In a world of e-commerce, virtual employment, and unlicensed drones, it sometimes seems like everything traditional flew out the window the minute your grandma got an Internet connection in the early 2000s. But no matter how hard it is to get used to doing everything online, there’s one old-fashioned value that won’t be going anywhere—and that’s customer service.
In a digital marketplace, it can be easy to dismiss customer service as “nice to have.” But successful businesses that attract and keep customers for the long haul all share one thing in common: a no-holds-barred approach to world-class customer service.
Customer service is dead; Long live customer service
To many of us, customer service equates to a stock image of a smiling professional on the phone with an aging, bespectacled octogenarian. But in reality, successful companies use personalized customer service as their No. 1 competitive advantage that ultimately delivers huge for the bottom line.
Customer service allows otherwise standard retailers like Zappos and Starbucks to set themselves apart as industry leaders. On the surface, these companies offer shoes and coffee like a thousand others. But unlike others, Zappos and Starbucks deeply understand that providing world-class customer service wins loyalty and market share time and time again, so they invest in it.
Making customer service second nature
We’ve all experienced an unsatisfactory customer service interaction, and—more often than not—we don’t say anything. We feel as if nobody cares, or that it’s pointless to complain, so we let it slide and make a mental note to avoid the company in the future.
In your own business, this is a death wish. It’s up to you to carefully craft an environment in which negative customer situations don’t occur. And if they do, then you need to have a process in place to make sure your client feels motivated to give feedback and leave happy anyway.
Here’s what your business can do to ensure you’re giving the best possible customer service:
1. Lead by example. When you decide to make customer service a company priority, start with your leadership team. Your team and your customers must see that customer service works from the top down.
Spirit Airlines is an example of how poor customer service trickles down from the CEO. After the company refused to give a Vietnam veteran a refund for his flight because he had terminal cancer and couldn’t fly, the CEO was interviewed about this incident and said, “He didn’t buy our insurance, and that’s our policy.” It’s no surprise that Spirit Airlines is the most complained-about airline in the world.
2. Do damage control on your current customer service. If you haven’t spent time prioritizing customer service, then you’ll need to do some damage control from the inside out. Poor customer service often creates a much lower employee morale and ultimately higher turnover. After all, nobody wants hearing customer complaints to comprise the majority of his workday. (Can you imagine what it must be like to work at Comcast? That’s why it ranked so poorly for turnover).
Show your employees that customer service is important to the organization. Reward them for following through on customer service opportunities, especially when they go above and beyond to exceed customers’ expectations. Go as big as you can. Some companies have rewarded employees with around-the-world cruises or $250,000 bonuses, which gets the whole team excited and trying to outperform one another. It creates a great culture of customer service.
3. Treat customer service as marketing. In a world in which 92 percent of consumers will trust a recommendation from someone else (even if they don’t know them) over promotional content from brands, companies that don’t use customer service are ignoring a huge marketing opportunity. Word-of-mouth and referral business is always the easiest to close and requires very few dollars to gain.
Nordstrom spends much less than the competition on marketing because it focuses so much on creating a shopping experience for everyone who walks through its doors. This leads to a word-of-mouth marketing plan that dominates its competition and keeps it at the top of the retail industry in an otherwise troubled e-commerce-heavy retail space.
4. Understand the customer experience. Don’t make assumptions about what your customers go through when they use your company. Work with your team to diagram the customer’s experience and identify opportunities at each point to over deliver on customer service. With that information in hand, you can create systems and processes that provide a flawless customer service experience.
E-commerce companies are way ahead of the game on tapping into this analytical approach to customer service. Companies like Amazon monitor customer experience analytics around the clock and constantly deliver on easier, updated solutions that make for a smooth customer experience. Consider what your company can do—on and offline—to evaluate your customer service firsthand and make improvements.
Ultimately, your customers keep your company in business. Don’t entrust your biggest asset to chance. Invest your capital in crafting an intentional and surprisingly wonderful customer experience to differentiate your company from those that don’t understand the true value of customer service.
This article was written by Mark Scrivner from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.