Most businesses find customer service to be frustrating, expensive, and extremely challenging. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you know how to engage your customers with the proper support, it can actually turn into one of the biggest competitive advantages you have.
Customer Service as a Competitive Advantage
Delivering powerful, healthy, and proactive customer service seems to be a bit of a lost art these days. With such an emphasis on digital technology and automation, as well as a shift from the brick-and-mortar style of doing business to online/ecommerce models, service often takes a backseat to other “more pressing” issues. But to ignore it is to do your company a major disservice.
Research shows that 86 percent of customers will pay more for a better customer experience. And this makes sense when you consider that as much as 89 percent of businesses are not competing on product – they’re ultimately competing on customer experiences. (Which is probably why 89 percent of customers say they’ve switched to a competitor after a negative customer service experience.)
In a separate study, cited by entrepreneur Serenity Gibbons, 95 percent of customers from all over the world say the way a company treats them is extremely important to their continued loyalty to that company.
“This revelation should be a wake-up call to organizations across every industry, especially those that haven’t historically treated consumers like customers,” Gibbons warns. “Superior service has become a singular differentiator among all businesses — even fledgling ones — and demands for better interactions between buyers and sellers will only increase.”
When it comes to customer service loyalty, there are three levels:
- Behavioral Loyalty: The customer is loyal primarily because of convenience. (This could be proximity or price related.)
- Rational Loyalty: The customer is loyal as long as the company provides the most value in the industry (loyalty programs, free perks, etc.).
- Emotional Loyalty: The customer is loyal because of an emotional attachment to the brand.
Your organization can survive on behavioral loyalty and rational loyalty. However, if you want your business to thrive, you need emotional loyalty. The customer experience is largely emotional, and you need to make sure you’re conjuring up the proper emotions in the consumer marketplace.
3 Ways to Elevate Your Customer Service
We all know customer service is important. The question is, how do you improve it without zapping your company’s resources and hurting your team in other areas? Here are a few suggestions that typically work quite well:
- Listen and Gather Information
Get as good as you can at gathering intel from your customers and prospects. Become an expert listener, always keeping your eyes and ears open for little tidbits of information that you can glean from them. This allows you to provide the quality of service they want and need.
- Use Automation and AI
The more you can speed up the process of addressing and resolving customer service requests, the happier your customers will be. But how do you improve your speed of service without hiring a massive customer service department?
Try leaning on automation and conversational AI platforms. These tools use artificial intelligence to support virtual assistants and chatbots. This alleviates some of the pressure facing your human service agents and frees them up to deal with more intensive issues that require creativity and problem solving.
- Under Promise and Over Deliver
So much of customer service is about expectations. When someone walks into a McDonald’s, their expectations are much different than if they were walking into a nice steakhouse with white tablecloths and an extensive wine menu. As a business owner, you have some control over what the expectations are in relation to your business and products.
One of the best ways to win the expectations “game” is to follow the old mantra of under promising and over delivering. It’s better to set a low expectation and overwhelmingly exceed it than it is to set high expectations, miss the mark, and let down the customer. (In other words, if you think you can have something shipped in three business days – best case scenario – tell the customer it’ll be shipped within five business days. If it happens to ship in three days, they’ll think they got it early. If it doesn’t ship for four or five days, there’s no lost trust or negative associations.)
Give Your Business a Boost
In today’s day and age, customer service is just as important as the creativity and quality of your products. It’s fairly easy for another company to come in and replicate the product that you sell, but it’s nearly impossible for them to copy and paste your same customer experience into their company. By prioritizing service, you can set your business up well for the long run.