When it comes to customer service, most businesses are all about zooming out.
They want to stay out of the weeds, limiting the focus on individual customers and establishing broad-strokes approaches, strategies, and assets that can help the vast majority of their demographics with whatever problems they end up encountering.
On the surface, this seems like a cost-efficient strategy; the goal is to use one strategy to affect the greatest number of individuals, which works for a number of different areas.
However, this approach is ineffective for customer service because it often ends up neglecting the individual.
The Generalized Approach
The generalized approach is useful for most areas of your business. In accounting, for example, you rely on totals and large-scale trends to inform your purchasing decisions and investments.
In sales and marketing, you need to zoom out to examine consumer trends on a high, generalized level. Drilling down too specifically in these areas is usually a waste of time and resources. Customer service is a different animal; if you want to make the best impact, you’ll need to understand why individual attention is so important.
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Cravings for Human Interaction
Successful customer service experiences are built on successful human interaction. No matter how much you love the modern world of digital communications, or how satisfied you think you are with non-human customer service options, the reality is, most of us still crave human interaction on a fundamental level. When that’s denied, we naturally end up with less favorable experiences.
Take a look at some of the impersonal ways organizations have tried to transform their customer service strategies into a broad-strokes approach:
- Web articles. Web articles and FAQ pages can be useful in dispensing information, but they don’t have that human touch. A decent compromise here is to write your articles in a signature, personal brand voice, or to include a video with a human narrator to make the experience more personal. However, it still lacks that personal engagement factor that so many of us need.
- Phone menus. There’s no shortage of people rallying against the prevalence and irritation of phone menus. When you want to talk to a representative, and you’re faced with a series of categorical questions about the nature of your problem, you don’t care that it exists for efficiency. You want to talk to a person.
- Scripts. Even when engaging with a human directly, the customer experience can feel impersonal. This is especially true when it’s clear that someone is reading from a script. Companies write scripts to have a repeatable, successful approach to solving common customer problems, but simply existing can be irritating to customers.
- Funnels. Companies often try to “funnel” users to one platform or one location for support; for example, they might send social media inquiries to a customer service phone line. This makes customers feel unacknowledged and herded like sheep to a solution.
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This isn’t to say that these strategies can’t be helpful (or that these are the only broad-strokes strategies), but if you’re going to use them, you need to use them in conjunction with an individualized element to your customer support.
Even though the majority of your customers may fall into specific categories, such as an age range, or falling into one of a few levels of satisfaction with your product, the reality is, every customer who does business with you is unique. Acknowledging that uniqueness, and offering a similarly individual experience, is necessary if you want to maximize customer satisfaction and retention.
For example, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Personal preferences. Every individual is going to have unique communication and service preferences. It’s impossible to categorize all your demographics as preferring phone conversations, chats, or social media engagements. The more options you have, the better. You can flexibly accommodate almost any needs.
- Individual disposition. Not all of your customers are going to have the same disposition. Some are going to be outright awful to deal with. Knowing this, how could you possibly have a one-size-fits-all approach? Each customer requires a different “response” disposition if you want to handle them appropriately.
- Unique problems. One of the most obvious items on this list, most of your customers are going to have unique problems. Even if they’re encountering something fairly common (such as not being able to log in), they’ll all have different levels of experience with the situation, and they’ll have tried different options so far.
- Memorability. Lastly, keep in mind that treating a customer as an individual makes your brand, and the experience, more memorable. This is crucial to maximizing customer retention.
How Broad-Strokes Research and Takeaways Can Still Be Helpful
Throughout this article, we’ve tried to establish the idea that individual attention and human experiences matter greatly to the overall success of your customer service strategy. For the most part, these individual experiences undermine the potential of broad-strokes strategies.
However, it’s still necessary to have some generalized approaches to fuel your strategy; for example, conducting high-level customer research can give you the knowledge you need to customize your key areas of support.
Like with almost any area of business development, the key to success here is balance; you need general approaches and individual approaches to maximize customer satisfaction and retention. Without that individual element, your customer engagement rates will suffer.