I’m often asked by clients what is the best marketing tool. While that isn’t a simple question to answer without going into the intricacies of a client’s business and industry a really good catchall is customer service (CS). Wait, you say, customer service is an operations function. It has nothing to do with marketing or business development. My response to that, any organization that has that mentality about customer service is likely suffering with little or no growth and they probably don’t know why.
While CS often times is not the only element to your marketing strategy, it should be a prominent component. After all, what sense is there in dedicating resources like time, effort and money to acquire new customers if in the end your poor customer service sends them away dissatisfied never to return? Not to mention that in doing so they likely have told countless others about their experience further narrowing your pool of potential customers. So how can you use CS to help market your business? Check out these tips to help you maximize your customer base and turn them into beacons for your organization.
Good service goes a long way – Good customer service may not seem very powerful, especially when compared to bad service and its potential collateral damage. In reality though, good service is far more powerful in this day and age than bad. Consider this, the days of great and high touch customer service across the board are long gone. Nowadays, high touch CS is something only a few select organizations do and do well. That said, anytime a customer is given great service they are very likely to talk about it with others. It may seem that customers only talk about bad experiences, especially on social media but the reality is good service is often talked about by customers with their closest constituents. I’ll take a personal endorsement by one of my customers to their inner circle any day over a faceless review online. An online review may reach more people initially but the intimacy of the word of mouth review is far more qualifying. Now, I’m not saying ignore online reviews or sites. They are powerful as well. See my next point to see what I mean.
Review your online reviews – As said in my previous point, word of mouth and personal endorsements are very powerful but that doesn’t mean you should ignore online reviews. If you’ve read my previous article, Are The Lights On, Are They Open? you’ll know that social media and online review sites are often how customers know if your business is open and thriving. By being active on social media, responding to customers and engaging with potential new customers online, you add a new facet of customer service for your organization. Being timely in responding to customer reviews, complaints and compliments shows that you care. Doing everything you can to resolve an issue often times turns a bad review into a positive response for everyone to see online. Don’t ignore your reviews. Just because you can’t see the person doesn’t mean they are not important or have a valid concern. Treat an online review as if you were dealing with the customer face to face. And for more on how to deal with online complaints check out my article What Your Business Can Learn From Ann Coulter’s Twitter Rant At Delta Customer Service.
Be proactive not reactive – I have a client who trains his staff to update their customers at the end of each day of a project. This way they can keep the customer completely informed and the customer never feels as if they do not know what is going on. This is a great proactive approach. On the flip side, if you wait until the customer calls you they are often already annoyed because they haven’t heard from you and then you are fighting an uphill battle. Don’t be reactive be proactive in your communications. By communicating with your customers in a timely fashion you mitigate any chances that they feel uninformed. Further, mistakes happen. I have found that if you are proactive about informing a customer of an unexpected issue they are much more receptive to the proposed resolution without it negatively impacting their experience. Example, let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment at 1:30p. Upon arriving you are told that the doctor is running an hour late. This would annoy anyone and could have been better handled if at noon the staff from your doctor’s office called you to let you know the doctor was running late. That way you could adjust your schedule and no time is lost. Be proactive in your customer communications and you will avoid many CS issues to begin with.
Whispering is louder than yelling – I often use this analogy when training staff and advising clients. If you have a message to get out, you could go to the highest mountain and yell at the top of your lungs and maybe a few people will hear you. Or you can whisper to your customers who are an extension of your business and reach many more ears than your yelling. The point being, good customer service will speak louder than advertising. I once worked for a company that spent a significant amount of money on advertising and yet could not figure out why they had such a poor reputation and struggled to gain new customers (this isn’t completely accurate, I told them over and over again they just refused to hear it). The answer was their customer service. It was poor to say the least. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on advertising when all they really had to do was fix their CS issues. I guarantee fixing the CS issues would have been less costly than the advertising and would give a greater ROI in the long term as well. That’s being penny wise and pound foolish.
Invest in your customers – That’s right, your customers are investing in you so return the favor and invest in them. Go the extra mile to train yourself and your staff in good CS. Yes, it may cost a bit more up front, but good customer service has a great return on investment for any business. What you spend now on training, better systems, efficiency and higher quality staff will pay for itself in no time and you will have more satisfied customers because of it. Satisfied customers equal return business. Don’t skimp on customer service as it will cost you in the long run.
There is so much to customer service that this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Hopefully this gets you thinking about your own organization’s CS and how you can leverage it to be a powerful marketing tool. There is probably no better investment that you could make for your business.
A Little Bit About My Blog:
I write about a vast array of topics related to marketing, public relations, business development and business management. Sometimes the topic is very focused and my blog addresses very specific challenges with specific answers. While other times my blogs take a wider view of a topic or theory and are intended to make the reader think on a macro-level as opposed to providing specific answers. It’s like the proverb says: “Feed a fish to a hungry person you’ve fed them for a day. Teach them to fish you feed them for life.” The goal is not to give you the answers but to help you solve the challenges of your business through critical thinking. Either way, I hope my blogs elicit a reaction, good or bad. If good, we can compare notes and share stories of success. If bad, we can have a good old fashion debate. May the best debater win.