Six Ways To Deliver Customer Service That Aligns With Your Long-Term Marketing Strategy
Most companies think of customer service as a necessary cost center that drags down bottom-line profitability. They budget only the minimum required to protect the company’s bottom line and they don't invest in the type of innovation necessary to maintain the company’s competitive advantage over the long term.
In my experience, this is a big mistake. All you need to do is look at the most successful companies — Apple, Amazon, Zappos — to recognize that they see customer service as intrinsically tied to their long-term success. In fact, these companies are proud to proactively invest in continually raising the bar for customer service.
What the world’s most successful companies have realized is that customer service is essential to their marketing strategy. Every customer interaction and every customer impression is another opportunity to remind customers what makes your business worth maintaining a relationship with. It’s also another opportunity to directly get a pulse on customer opinions and perspectives and another opportunity to engage one-on-one with customers about additional products and services.
Here are my six essential tips for delivering customer service that will better align with your long-term marketing strategy:
- Recognize that customers are willing to pay for great customer service. Customers routinely become so frustrated with businesses that they switch to the competition. Some businesses see this churn as inevitable, but it doesn’t need to be this way: Much of what customers are looking for is to feel they are valued and appreciated, and the most direct way businesses can deliver on this perception is to deliver stellar customer service. A 2016 survey from Accenture Strategy found that 45% of customers are willing to pay more for products and services if they receive a better level of service. Thus, your ability to deliver consistent, high-quality service should be a core component of a marketing strategy focused on building customer loyalty.
- Use social media to boost your testimonials online. Despite everything that companies do to roll out focused and engaging advertising campaigns, the single most important factor influencing customer buying decisions remains word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends, according to a 2015 Nielsen report. With the explosion of social media, there’s never been a better opportunity for businesses to boost their word-of-mouth recommendations online. In fact, promote and incentivize this activity as part of routine sales and customer service interactions. It might seem risky because you’re encouraging your customers to publish on platforms you can’t control, but if you have rock-solid customer service and a top-notch product, you should have no reason to fret over an occasional negative review.
- Support customers through the full customer lifecycle. Too many companies think of customer service as the conduit through which they close deals with customers. Consequently, they narrowly focus their customer service training on making customers feel good about opening up their wallets. But the sales transaction is only one piece of the full customer lifecycle that your customer service strategy should support. Following the initial sale, your customer is going to start using your product or service; you need to support this second leg of the customer journey by proactively reaching out to your customers to ensure they are getting maximum value and use out of their purchase. Finally, your customer is eventually going to form an impression of your business based on their usage: Support this third leg of the customer journey by making them feel that you are there for them. Your customer service team should be ready to support their personal growth and professional development as it relates to your business, as well as ready to surprise and delight them with creative solutions and personalized suggestions.
- Follow up after every customer service experience. Customer service does not end when you hang up the phone or send your final Twitter direct message to your customer. After every interaction, you want to follow up and solicit feedback about how you could have improved the service experience. Whether you use an online survey or simply encourage them to email you, you should be taking the time to study and analyze what they tell you because it can help you understand who your unhappy customers are and where your customers’ most common pain points are.
- Nip potential PR crises in the bud. As any customer service leader will tell you, it’s impossible to keep every customer happy. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to write off the minority of customers we couldn’t satisfy. The reality is that every customer issue we can’t satisfactorily resolve becomes a potential PR crisis later, especially because of how quickly individual customer interactions can go viral on social media. As a business, it’s important that you recognize that it’s never worth bad publicity to ignore unhappy customers. Most PR crises can be avoided with better-trained employees who are fully empowered to resolve customer issues the best way they see fit.
- Create a single view of your customer. Technology has enabled companies to collect and analyze unprecedented amounts of data on their customers. The Customer Service Management (CSM) application from the ServiceNow ITSM platform, for example, is designed to automate the collection and analysis of copious customer data, then synthesize and organize those insights in a way that helps customer service representatives deliver personalized, optimal solutions that exceed customer expectations. With applications like this, the focus is on creating a single view of the customer on a single dashboard display, enabling contact centers to truly focus on every customer’s needs, wants, priorities and pet peeves.
Content originally published on Forbes.