In a time when you can order flowers via a bot on Facebook messenger, buy a new book at the touch of a button and be reviewed by just about anyone online, customer service has never been more important. Customers have both more choice, and less time than ever – everybody is busy, somewhat overwhelmed by options and they will vote with their dollars, and their loyalty to your brand. As Shep Hyken put it in Forbes in his analysis of the biggest trends in customer service in 2016, “Customer service and/or customer experience is the new marketing.”
It’s also an essential component of any business. For Janet Muggivan, a PR executive with more than 25 years working across major cosmetic brands who has just launched her own online beauty business, Beauty Dossier, puts it, customer service has always mattered. But now you really have to stand out.
“Customer Service has always been the cornerstone of any successful business,” says Muggivan.
“The concept is not new. What is new is the sheer volume of choice that exists today. Whatever it is that you are selling, there is more choice for consumers than ever before. Therefore, the difference between you and your competitor can come down to an outstanding customer service experience.”
The other major shift that Muggivan has noticed, especially now when launching a business that relies on word-of-mouth marketing, is the role that social media plays.
“A satisfied or dissatisfied consumer has a large voice now via social media. Use that to your advantage by providing an excellent customer service. Ignoring customer issues can lead to not only losing that customer for life, but their network and worst case, it can become a crisis management issue if it blows up. Strong customer service practice (and practitioners!) are an invaluable tool in any business,” she says.
The thing about customer service is that a bad experience will always be remembered. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, 92 per cent of customers will not do business a second time if they have a bad experience the first time around. Meanwhile, according to BI Intelligence’s new Customer Service Report, 60 per cent of consumers in the US have abandoned an intended purchases due to poor customer service, and it will take 12 positive experiences to negate the impact of that sole bad one. Perhaps most importantly, research has shown that what your customers say about your business matters – people are more likely to trust a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or family member than any form of paid advertising. Good customer service creates a loyal customer, and as findings from the Database Marketing Institute suggest, a loyal customer will spend more, and frequently.
So what does good customer service in these busy, digitally-focused and competitive days look like?
Well, it looks like a lot of things. Like good old-fashioned putting the needs of your customers first. The important distinction being that you need to be wherever your customers are. As Shep Hyken says in Forbes, the omnichannel approach matters more than ever.
“Customers are connecting with companies in more ways than ever. Which channels are right for you? The ones that your customers are using,” he says.
Business Owner and Principal Physiotherapist
Cremorne Physio is an award winning clinic, trusted by families on the Lower North Shore since 2001. We pride ourselves on the strong relationships that we build with our patients and the high level of service that we provide both clinically and administratively. Our tagline ³love the way you feel² applies to all aspects of our service and is very much a part of our culture. Payment is the last thing a patient does before leaving and that experience is the lasting impression that they take with them. At Cremorne Physio we have always been proud to accept American Express and we will NEVER charge a surcharge. It¹s one of the things our patients love about us and to us it¹s just part of the service we provide. It¹s what makes Cremorne Physio the practice of choice for so many local families. Cremorne Physio is a prestigious clinic with prestigious clientele and we are proud to be associated with a prestige brand such as American Express.Find out more
Good customer service also means keeping the lines of communication open and making your customers experience with your business as seamless and “frictionless” as possible. This might mean ensuring that you respond to their queries promptly, offering a variety of choice and payment options removing roadblocks to purchases such as payment surcharges, or personalising your offering and showing your customers how you will give them value. This is an especially big deal when you consider that research shows customers are less concerned about price when they consider something as having value.
Ultimately, as Janet Muggivan says, good customer service means treating your customers with respect, and showing that you appreciate their custom. This starts with taking the art of customer service seriously, something that should be a given since it remains one of the most effective ways to attract and retain high value customers.
“In a time where so much is automated, there is no getting around the human element of customer service. You need a professional to evaluate and manage customer complaints. This is not a job for the intern. Strong people skills can turn a dissatisfied customer into a customer for life,” says Muggivan.