Back in the old days good customer service was the expected norm. I say back in the old days because it seems that it was decades ago that whether you purchased a product or service, the customer experience you had was first rate. Not so much anymore, and doesn’t it seem that when you actually have a great experience it’s an unexpected surprise?
I can remember when I lived in Atlanta thirty years ago walking into a department store to buy a suit. Not only did the sales clerks know their merchandise, they would bring different options to the dressing room. In addition, they would provide a variety of accessories from blouses to jewelry to belts and scarves, whatever I needed to mix and match and change the look of the suits. Today I walk into a department store and I often can’t even find a salesperson to help me and I am running around looking for someone who can check me out. Times certainly have changed. Is it any wonder that companies like Amazon have taken a foothold and major retailers are closing stores, going out of business, and declaring Chapter 11?
Think about how you could use customer service as a marketing technique. Companies like Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, Disney, and Amazon certainly do. My husband thinks that every day there is an Amazon box at our door. Not exactly true, but I do purchase often from Amazon. Why? Of course with their Prime membership I can order and two days later it’s delivered. I don’t have to run around from store to store, often not finding what I want anyhow. Clearly important in today’s busy world. What keeps me coming back again and again to Amazon though is the customer experience I have every time I have a problem.
About a year ago I ordered a ceiling fan through Amazon. About eight months later the light quit working. I called Amazon who sent me to the manufacturer. The manufacturer, who will remain nameless, but it’s a well-known company, spent an hour on the phone with me having me run up and down stairs to ‘reset’ the light only to end up telling me they had to send me a part. We weren’t able to install the part ourselves so we called the electrician, who told us they sent us the wrong part. You can imagine the rest of the story. Several more calls to the manufacturer, another part sent, more money spent on the electrician…light on the fan still not working.
I called Amazon and told them I knew they had no obligation to help me but shared my story, and asked them if there was anything they could do. Three days later I had a new fan and the old one was returned to Amazon. I missed the return policy period by months and yet they graciously and easily handled my problem.
It’s a long story to demonstrate how customer service can be used as a marketing tool. What if everyone in your company took this approach, to provide an exceptional customer experience before the sale, during the sales process, and after the sale? What might this do to boost your reputation and brand, and drive customers to you? It’s difficult to quantify in real dollar terms as we never really know what the lost opportunity cost is, but we all know the impact of negative reviews on the Internet.
Think about it this way. Take your marketing budget and the various ways you use to drive traffic to your website or create brand reputation. Then assess the bad reviews on the Internet, customer complaints via emails or calls, deals that didn’t close because a prospect indicated they had heard negative things about your company, and the cost of this lost business in dollars. A March 2012 study by customer relationship management organization Convergys, reveals that one online negative review can cost you up to 30 new clients. If that was the information five years ago what does that say about today?
I’d like you to consider taking part of your marketing budget and instead of using it to drive traffic or sales, use it to train, develop, and mentor everyone in the organization on customer service. You will have to define what customer experience you want to create, and what steps are needed to get there, but if everyone was focused on this what might be possible? Could your brand reputation be elevated and customers come to you because of that reputation? I’m betting yes.
There are dozens of tools and ideas available to drive customers to your website and company. That’s just the beginning though. If we lose them as serious prospects, and eventually as customers because of how they ‘felt’ when interacting with us, then all the money and time we have spent is lost. Worse yet, it now is costing us money because of negative reviews, etc. While customer service shouldn’t have to be something you think about and train employees on, the reality is very different. When prospects and customers have a great experience with your organization price becomes less of a factor in their decision making. Don’t overlook customer service as a marketing tool. You’ll be sorry if you do.
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