Most of us have had an experience at some point or another when a brand’s customer service has wowed us and turned a negative experience into a positive one. For me, a standout was the time I was rush-shipped a new sound machine for our infant daughter after it suddenly stopped working in the middle of the night. While this was by no means a life-saving device, to a sleep-deprived new mother whose future nights’ sleep depended on it, it was pretty darn close, and I appreciated that the customer service rep shared my sense of urgency.
But what good customer service offers today goes beyond just righting the wrongs, and a positive customer experience can stay with us far longer than the actual product. In just ten brief minutes on the phone, the customer service agent I spoke with accomplished goals that we as marketers spend countless hours and dollars working to accomplish every day. For instance:
- In standing by the product and offering a no-fuss replacement, she established brand credibility and trust.
- She generated an emotional connection by being empathetic to my situation and offering free overnight shipping to help resolve my problem.
- She created brand loyalty. I continue to remember the brand and choose other products in its portfolio over its competitors’.
- She created a brand advocate who shared a positive experience with other mothers in their target demographic through word of mouth and a positive product review.
In this instant gratification digital world, savvy consumers expect answers and information immediately. As a result, customer service professionals are often on the front lines, interacting with consumers (pre, during and post purchase) more and more frequently, answering questions and helping them find what they need. In many cases, they are the personalized brand experience that we as marketers are working so hard to create. Those experiences, good or bad, are more far-reaching than ever thanks to social media. Consumers now leave detailed reviews of their experiences that have a much stronger effect on today’s consumers than marketing campaigns alone.
As consumers reach out through social media, blogs, product reviews and any other means of getting the quickest response, social media managers and marketers are more frequently serving a customer service role. It’s more important now than ever to make sure we’re all responding with a customer experience that is consistent, integrated and aligned with our brand and product messaging.
So how can we work more seamlessly together for the common good? Here are a few ways to start:
- Connect your social media team to your customer service team
This communication is probably already happening on some level due to necessity, but how can you build a better bridge and formalize the process? Designate key points of contact in each department and work together to develop talking points and consistent (brand-appropriate) responses to frequent inquiries. Document a process for how to escalate questions and issues on both sides, and make sure the eventual resolution and responses are also documented for future learning. Distribute these internally, train your teams and follow up to make sure they’re being adopted.
- Include customer service in your content development meetings
No one knows your customers better than the folks who are talking to them every day. Include customer service agents in content brainstorms to make sure you’re capturing common content themes and reoccurring questions that your customers are already researching.
- Make education a priority
The last thing you want is for your customers to be introducing your customer service agents to new products or marketing campaigns. Companies often make a concerted effort to integrate marketing and sales, but customer service is often left out of the communication loop. Make sure your customer service team is getting the same types of information and training that you would typically share with your sales team about new products and services as well as new branding or marketing campaigns. Host Lunch and Learns or monthly open forums to answer their questions and keep them in the know.
- Tap into customer service data
At the same time you are sharing marketing information with customer service, make sure they’re sharing their valuable customer insights with you. Most companies have some type of data capture system in place to document incoming inquiries. Depending on your system, either take the time to get trained on how to access and view this information, or if access is limited, ask the team to provide regular reports on common customer questions, comments and complaints. This can give your customer service team the opportunity for more internal visibility, and it will allow you to learn valuable information about your customers that you may not have otherwise heard.
- Empower your team to delight your customers
Finally, do your part to empower your customer service team to make a positive impression. This may mean campaigning internally for better product warranties and return policies or for better customer service training and integration. It may even mean dedicating a portion of your annual marketing budget to supply them with an allowance of free products, discounts, service vouchers and/or branded giveaway items that they can use to surprise and delight deserving customers or turn around negative experiences.
Ensure your customer service team has the necessary access to get to any product or marketing information they may need at a moment’s notice. Adopt an open door policy and encourage them to reach out to you and your team when they need help. Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of SAS Group, said it best, “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
Now that you have all of those valuable new insights from your customer service team, how do you use them to enhance and grow your brand? Are there negative customer perceptions that you need to address or positive perceptions that you should be capitalizing on? Here at TBE, this is what we do best. Contact us to learn more about our insight-driven brand reinvigoration process.
Written by Lisa Schooler, Account Supervisor