It is becoming increasingly hard to win over customers with traditional marketing tactics these days. No matter how well you are getting the name of your brand out on all channels, people still respond best to two things: peer reviews and online reviews.
According to a survey from 2014, nine out of 10 people will read online reviews in order to determine the quality of a local business.
The bottom line is that people want to hear what other people are saying. You telling them how great your company is means far less to the average consumer than the opinion of a person who is not associated with your brand.
That’s why customer service is so important. The interactions that you have with your customers shape the image of your brand and company. People are more likely to recommend brands to others if they have positive personal experiences with them.
Great customer service can do a lot of good things for your company. It can generate leads, give you content ideas, build trust, increase sales and so much more.
Here’s what you need to do in order to leverage your customer service efforts into a viable marketing tool.
Focus on Reputation
One of the golden rules of good customer service is that your long-term customer relationship and reputation should always be more important than profits you can earn quickly.
Take refunds for example. There’s always a good chance that your product or tool won’t be a good fit for someone. That person should be able to get their money back easily if they are not satisfied.
Many companies make the refund process difficult on purpose in hopes that the customer will eventually give up and just eat the loss. Sure, you’ll be able to keep that money you made, but you’ll be losing huge reputation points if you decide to take that approach.
Make the refund process easy and give the money back if the customer is not satisfied. This way, there’s a chance that they’ll come back and do business with you again. Perhaps you include features down the line that the customer wants; features you didn’t have earlier.
If they had a good customer service experience the first time around, they’ll be much more willing to give you another shot in the future.
Nurture Important Relationships
Identify your most important and biggest customers and pay special attention to them. No matter what business you’re in, your most loyal customers are usually responsible for a significant percentage of your revenue.
Be sure to build a great relationship with them and go the extra mile to keep them happy. Your best customers can be leveraged as a marketing resource as well thanks to the power of referrals. If you have big clients that are recognized as influencers in their industry, you need to pay extra special attention to them as well.
When we say special attention, that doesn’t just mean sending them gifts and giving them discounts. You need to go above and beyond when it comes to your customer service efforts. That means dedicated support, early access to new products and features – the whole shebang.
Their word means a lot to people in their circles. Which means that if they are recommending you, people are going to check out out.
Practice Open Communication
Treat your customers the way you would want to be treated if you were on the other end of the conversation. Many companies enforce metrics such as optimal call durations and calls per hour in an effort to make their customer service more efficient. That’s not going to cut it in today’s world. The optimal duration of a customer service call should be “as long as it takes.”
If you’re taking six calls an hour, that doesn’t mean you are ending the hour with six satisfied customers. It’s better to take two calls an hour and help those people thoroughly than to field the requests of six customers and potentially leave at least four of them frustrated with the experience.
Customer service isn’t about metrics. It’s about building trust and familiarity. Be approachable on social channels as well and respond to everyone. Be prompt and be polite, whether receiving positive or negative feedback.
By treating your customers with dignity and respect, you are turning them into brand ambassadors. Satisfied customers are the pillars of every marketing plan.
Respond to Reviews
As mentioned previously, nearly everyone looks at reviews online these days before making a decision on where to spend their money. Whether you’re looking for business software or a local restaurant to eat at, there’s a good chance you’re reading reviews on the Web before making a decision.
Of course, there are always going to be bad reviews. In order to make the best of such a situation, you need to engage these customers and respond to them. Be polite when addressing customers who might have had a bad experience with your company. See if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation.
If you are a restaurant that received a bad review, reach out to the reviewer and offer them a discount if they are willing to give you another shot.
When responding to reviews, you are not only trying to mend broken relationships that could turn out to be profitable in the end, you are also showing potential customers the level of care that you have for current customers, which can really go a long way in terms of reputation.
When thinking about customer service, think of it as a marketing investment, not an expense.
It’s all about being proactive instead of reactive.
The goal is to make sure that your customers have no chance of having a bad experience. Taking a proactive stance towards keeping customers happy can very quickly turn your customer service into one of the cornerstones of your marketing program.