Companies have long relied on location, product innovation and pricing to gain a competitive advantage. However, customers can now find nearly any product or service at the lowest possible price, right at their fingertips. In other words, the key differentiator between companies is the customer experience.

With increased competition and ongoing pressure to continuously meet rapidly evolving expectations, it has become vital to focus on customer satisfaction. This means having the right strategies in place. The following are 10 rules to get customer satisfaction right, regardless of the industry you’re in:

1. Every Interaction Matters

In the digital age, when one complaint can be shared widely across social media channels, there’s no margin for error when it comes to customer satisfaction. To add to this challenge, customer journeys also are increasingly complex, across both self-service and assisted-service channels. This requires increased effort to provide a great experience across every channel, every time. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s essential to keeping customers from shifting to the competition.

2. Upset Customers Can Become Your Most Loyal Customers

Even when service levels are high, problems can still happen. While it is easy to just let an angry customer walk away and consider them a loss, successful companies see the opportunity in customer service recovery. This means an upset customer can actually become loyal and happy if a mistake is handled correctly. Many customer service experts consider the Disney Institute’s HEARD method as the gold standard in customer service recovery:

  • Hear – Enable the customer to tell their complete story without interruption.
  • Empathize – Communicate an understanding of how the customer feels.
  • Apologize – A genuine “sorry” can go a long way to defuse anger.
  • Resolve – Solve the problem as quickly as possible. This requires employees being enabled to do so.
  • Diagnose – Learn from the mistake without placing blame on anyone. Fix the process, so it is not repeated.

3. Every Customer Is Unique

Increasingly, customers expect personalized interactions that meet their specific needs. Fortunately, contact center technology has evolved to the point that both inbound and outbound interactions can be made personal. Even self-service can be fine-tuned to each customer.

4. Speed Isn’t Everything

It’s easy to get hung up on providing fast service, but good people skills are equally as important. In fact, increased customer engagement and satisfaction is closely linked to empathetic, friendly and competent support.

5. Make Things Simple

Do you have 14 options on your IVR system? Are customers frequently transferred multiple times to reach the right agent? If you’re adding extra steps for your customers to obtain service, you’re risking losing them in droves. Today’s customers expect user-friendly experiences that they can understand and navigate. Solutions such as skills-based routing, callback and more self-service options can enable customers to get the hassle-free experiences they appreciate.

6. Keep Customer Information Safe

There have been too many data breeches in recent years, and customers are highly concerned about the safety of their data. Not only is it necessary to have a comprehensive security plan and solutions in place to prevent cyber-attacks, but it’s also important to give frontline agents the training and tools they need to thwart any fraudster who attempts to steal information via a voice channel.

7. Consider That Customers Will Pay More for Better Service

Great service is a value to customers. And they’re more willing than ever to pay for it. This requires doing more than just supporting them. Providing concierge-level service requires additional investment, but it can pay off substantially by enabling you to increase the price of products and services.

8. Don’t Make Assumptions

Do you really know what your customers want? With the rapid expansion of digital channels, customer expectations are evolving at a rapid pace. What has been successful in the past, may not be what your customers want now. By asking for customers’ opinions and preferences, as well as continuously evaluating contact center data, you can stay on top of customers’ changing needs.

9. Treat Your Employees Well

Happy employees create happy customers. By providing training, incentives, bonuses and other benefits that show that you care about employees’ success and happiness, you’re indirectly investing in the satisfaction of your customers.

10. Be Adaptable

If there is one certainty in contact centers, it’s change. Not only are companies undergoing digital transformations, they must prepare for innovations, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of things. While there is still value in the tried and true strategies that have consistently delighted customers, it’s important to be flexible enough to incorporate new solutions to meet up-and-coming generations of customers.