Apart from certain industries, such as those offering tech appliances and gadgets where patents make it possible to have clear distinctions between the products offered by competitors, most businesses offer products and services that are remarkably similar to other offerings in the market. The areas where some distinguish themselves is in their marketing and customer service strategies.
The importance of customer service is paramount because apart from influencing customer acquisition via referrals and good reviews, it can damage your business's reputation and make you lose the business you already have, if it's not done properly.
If your business is going to win in today's highly competitive marketplace, you'll need to transform your customers to brand evangelists, and great customer service is simply the best way to do that. Here are four ways to achieve that:
1. Know your customers
KYC is one of those things that has become a business buzzword but has lost its true meaning over time. It shouldn't just mean knowing their email addresses, home addresses or phone numbers, it should incorporate whatever personal details you come by in the course of interacting with them. If you can give your customers a personalized customer experience, you'll be halfway to securing their loyalty.
Just think about it: Wouldn't you feel more attached to a restaurant where the waiter spends a bit of time to ask about your children whom you brought some time ago than one where you only get stiff, generic treatment? Of course, you'd rather recommend the one where the customer service makes you feel recognized and appreciated.
2. Make feedback painless
One of the complaints a vast majority of customers emphasized when evaluating customer service, according to Evoice, is that it is simply too difficult to communicate whatever complaints or concerns that they have about a product or service to the company.
It could be that your customer care line is not easy to find, too expensive to call or that they are kept on hold for long periods of time before getting to speak to a representative. In many cases, people would simply get frustrated and return your products or demand a refund, even though the issue could have been resolved fairly easily.
Go through your customer service process again from the perspective of a customer and remove whatever stumbling blocks you find. Get a toll-free number, get a CRM to streamline the process and have adequate staff on hand to answer queries.
3. Get in touch
It's one thing to make the feedback process convenient for your customers, but it's also important to encourage them to make use of it. In her book, Understanding Customers, Ruby Newell-Legner gives the results of a survey which showed that 96% of customers who experience bad customer service don't bother to complain to the business, and 91% never come back.
Peter Shankman founded HARO and attributed its initial success (an amazing 79% open rate) to the excellent customer service, which included using his personal email address to send out millions of emails daily, encouraging direct replies and spending more than 90% of his day responding to user queries. Even if you don't go to those lengths, just sending follow-up emails to customers to ask them for their thoughts on your products or services and asking if they have any complaints will let them know you care. It'll also bring issues to your attention that you might not have known were affecting your customers' perception of your business.
4. Be responsive
No one likes the feeling of shouting into the wind, which is what your customers will feel if you don't do anything about the feedback they give. The first step is to acknowledge their complaints and reassure them that you're working on it. Automated emails are good, but it's even better if you can take the extra effort to personalize your responses. Second, rectify their issues as quickly as possible and then let them know what you've done.
Being responsive is especially important on public-facing platforms like social media where people can quickly scan through to see if you've been taking action on other people's complaints. If you haven't, it's more likely that they'll simply skip straight to leaving bad reviews or comments.
On the whole, bringing your customer service up to top-notch standard might take some time, effort and yes, money, but it's totally worth it in light of all the gains you'll get. Customer loyalty is priceless, and if you want your business to grow, you should be ready to do whatever it takes to fete your customers and make them willing to come back and bring their friends with them.