October 5th marked the start of National Customer Service Week, a nationwide initiative recognized by companies across the country each year. Even if you've never owned a business or worked in customer service, you've probably heard the phrase, "The customer is always right." I'd take it a step further and say even when the customer is wrong, they're still right. That's because customers, clients, and shoppers are the lifeblood of any business.
Companies like Amazon and Zappos have set the bar pretty high when it comes to focusing on customer service and convenience, and for a good reason. Studies have found that only one percent of consumers feel like their expectations for good customer service are always met. That's a pretty small piece of the pie. Likewise, 86 percent of people are willing to pay up to 25 percent more for a quality customer service experience. These two statistics alone say enough about the importance of making quality customer service your number one priority. Check some other interesting stats on customer service here.
The fact of the matter is, though, that too many businesses take their customers for granted and don't do enough to try and build meaningful relationships with the people who essentially keep their businesses running. Just take a look at the spam folder in your inbox or all the messages you've received in the last 24 hours. With all the noise and amount of options a consumer faces today, what can you do to ensure that your brand's customer service stands out?
Here are three simple principles you can employ today to upgrade the perception your consumers have about the kind of customer service you provide.
Number one: Surprise and delight. When's the last time you received a letter in the mail that you were happy to open? With the digital world we live in today, it's easy to forget that "snail mail" still exists. So why not seek out your top and/or inactive customers and surprise them with a good, old-fashioned letter? You may include a coupon or a "just because" swag package. Try a hand-written letter and make sure to address the customer by name. Bonus: they may even choose to post about their customized care package and/or letter on social media, leading to prospective new customers for you.
Take a look at your social following, too. If customers engage with you on Twitter and Facebook, take five seconds to give them a retweet or a "like" on their post. Although customer service week is in October, "Customer Appreciation Day" should be every day. Show everyone that you truly believe that.
Number two: Listen often and act quickly. Think about the brands you love and the reasons why you love them. There's a good chance they not only listen to their customers, but also act on the feedback they receive to improve their website, products, checkout process, etc.
There are multiple resources at your disposal for finding out how your customers truly feel about your brand and the way you do things. Take a look at social media posts or customer review websites. See what people are saying. Respond and react. It's not about getting back to every single piece of feedback, but rather identifying common themes. If you find multiple people talking about how difficult it is to navigate your website, it may be time for you to look into making some changes.
Customers have become accustomed to providing feedback, meaning that you may begin to fall into the minority if you aren't asking for it. Send a one-question survey email and be brief by not requesting any useless information. Ask what they like or don't like and how they would fix that issue. These are the people shopping your brand and it's crucial to factor their opinions into your business plans.
Number three: Be human. Sounds simple enough, right? The truth is that a lot of businesses are so internally focused, that they lose sight of the fact that customers are people. They aren't lists, accounts, numbers or orders. And they appreciate a human-to-human interaction. Think about the last time you were on hold with a "robot" for 45 minutes. Not fun.
Sometimes tactics as simple as sending a plain text email (void of animated gifs and image-heavy designs) can be enough to make a customer feel as though they're doing business with a real person.
Being transparent is also a scary concept for brands to embrace. Because you're human, you will make mistakes. It's human nature. If you've sent out a faulty coupon code or an email with the incorrect date of an event, it's OK to send the occasional 'oops' or 'we messed up' email. People will appreciate that you're addressing the issue. And if it's appropriate, use a little humor when owning up to your error.
Every business needs a revenue stream to operate, but it should not be at the expense of treating your customer base like people. To have a successful brand in the long run, you need to cover all spectrums, while making customer service one of your top priorities. Making time to focus on one, some or all of these tactics can help to start deepening the relationship you have with your audience. Continually find ways to involve them, recognize who they are and showcase that you, too, are human.