Why Your Customer Service Matters More than Ever
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Customer expectations run high across industries, and there is simply no sign of that trend letting up. If anything, the demand for excellent customer service is only increasing.
They want the complete package, not simply the right product at the right price, says a post by Salesforce about its latest State of the Connected Customer Report.
Eighty-six percent of the consumers told the survey that the experience a company provides "is as important as its products and services."
Focus on developing client relationships and offering experiences that "exceed expectations" if you want your company to remain competitive, says Salesforce chief digital evangelist Vala Afshar.
"If not, your connected customer will find a competitor who can," says Afshar in the Salesforce blog.
The Customer Service Piece
Delivering outstanding client experiences is nothing new for businesses, and branding experts and profitable entrepreneurs frequently praise it as the ultimate marketing goal.
But where does customer service fit into the "experience" you envision? Some see the two terms as synonymous or somehow merged.
Consider Peter Schwartz, senior vice president of strategic planning at Salesforce and previously co-founder and chairman of Global Business Network.
Customer experience and service are now synonymous, the executive tells Afshar in the Salesforce blog, adding that it goes beyond call centers and effective problem-solving techniques. "It is service opportunities in sales, support, and marketing."
"Delivering great customer experiences now means providing amazing, almost magical service at every opportunity," Schwartz adds.
While he may see customer service and customer experience as "converged," others advise distinguishing between the terms.
Despite sounding similar, the meanings of the two are very different, writes Ana Palombini in a post for EHL, a news and information site for hospitality business and education leaders.
You will be better able to service your existing and potential customers if you are aware of the differences between these two terms that appear to be the same, Palombini says.
The broader "experience," which goes beyond customer service, covers everything a customer encounters and feels. At the same time, they work with your company, including utilizing and purchasing your product or service, the simplicity of the transaction or your website, packaging, and messaging.
In the hospitality industry, according to the EHL article, giving professional, beneficial, high-quality service and assistance before, during, and after purchasing a product or service is what it means to provide and deliver top-notch customer service.
"The customer service goal is to go above and beyond isolating the causes of frustration in the customer's experience over the duration of the relationship," Palombini writes. "For that, guest services leaders across all functions should aim to indoctrinate a customer-first culture within their employees."
Eyes on Long-Term
While every business owner puts time and money into acquiring new business, it's also important to remember your current customers' role in your revenues and long-term success.
Your repeat customers should never be taken for granted, cautions a Retail Technology Innovation Hub blog.
This entails creating and maintaining exceptional customer service for the whole customer life cycle. It's crucial to make sure that each customer feels respected and heard by your company, the post says.
That includes offering personalized services, prompt communication, and fair and reasonable return and refund policies.
"Excellent customer service makes consumers happy to interact with your business which makes them more likely to come back and spend more," says the Retail Tech Innovation Hub post.
Further, marketing and other consumer research consistently indicate that satisfied, loyal customers are likelier to tell others about your business, which can lead to referred new customers.
Where We Are
With so many choices on where they shop, customers will likely take their business elsewhere if your company falls too short on the customer service experience they expected.
According to the Salesforce report, 71% of consumers switched brands at least once in the past year.
In addition, they can take their unfulfilled expectations public, affecting your brand and driving away potential customers. Social media and review sites give dissatisfied customers an "unprecedented platform to amplify poor experiences to a much wider audience," says Afshar.
These elements work together to offer customers the advantage when interacting with businesses, notes Afshar, adding that a smile and friendly service are no longer sufficient.