How to Improve Customer Service in a Digital World

Cynthia Clay CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutionsby Cynthia Clay, CEO, NetSpeed Learning Solutions

I’m fascinated by the subtle and not-so-subtle changes in customer service strategies happening inside organizations. Some of the changes are due to Millennials making an impact as they enter the workplace and become valued customers. Customer service is becoming increasingly about the delivery of a great customer experience across every channel that your customers touch.

Sixty-three percent of customer experience decision makers think that the importance of the customer has risen (Forrester Research), while 76% of customers say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company really values them (Aspect Customer Service Survey). “By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator” is a statement from a recent report on the future of customer service. (Customers 2020, Walker Company)

The customer experience your organization creates has to exceed your customers’ expectations across multiple channels: your website, social media sites, face-to-face, and over the telephone. An interesting development in the digital age is the Millennial preference for getting fast answers online. Calling a phone number is the last thing most Millennials want to do and by the time they do call, they are likely already frustrated at their inability to find the information they want through other channels.

Developing customer loyalty should be on the mind of every organization because the longer you can retain your customers, the more profitable your organization is likely to be. Studies consistently demonstrate that a 5% increase in customer retention can result in a minimum 25% increase in profitability. Simply put, it is a lot more expensive to acquire a new customer than to hang on to the ones you have.

So what makes a customer happy anyway? According to Genesys Global, 78% of people say that it’s competent service representatives, while 38% say it’s personalization. Jeanne Bliss talks about “make or break moments” in the customer’s experience. Do you know what they are for your organization’s customers or clients?


Three months ago, I purchased $150 worth of plants of various types at my neighborhood garden store to spruce up my garden. I asked the clerk to recommend a way to get rid of the snails that were munching on ground cover that I had planted a few days earlier. The clerk confidently recommended a natural, cinnamon-based spray-on product that was safe for plants but killed snails and slugs. I bought it and sprayed it on my new plants. Yes, the product killed every snail it touched. It also killed every plant it touched. I watched in dismay as they withered and blackened before my eyes.

I’m sharing this story because, sadly, the store’s handling of this situation was abysmal for many weeks. After two trips back to the store, two phone calls, two emails that included photos of all the dead and dying plants, promises made by the store manager to follow up with me, and finally being kicked to the product manufacturer where someone promised to mail me a check to cover the cost of the plants and the destructive product, I have received no immediate refund, only empty promises. There were several “make or break moments” for me in this experience, but most frustrating was the consistent pattern of promising action with no follow up on the part of the store. I was certain that I would never shop there again. I was convinced that once this blog post went live, I would post it on the Facebook page of the garden store in Seattle. Imagine my delight, when I found a check from the manufacturer in my mailbox yesterday, reimbursing me in full for the cost of the product and the dead plants.

Sixty-five percent of customers say they have cut ties with a brand or company over a single poor customer experience (Parature). A whopping 91% of people say that they have left without ever complaining! And here’s one more relevant piece of data: 86% of the positive word-of-mouth your company receives is tied to someone taking ownership of a situation (Belding). So, here’s to you, Gro-Power and City People’s! Thank you for taking ownership.

Your customers and clients experience your company through multiple touch points. Every one of those touch points needs to provide a consistently positive experience if you want to hold on to them.

To read a visual summary of these issues, download my latest infographic at the NetSpeed Learning Solutions website.

Or you can plan to attend my next complimentary, one-hour webinar, Customer Engagement in a Digital World, coming up on Tuesday, September 27, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific / 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

Cynthia Clay is the CEO of NetSpeed Learning Solutions and the author of Great Webinars: How to Create Interactive Learning that is Captivating, Informative, and Fun, as well as Peer Power: Transforming Workplace Relationships (Wiley). 


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