In the past, customer service is about picking up the phone to hear from your customers. Today, it's much more than that.
With the popularity of the internet, there are many more channels that customers can get their messages across to your business.
From your social media pages to email to live chat on your website, customer service is a critical part of businesses today.
Despite the popularity, the concept of great customer service still stands: help your current customers to get the best out of your service and convince prospects to become customers.
People are used to seeing ads. But great customer service leads to more satisfied customers than an ad. Vision critical reports that customer experience will be the main brand differentiator by 2020 instead of price or product.
Why Customer Service has become the new marketing?
Customer service is the social proof you need to gain more customers. Here are some of the core reasons why customer service is the new marketing.
1. Customer experience is a form of marketing
People talk every day. And this includes their experience with the services or products they've used recently. They talk about their positive experiences and are even faster to talk about their negative experiences.
Today, whatever people say about their customer experience with your business has more impact due to the internet. A potential customer usually wants to know what current customers think of your business.
That's why people check reviews before they make their purchase decisions. BrightLocal found in a study that 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
With a better customer experience strategy, you can market your products and services through word of mouth, reviews, positive comments on social media, testimonials, etc. This is more trustworthy to a prospect than what your company says.
For a current customer, great customer service is a way of marketing your other products to them and retaining them as customers. Bain and Company reveal that increasing customer retention rates by 5% could increase profits by more than 25%.
2. Customer service is affordable
Businesses spend billions on advertising. But most businesses invest so little in customer service. When you look at it, you see a lot of money not going to the right places.
What's the point of attracting customers if you can't serve them effectively? These customers end up leaving for your competitors and saying bad things about your business.
Customer service is cheaper in two ways: it usually takes less than the amount you spend on advertising and other marketing channels to employ more customer service staff. Secondly, great customer service triggers word of mouth marketing.
Fortunately, word of mouth marketing is free. When you invest in customer service, you're killing 2 birds with a stone.
This is one skill that Zappos has mastered so well. In fact, it's rare to read about great customer service and not hear about Zappos.
This is more publicity than millions on advertising could get the company. However, the cost of poor customer service is enormous. According to estimates by NewVoiceMedia, U.S. businesses lose $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.
In a popular example, Peter Shankman tweeted, jokingly, before a flight that he wants a porterhouse steak when he lands at Newark airport.
Interestingly, a Mortons staff showed up with a porterhouse steak. This is a low-cost gesture that has generated positive publicity for the company for years.
3. Good customer service helps your company grow
It's a no-brainer for every business. When you provide good customer service, you retain your current customers and gain more customers. The only side effect of this, if you can call it that, is growth for your company.
With good customer service, positive news go out to prospects about your company. Likewise, customers who are satisfied with your service will continue to do business with you and tell others.
With their customer service efforts, Zappos has been able to make sales of over a billion dollars annually. Of these purchases, 75% comes from returning customers and 43% of its new customers came through word of mouth.
4. It becomes easier to hire customer service staff
When you have a system in place for great customer service, it becomes easier to find staff members who fit into the system.
Furthermore, you can train your new customer support reps through a customer service process that you've fine-tuned to satisfy your customers’ needs.
With good customer service in place, it becomes easier for your company to hire people who fit into that vision. In a way, great customer service defines a company's culture. It's easier for every employee to know steps to be taken to provide good service to customers.
For instance, Tony Hsieh revealed Zappos would fire a worker who doesn't fit into their company culture of providing the best customer possible.
5. Technology can help support customer support
One of the factors that make customer service run 24/7 is the popularity of the internet. Many times, people are browsing through your website in the night and they need an answer to a question about your service. Are you able to provide those answers?
Well, as the internet made customer service a 24/7 affair, it also provided tools to help you provide customer service round the clock.
Your customer service reps don't have to go through the night sleepless to answer questions that customers and prospects might have.
But even if they have to, technology can help them to be more effective. With Innovations like live chats, chatbots, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other technologies, customer service becomes more effective.
Customers have more avenues to reach your business and you also have a better capacity to meet their needs.
Initially, websites integrated live chats into their websites to provide spontaneous customer service. If you provide a service or run an e-commerce store, being unable to answer a prospect at an instant could see them go to your competitor.
However, live chat didn't provide the spontaneous service that many expected. Website visitors still have to wait for minutes before they can get their questions answered.
According to a study by Super Office, the average response time for a live chat is 2 minutes and 40 seconds. What's even worse is that 21% of live chats are left unanswered.
Chatbots eliminate this issue as they can provide an immediate response to visitors’ queries.
In fact, one of the biggest benefits of chatbots is that they can provide an immediate response to website visitors. Another is that it can provide answers to the common questions that prospects or current customers may have about your service or product.
Another piece of technology that helps with customer service is CRM software. This helps you to track how customers and leads interact with your business.
In some cases, you can automate the corresponding action that will be taken when a customer takes an action.
In some other cases, the CRM software can alert customer service reps to take the next steps. This could be to call a lead or a customer to remind them of your product.
Added to this, companies can also track their mentions online. Not every customer will make a complaint on your official business social media channel.
But even when customers make complaints online, you must be able to track those complaints and provide necessary answers. Because a dissatisfied customer can easily be poached by your competitor.
An example of a company following up with complaints online is Target. Stephanie Giese complained in a blog post about shorts she bought for her daughter that was too small and would expose her body.
Target responded to her and collaborated with her to rectify the issue. This helped the company avert a PR disaster that could have led to a loss of sales.
6. Good customer service empowers employees
Good customer service goes beyond giving your employees tight guidelines on how to serve a customer. Tight guidelines and bureaucracy can prevent customer service agents from doing what they need to do to satisfy customers.
While employing customer service, businesses need to choose the right candidates and trust them. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, gives customer support reps the authority to do whatever it takes to satisfy a customer. In his words:
“So we generally try to stay away from policies, we just ask our reps to do whatever they feel is the right thing to do for the customer and the company. And that’s actually really uncomfortable for a lot of reps that come from other call centers. We kind of have to untrain their bad habits.
“But I think [customer service reps] are generally not happy because they don’t have control over the situation whereas Zappos… there’s really nothing that a rep can’t do so there’s really no reason to ever escalate.”
This has led to many popular stories of customer service agents at Zappos providing support for customers on even issues that are unrelated to buying shoes. Some may see that as irrelevant.
But Zappos has secured many customers for life that way and attracted so many others. With such a culture, every employee sees their work as a form of customer service and do it to please customers and grow their company's revenue.
If you've not been paying enough attention to customer service, you can change that now. With tight competition in most businesses, customer service could be the differentiator between you and your competitor.
One of the biggest benefits of customer service is that apart from working to keep current customers, it encourages your current customers to proclaim your business to prospects.
This is one of your best forms of marketing as customers are marketing your business for you.