Customer service is a double-edged sword. Get it right and you can make loyal, lifelong customers who sell your products for you. Get it wrong and you can find your business in real trouble.
The Wrong Way to Do It
My friend Frank gave me an example of the exact wrong way to do customer service. He saw a t-shirt he wanted for his brother at JCPenney for $6. That branch didn’t have the right size but a sales clerk said the right size could be shipped to the store if he paid for it in advance.
Frank had to travel unexpectedly. The store left a message on his answering machine saying that it was in and he had only a few days to pick it up. He accidentally deleted the message and didn’t know if the store still had the shirt available. He called the local store to find out, and there the troubles began.
No one picked up. He was given several hard-to-navigate options and eventually reached someone who said she would go check and put Frank on hold. After what seemed like half an hour listening to bad hold music, he was disconnected. He called again but couldn’t reach anyone.
So Frank called the national JCPenney hotline and reached a sales representative. His computer system couldn’t tell him whether the local store still had the shirt. He put Frank on hold for a long time while he called the store and likely got a bit of the run-around himself.
Frank finally did get the shirt for his brother, after several hours on the phone. He went to the store, where he had spent at least $1,000 over the last few years, and vowed that was the last time he would shop there.
One reason many brick-and-mortar stores are in real trouble is stories like this one, multiplied by the thousands and broadcast by the millions over social media.
On the Front Lines
I have written about how good customer service also serves as good marketing, but it’s also much more than that.
Done right, customer service is way to not only delight but retain and grow your base of customers and supporters. At Michael Hyatt & Company, we regard the Customer Experience team as the “front line” of engagement for our brand.
From surveys, we understand that our customers appreciate prompt responses to their concerns and that, for every customer who complains, there are dozens who are silently annoyed.
I asked the head of our CE team Blair Arcaini for a list of initiatives we are undertaking to better serve our customers. She highlighted 5 strategies that we are currently using to listen, respond, and provide our customers with the kind of support they’re asking for.
“Our company has leveraged data from surveys to focus our customer experience efforts where it counts most,” Blair explained.
- Listen intently on social media. Customer engagement through social media is becoming increasingly important. We use applications like Mention to monitor activity on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even on third-party sites and blogs, to ensure that we have an ear to the ground for questions, complaints, and needs. This monitoring provides invaluable feedback we use to improve.
Respond quickly with live chat. Customers want answers, and fast. Offering a way to engage with our team “live” has upped our ability to serve our customers at the pace they desire. We’ve incorporated Olark live chat as a way to engage and support purchasers in real-time during our product promotions and membership enrollments. Sometimes a clear response to a simple question is all a customer needs to purchase your product—and experience the transformation it offers. So we’re leveraging live chat to quickly answers those questions.
Honor standout customers with a loyalty program. 54% of customers polled said that they would do more business with a company if they offered a loyalty program. At Michael Hyatt & Company, we’re fortunate to have loyal customers who invest across several of our brands. We acknowledge the value of their loyalty by offering discounted rates for cross-brand Alumni, as well as social sharing and refer-a-friend incentives.
Provide self-support knowledge bases. The #1 most important factor in customer loyalty is reducing customer effort. Providing our customers with the resources they need to help themselves, and fast, is one of the quickest ways to increase customer satisfaction. We’ve implemented a comprehensive Knowledge Base support tool within at least one of our brands in 2017, and have plans to extend it across all brands in the next year.
Practice customer-first marketing. We compile and digest all customer feedback during our promotional campaigns to ensure that our integrity is intact. This has impacted not only what we offer and when, but how we offer it, and how we engage with existing customers while making those new offers. Closing sales doesn’t move us forward if we’re alienating existing customers in the process—so we have an eye on our existing tribe as we plan every new marketing effort.
If companies’ priorities are straight, they understand that a customer’s experience from beginning to end with their brand is as important as the quality of their marketing and products. Like most companies, we don’t always get it right. But, we aspire to constant improvement in every part of our company and customer service is no exception.
In fact, it’s our central priority. If our customers have concerns, we want to hear them and take action. It’s the single greatest practice that keeps us relevant—and helps take our game to the next level.