It used to be that mistreated customers were often powerless to stand up to a large company or organization, but social media is changing that. Even one wrong move has the power to drum up a massive number of interactions on various platforms, such as the video of a man getting dragged off a United Airlines flight earlier this year. Most of the customers who post their gripes on social media aren’t interested in any sort of refund. In fact, Sprout Social reports that whistleblowing unfair practices are much more important to 80 percent of survey respondents.
Customer service interactions are some of the most loaded for a business. They have the capacity to earn lifetime customers or, if handled poorly, a slew of public complaints that hurt business and tarnish the reputation of an otherwise upstanding company.
Which side would you rather be on?
In traditional marketing textbooks, low-cost, immediate purchasing decisions were in a different category than the more complex and intensive buyer decision cycle. When Amazon entered the fray, everything changed. Now, the Pew Research Center points out that up to 82 percent of adults in the United States read online reviews from other customers at least some of the time — of that group, 40 percent report that they almost always do.
Percentages for Millennials are even higher, with only 4 percent claiming to never read reviews. Across demographics and at different purchasing levels, customers are looking for feedback on everything from the latest smart TVs to a new bar of soap.
Things that were purchased in stores just a few years ago needed to have the flashiest labels or the best product marketing on the shelf. The buyer journey has since changed, and businesses need to deliver accordingly. Instead of looking at the customer service team as a cost center that solves issues, companies should recognize it as the key to developing consumer intimacy.
Treat customers like family
Contrary to common belief, the best customer service isn’t about the customer always being right. It’s about adding as much value as possible to her purchase of your product or service, even when it means going far out of the way to make it happen. Treating customers like they’re family is a powerful way to win loyalty, and it goes a long way toward ensuring a company’s future is a bright one.
Customers today evaluate every aspect of a brand, going well beyond the products themselves to include how the service fares against the competition. Because of the hypercompetitiveness of the product market, especially in the technology sphere, brands are realizing that customer service is another way to outdo one another and win over more of the market. It’s not always easy, however, so here are three ways for businesses to incorporate customer service teams into their brand strategy:
1. Hire a chief customer officer.
While it’s tempting to take good individual contributors and promote them to a managerial role, they aren’t always the ideal choice. Instead, look for candidates who demonstrate good leadership skills and the capacity to motivate and engage a team.
And, according to a recent Nasdaq survey, the job of a CCO is not only becoming more prevalent, but it’s also becoming infinitely more important. The survey revealed that more CCOs today are responsible for what was once viewed as marketing key performance indicators. This includes indicators such as search rankings, which 65 percent of CCOs are responsible for; content marketing at 57 percent; web traffic at 65 percent; and customer loyalty at 56 percent.
It’s evident the role is necessary — even the big guns like Mars and Johnson & Johnson have recently hired a CCO and found success doing so.
2. Synergize product development and customer service efforts.
Customer service representatives know customer pain points more intimately than anyone else in the company because they’re the ones who deal with the complaints on a daily basis. Loan some of your veterans to the product development team, and you can eliminate problems at the source.
Similarly, leadership should be interacting with the customer service team on a regular basis. Ask team members for feedback, and find out what makes their jobs more difficult. When representatives are frustrated, so are customers.
3. Correlate executive goals and compensation with customer satisfaction.
Incentivize the information sharing described above to ensure the lines of communication between leadership and employees remain open and the latter remain engaged in their work. Paying leadership based on overall customer satisfaction will also lead to a sharp upward trend in company ratings — just as many sales employees operate on a commission basis, the same can be done for customer service representatives. Giving the whole team a goal to work toward will ensure the highest level of cooperation and engagement — and the happiest customers.
The best advertising has always been by word of mouth, and to this day, it can’t be bought. People will peruse the opinions of strangers on the internet because they can, but they truly trust their friends and relatives. In any type of business, superlative customer service is the first and most crucial step to creating lifelong fans who will vocalize their loyalty to those around them whenever the chance arises.
Writer: Jaspar Weir