Customer Service: The New Proactive Marketing

Being in business means more than just selling your services or goods. In 2013, being in business means selling, monitoring, engaging, social sharing, online reviewing, reputation managing, generating, and -- most importantly -- listening. Almost all of these concepts, however, rely on the "-ing" to happen only once a customer or client is no longer in our presence. The exceptions are selling and listening. Every other thing we do in service of our businesses happens either before or after we come into contact with the customer. In the words of Gautama Buddha, "The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."

This is true for our businesses too. We should strive to listen and be present with our customers -- these moments with them, whether hours or a few short minutes -- will serve as the basis of every future experience. Remember that our customers are our biggest advocates and the largest source of referrals, which relates directly to profit. It makes sense to take the time, attention, and care needed to lay the groundwork for positive customer experiences and interactions -- the first time and every time.

If you focus your energy on listening to your customers and acknowledging their feedback -- be it positive or negative, you may find that managing, reviewing, sharing, and engaging naturally grow more easy as well. Positivity begets positivity, and after a good experience with your business, consumers will share this satisfying interaction with others.

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs as reported by Return on Behavior magazine:

  • 78 percent of consumers have ended a transaction due to bad service.
  • Only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers actually speak up.
  • Loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.
  • The probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20 percent, while selling to an existing customer is 60-70 percent.
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for a single bad experience.
  • Negative interactions with a business are spread to twice as many people as positive ones.
  • It costs over six times more to get new customers than it does to keep one current one.
  • For every customer who complains, 26 others don't speak up.

We need to be unafraid of bringing it back down to the basics. Customer service may just be the most proactive tool any business owner can plan to use as part of a marketing, advertising, or revenue-increasing plan. Through an organized system for handling customer feedback, social media commentary, and direct interaction with customers, the feedback provided by our patrons is one of the best tools we have for improving the work we're doing. Losing even a single customer can be very expensive, so it's worth it to extend the effort to listen to complaints from existing customers and turn them into positive experiences.

Says Kristin Smoby in her article, "Being Human is Good Business" wrote:

In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from 'costly' interactions with their customers, it's time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It's worth it.