10/29/2013 04:24 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Businesses Should Deliver Better Customer Service

How many times have you hung up on a customer service representative because you felt like the wait was unbearable or you couldn't stand to repeat the same information AGAIN? Or you just knew that this agent had absolutely no idea what you were taking about and could never possibly help? Have you tried calling your cable or Internet provider's customer service? Since we've all been there the frustration makes for great bonding at cocktail parties but at some point you have to think - how many customers can these companies afford to alienate before they make a change?

A new Zogby Analytics study sheds light on some of the biggest customer service complaints businesses face and how dire it has become for everyone involved. Where do customers draw the line on poor customer service?

15 percent of consumers say they would rather see the dentist than speak with a customer service agent.
31 percent of consumers say they will only wait five minutes before they hang up on a customer representative. Meanwhile, 48 percent say they will top out at 15 minutes.
34 percent of consumers say they complain or ask for a manager following a negative customer service experience.

At best, poor customer service is a financial drain on a company - dramatically increasing the time a company spends engaging. At worst, poor customer service can decrease customer retention and prevent others from ever starting. Businesses without a streamlined customer support process are looking at an 80 percent loss in customers. It's a fact - customer service can make or break relationships with current and even future customers.

Clearly, customer service starts at the very beginning with each interaction serving as an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship. In order for businesses to make the most of every customer interaction, solid customer relationship management tools should be in place to allow for a timely, personalized response. Convinced that enhancing customer service is a next step for your business? Here are several tips to consider when implementing CRM (customer relationship management) technology:

Learn how to avoid failure: If your company has tried, but failed to implement a customer service program, take a critical look back at what went wrong and how you can prevent this from happening again. Reasons why implementations may fail include: a lack of leadership support, lack of training to encourage user adoption, and a lack of understanding which features can actually drive productivity, or skimping on costs for effective usage.

Know the vendor: Specifically, know who your company will be working with on the vendor side from the start. If implementing new technology disrupts your day-to-day operations and prevents your business from operating smoothly, your new program can end up hurting your business. Receiving support from a vendor that will work with you from start to finish and also take the time to learn your business will speed up your implementation process.

Understand the landscape: Ask for industry references. Many customer service programs are designed as a solution for a variety of industries and you may be able to gain ideas from other companies facing the same operational challenges. Compare experiences across vendors and find one that specifically addresses your needs and challenges. Settle on a program that will allow you to streamline your workflow and position your business for future success.

Inquire about support: If problems arise after implementation, will you have access to training and support? Whether you've used a similar program or are not familiar with your new tools at all, it is important to help transition and train your employees from day one. Spark confidence by softening the learning curve for employees and newcomers with readily available materials and support from your vendor.

Determine costs: Don't throw your money down the drain and risk investing in a program that won't be poised for success from the beginning. Before the contract is signed, determine if the cost of adding new users will be prohibitive, look for any hidden costs and consider if you are buying more or less than you need for your business situation. The best solution is the one that has the right tools for your business, not just the fanciest ones.

Ask for management's goals: Companies need to know how, if at all, they are willing to change going forward, as change resistance can be the biggest obstacle in implementation success. To make the most of your investment, you'll want to make sure you won't outgrow your customer service program overnight. Look for a solution that can adjust as your business needs change or your staff grows. With a strong grasp on your business objectives and future goals, you'll be able to provide the best customer service possible.

Customer service should be a priority for every business because your company is evaluated by customers as a whole, from the product or service to the entire experience they have with your brand. Taking the time to cultivate each customer interaction will help turn each opportunity into an ongoing relationship with ongoing revenue, and help put your business on track to deliver experiences that matter.

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