Have you noticed an uptick in customer service quality, or are you always stuck on the line with a toll-free number in search of answers? Is your own brand struggling to maintain top-tier service?
It’s time to put the spotlight on this important aspect of business.
Sadly, too many brands have brushed customer service under the rug as the internet booms. In reality, we need it more than ever to succeed – as evidenced by smaller brands grabbing significant market share in recent months.
We sat down with some top business leaders to hear their thoughts about the current state of customer service and how they’re working to set their brands apart from the crowd.
Satisfaction Before Sales
It’s time to stop looking at customer service as a distinct department within an organization and recognize that it must be prioritized across the board.
From marketing to sales, research, and tech – they all play a role in the complete experience. Customer service is ultimately no different from the products themselves.
“Customer service should be held up as one of the most important aspects of a business,” said Kamron Kunce, Senior Marketing Manager at 4Patriots. “If you cannot properly provide satisfaction to your customers through your products and services, then there will be very minimal success that your business sees. Businesses seem to be stuck so deeply in the mindset of ‘sell, sell, sell,’ but there needs to be more of an emphasis on customer satisfaction. Reach out to customers who have purchased your products and work ways to make improvements based on their feedback.”
Improve your customer service and watch sales naturally increase as a result.
Comb for Feedback
We get it – social media isn’t always the most pleasant place to be if you’re in the customer service game, but it’s something every business leader needs to do in 2021 and beyond.
Listen closely to what people are saying on social media, the good and the bad, and your approach to service will only become better in time.
“Social media has become one of the best ways to improve customer satisfaction,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “If you can create an online community for your customers through your platforms, then you will be able to interact with everyone far more easily, making it far more efficient to obtain feedback on your products and services. Reading your comments and DMs is a great way to know how many people are enjoying your product and what changes would people like to see in the future. You can even ask questions through your posts to your followers directly to get a better understanding of what they are hoping for from your business.”
Don’t be a dinosaur and ignore social media in hopes it goes away, because it’s here to stay!
The onslaught of customer needs and demands is enough to drive any team mad, but it’s important to stay engaged and never fall behind the curve.
Even if you aren’t knocking every interaction out of the park, simply being there and showing you care is a million times better than being absent.
“To improve customer service, the key is always to stay engaged,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “Keep track of purchasing patterns, and learn to better understand your targeted demographics. Stay active on social media, and offer the features that your customers actually need.”
Before long, you and your team will be battle-hardened and ready for any challenge.
Master One Platform
Every company is known for a specific medium in marketing or advertising. Some brands have goofy TV commercials, while others send out witty tweets to keep audiences laughing all the way to a sale.
Find your brand’s “signature platform” and make it shine brighter than ever. Customer service will be easier when people find you at your best.
“Instagram is integral to Oklahoma Smokes’ customer outreach, but new shopping integrations have made it a great marketing tool that allows us to sell our products directly to our community,” said Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, Co-Founder of Oklahoma Smokes. “Although this seems like it’s mostly a marketing innovation, Instagram’s marketplace lets your customers reach out to you directly through Instagram DMs with any questions, comments, or concerns. Integrating sales and social media meets your customers where they are, no added effort required, making it a customer service must-have.”
Don’t love any particular social media platform? Use them all anyways and level up your efforts until something clicks.
Brilliant business leaders are always putting themselves in the shoes of the customer. Not just for marketing and sales, but for customer service and ongoing connections as well.
Set your ego aside – it’s easier to make sense of customer demands and meet their needs before they even happen.
“We create repeat business by anticipating the needs of our customers before they even realize the solutions that they’re actually after,” said Josh Stomel, Founder of Turbo Finance. “This means that we have to be completely in tune with how we can provide assistance that will end in a positive outcome, and we have to be ready to promote those solutions in a simple, straightforward manner. Often, it can be difficult for people to see exactly how they can overcome a particular problem. That is our specialty – connecting the ideal outcomes with often unforeseen challenges.”
Look at your own operation and think about what might go wrong or cause frustration from a customer’s perspective. It’s a tough lesson, but well worth it.
Keep it Quick
Time is money, for both you and the customer. You both want the problem solved quickly and fully, so get to the root and fix it fast. That’s the hidden key to great service that nobody’s talking about right now.
“One of our customer service strategies involves keeping calls short, and providing answers in a quick, straightforward manner so that our customers understand that we are on top of the situation,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO and Founder of 6 Ice. “It’s imperative that the team members in your customer service department are highly trained in this area. The customer always comes first, and they’re always right!”
If you or someone on your team has a way to solve issues quicker, use every tactic to your advantage! The cumulative time saved will be tremendous.
Reputation for Excellence
Think about any luxury brand that charges top-dollar for their products. It’s not a question of whether the service will also be top-notch – it’s simply a given!
Getting service right is more than just a nice to do; it’s a must-do,” said Jim Bush, Former Executive of American Express. “American consumers are willing to spend more with companies that provide outstanding service, and they will also tell, on average, twice as many people about bad service than they will about good service. Ultimately, great service can drive sales and customer loyalty.”
Maybe your brand is just starting out, but this is the time to establish a stellar reputation for service and keep it that way.
Train and Prepare
Maybe you’re a naturally gifted salesperson or you’ve always had a talent for customer service.
Your abilities can’t be bottled up and transmitted to your coworkers, but as a leader, you must train them with all possible resources and prepare them for anything. This is even more important when a crisis hits, and people start to panic.
“In the world following a slowdown of the pandemic, it will be more important than ever to monitor the changes, and to effectively implement new customer service policies that will accommodate them,” said Dr. Amir Yazdan, Founder of GroMD. “Many eCommerce stores are hoping to see a rise in sales, which means that there will be more customer-related inquiries that your team must be prepared for – as soon as possible. Comprehensive training is always at the root of any customer service team and, in the process, a good customer service team is always the backbone of any eCommerce business.”
Don’t let your team be caught unprepared when an opportunity comes around, as we saw with so many brands this past year.
Show Love to Customers
Customers can tell if you really care about them or if you’re just phoning it in. Yes, even with the internet, people just have a sixth sense that lets them know they’re getting quality service or not.
Put your best foot forward on every interaction and it will pay off, especially when customers are less than satisfied. Good karma comes back!
“We believe in putting our customers first,” said David Jiang, Founder and CEO of Reason to Smile. “We truly value them. At Reason to Smile, we also believe in being where our customers are which is on social media these days. Social media is a core pillar of our business. We see Instagram as a modern business card or front door of an internet-based business.”
Always On Call
We know that 24/7 customer service isn’t in the cards for small brands starting out, but you should at least set a policy that ensures all questions and concerns are answered in a reasonable timeframe.
Not only is it assuring for customers, but it also helps establish good service habits for your brand as you scale up over time.
“Our customers are always our top priority,” said Grant Hosking, CEO of Total Hydration. “We make sure when our customers buy our products that they can be certain we are always standing by ready to answer any questions they may have. We want them to feel safe and confident in their purchases and are here to help them get the most out of our products. We also do our best to respond to all inquiries from them within several hours or less.”
Set a service policy, stick to it, and improve slowly as your reach expands.
Some may say that customer loyalty is a thing of the past, but that’s just ignoring reality. People have more options in the marketplace, but they’ll still return time and time again if the products – and especially the service – exceed standards.
“Customer support isn’t just about listening to customers yell at you and providing them with discounts and resolutions anymore,” said Sophia Bernazzani, Content Marketer and Team Manager at Owl Labs. “Rather, it’s about consistently helping customers find value from products or services to make them satisfied, loyal customers for many more purchases to come.”
With CRM software and other automated tools, it’s easier than ever to personalize service and build a very loyal customer base, even online.
If the founder of your company puts a spotlight on customer service, you know it’s important. Even the top brass needs to recognize the power of customer relationships, even if they don’t directly interface with them daily.
“Customer service is something we take seriously at my company,” said Kaz Amor, Founder of VoCe Haircare. “We do a lot of interacting with our customers via Instagram. It’s been a great way to hear out any requests or answer any questions regarding our products. Customer service deserves a seat at the executive’s table. Without outstanding customer service, businesses simply can’t survive.”
Small startups have a golden opportunity to set themselves apart with top-tier service, and founders need to make it a key goal from the very start.
Earn Real Reviews
It’s easy to scroll through reviews and be satisfied with slightly-above-average responses from most people. The best companies don’t settle for average or anywhere near it. Instead, they look for potential feedback in every review and implement solutions ASAP.
“The ultimate customer service team must be able to garner reviews from their customers so they have insight into what is working and what is not,” said Assaf Kostiner, Founder of Paint Your Life. “Reviews create reliability and an esteemed reputation as well as help you better understand the depths of your customers’ needs. Acquiring in-depth feedback on the satisfaction of your customers is the perfect way to tailor your customer service efforts to their liking.”
Even the best brands in the world get negative reviews now and then. The difference is that they learn from the feedback and come back better than before.
Not Just a Number
What is your brand doing to personalize customer interactions? Do you make product suggestions or give them unique discounts based on their preferences? Do you email them with updates and thank you notes after making a purchase?
These seem like small touches, but they all add up into something much bigger.
“Customer service is all about making the consumer feel special,” said Rachel Jones, Head of PR at Hope Health Supply. “Too many companies treat their customers like another number on the spreadsheet – and it can show. That’s why it’s imperative to deal with customers in a more specialized way. Be sure to personalize emails, and follow up to ensure they enjoy their latest order. This type of personal touch can create customer loyalty – something in high demand during these uncertain times.”
This is how small brands can compete with the giants these days, and many are succeeding in doing so.
Think Beyond Products
We’ve always been told to treat others how we want to be treated, but the golden rule doesn’t quite carry over to customer service.
Everyone has their own preferences for how service ought to work, and you may think differently from the masses as a business leader yourself. Consider what others might want from your brand by analyzing interactions with customers and onlookers.
“Above all else, you’ll need to understand what your customers need to be successful with your strategies,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “In many cases, companies sell the products they choose for their own convenience, pricing, or other personal factors, while neglecting to ensure that they are actually providing their customers with those products that are of greatest benefit to them. Keep a close watch on the purchasing patterns of your customers, and supply an easy way for customers to provide suggestions and product requests.”
Everyone has had that nightmare of a customer service experience at least once on their life. The phone numbers don’t work, the auto-chat feature is useless, and you’ve already sent three emails this week. What the heck is going on? It’s like the company just doesn’t care!
That’s why you should always offer some avenue of communication for customers, even if it isn’t immediate. Tell them when they can expect an answer or what they can do in the meantime to remedy the situation.
Just letting them know that help is on the way – that makes a big difference in the overall experience.
“The key element of delivering excellent customer service is being available to your customers and making it easy for customers to get in touch with you,” said Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science. “In my business, I have set up many Toll-Free Numbers in different parts of our funnel and emails. Also, I assign dedicated customer support agents for specific departments which handle various aspects of customer service. For example: Shipping inquiries are assigned to a specific team of agents, Billing concerns to another team, and Refunds/Returns to another team to enhance efficiency and faster response times to customers. Additionally, I enable SMS customer support to enhance better ways for customers to get in touch with our customer support teams.”
Here’s a good test. Think back to your worst customer experience ever, and brainstorm everything that went wrong. Compare the list to your brand’s strategy and make a change if they seem at all similar!
The Partnership Approach
A company is nothing without its customers, yet so many businesses seem to paint the customer as a nuisance or an enemy to be dealt with. That’s not the way it should work!
This type of mindset will only make customers feel unwelcome and unwanted – quite the opposite of what you want to accomplish. Just look at how top agencies interact with clients and see eye-to-eye when working together.
“We connect with our clients and take on their business growth as our success,” said Jonathan Snow, COO and Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “They’re not just a client, they’re a partner. Adopting that mindset puts us seated next to them and squarely in their business while we work together. We’re invested, and they know they can be honest about what’s working, what’s not, and we’ll always listen and do our best to strengthen our relationship. We believe in giving our clients a premium feel-good experience, and that enthusiasm infuses success in our campaigns.”
Treating customers like partners or allies is a much better way to view things, even if it seems challenging at times.
Ask About Outcomes
When a friend or family member asks you about a brand or product, you always give them the straight facts and never hesitate to share your true thoughts.
Brands need to take the same approach to asking for feedback and get the real story from customers! That’s the only way to improve and expand audiences.
“We want our customers to be delighted with the differences they see in their skin and even how they feel about themselves,” said Ashley Troutman, Senior Director of Brand Management at Mother Dirt. “We seek honest input on our products and honor customer feedback and ideas. Tuning in and listening helps us improve and give our customers what they’re looking for when choosing to buy Mother Dirt products to attain healthy skin.”
We’re watching a customer service renaissance take place before our eyes! Even though technology has changed the face of business forever, the fundamentals still hold strong.
Apply these customer service tips in your own ranks and make the most of this exciting era.
Image Source: BigStockPhoto.com (Licesed)