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Only 7 percent of people said online customer service interactions exceeded their expectations, according to a Global Customer Service Barometer study by American Express. And a third of customers surveyed said rude and unresponsive customer service representatives were the most likely issue to make them switch companies and brands. Making small, incremental changes to improve customer service could win loyal customers and turn them into your biggest fans. Here are some ideas for satisfying your customers and turning customer service into your best marketing tool.

Get to Know Customers

Get to know your customers beyond asking a few questions. Chat with them like friendly acquaintances and show that you’re truly interested in who they are and what they need from your company. Before selling his company, CD Baby, for $22 million, Derek Sivers instructed all of his employees to pick up the phone when customers called and chat with them to show they were genuinely interested. He equates his company’s growth and constant word-of-mouth referrals to simply picking up the phone and going above and beyond what other companies do.

Say Thanks Without a Form Letter

Customers are accustomed to automated phone systems, email prompts and automated receipts. Stand out from your competition by sending a hand written thank you note to express your gratitude. Take it a step further and send a gift basket after an important meeting or closing a sale. Customers will remember you care when it’s time to renew service or pick up another product.

Make Refunds and Returns Easy

Giving customers the freedom to shop without worrying about shipping costs, refunds and returns can dramatically improve customer service perceptions. Zappos offers free 2-day shipping, free returns for up to 365-days and pays for shipping both ways. Despite never offering coupons or sales, they have a loyal following with billions in revenue and made Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For.”

Empower Employees to Say “Yes”

Give your employees the freedom to say yes without fearing backlash from management. Go over a list of options employees can offer. Sonic Innovations, a hearing-aid manufacturer, gives customer service representatives the power to exchange products, send free batteries or make refunds at their own discretion.

Turn Loyal Customers Into Advocates

Turn customer service into a marketing tool and recruit your loyal fans as advocates. Companies like Skullcandy recruit their online sales force from their loyal customers and pay them with cash and rewards to answer chat requests from prospective customers. Their idea has satisfied customers passionate about their company and this idea can help convert new customers.

Offer Support on Demand

The Amazon Kindle Fire Mayday button instantly connects consumers to a customer service representative on live video. Customers can engage with a tech adviser and see the employee on the other end. This can help make a connection between the employee and the customer, and this also shows that there is a representative there to help—not zoning out on the phone with a script. Offer a live chat or video option on your site, or offer to video chat with a customer who needs some help and answer their questions.

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Topics: customer service