses are asking themselves “what can we do to deliver the best customer experi­ence possible?” The answer is simple, first change the business culture from a reactive one into a proactive one. We understand that dealing with emergencies means we are reacting to difficult situations, but from a service perspective, it doesn’t mean we can’t handle the client expectations as professionals who understand what is required and the tools needed to resolve the situation quickly.

Secondly, there is no such thing as gathering too much feedback. It is all in the approach to setting expectations, constant communication, real-time updates and always listening to the customer. Any chance you get an opportunity to ask for feedback is meaningful. Checking in with the customer ensures they are being heard, their issues identified, and that there is a plan to provide resolution.

This mentality of a sense of urgency makes all the difference to the customer, communicating progress and updating when thing change. Take Amazon for example. They completely changed the way we look at delivery services. It stopped being about the customer having to chase down information and provided a seamless way to follow every step of that delivery from the moment it shipped to the minute it was dropped on your doorstep. This old school phi­losophy of waiting for the customer to ask questions or waiting until the end to find out “how we did” doesn’t exactly leave the customer with a warm fuzzy feeling if something goes wrong.

Generational Shift

Generationally, customer needs are changing. We now live in what I like to call the “Tik Tok” era of customer service, meaning that customers today don’t want to go searching for every detail. They are busy, on the go, and check their emails while running out the door. There is so much informa­tion at our fingertips that they just want the critical details. Enough information that it could be easily consumed in 15 second or less. The modern-day customer rarely reads through an entire email. The average person only spends about 10 seconds reading an email, if they even get past the subject line. Open rates for email are he lowest they have ever been, which is about 24%. This means that roughly 76% of all email we receive is deleted immediately. This is a direct result of the overwhelming volume of emails we receive daily.

If you want to get in front of your customers and to get quick response, they are 35 times more likely to read a text message from you over an email. Cus­tomers want to be kept in the loop and have access to answers quickly. This is why 67% of people are reading emails, text messages, and searching online from their mobile device over sitting behind a desk. Today’s consumers are more far more tech savvy than they have ever been and the majority of information they consume must be optimized for viewing on their smart device.

Although technology has come a long way, it still doesn’t replace the need for that personal touch. We hear all the time that AI automation is looking to replace live agents in the hopes that the customer will get quicker responses and access to more infor­mation. However, what it boils down to is that over 90% of consumers today would rather wait to talk to a live person than trying to deal with automated AI system. They want to feel heard, ask questions, and know that someone is on the other end to respond in a timely manner.

Technology will never replace the human element and emotion, but it can certainly help provide em­ployee resources with easy access to contact informa­tion, historical communications, and audits to give them the tools they need to respond. Technology offers opportunities for businesses to become more efficient, accountable, and consistent. However, these things are still built on the premise that tools are managed by people with a common vision to provide that best customer experience possible.

This doesn’t mean that issues and problems won’t arise, but rather that companies become more pro­active in their approach to identify, respond, and re­solve issues quickly to change what could have been an unsatisfactory service call into an overall positive customer experience. Today’s contractor can’t afford to keep this old mentality of waiting to smell the smoke before putting out the fire when all it takes is one bad touch point to ruin a customer’s experience.

I believe great customer service doesn’t have to be a complicated matter. It boils down to changing the company culture, driven by a vision to transform everyone focus to being customer-centric. It starts with acknowledging that we are in this business to serve and as professionals, that means we need to put the customer first and truly care about provid­ing a great experience from the very first interaction until the last. This means not being afraid to admit when something goes wrong, taking ownership, and getting in front of our mistakes. It is a desire to put egos and pride aside, to ensure that the customer is properly taken care of.

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Ryan Pritchard

Ryan Pritchard is the Sales Manager for Canam Systems, a leading software development company whose main focus is to provide fully integrated web, mobile and desktop software solutions to the insurance restoration industry. Ryan has spent the last 15 years in customer service & sales, he joined the Canam Systems sales and marketing team in 2010 and was promoted to Sales Manager at the start of 2016.  Over the last seven years, he has continued to provide strong company growth, promoting and selling PSA Restoration Contractor, as a top software solution in North America.

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