One of the greatest ideas behind customer service is that the cost of getting a new customer is more than that of retaining an existing customer.
In the digital age, that may not be always be the case. Especially when thinking of short term profits and large volumes of eyeballs good digital marketing can capture, sometimes it is cheaper to get a new customer. Hence I see the art of customer service starting to die out in certain niches.
This makes me sad. Because I think as the wild wild west era of the internet evolves into the new standard, customer service will come back with a vengeance and all the old tactics will become new again.
Just like fashion and music cycles, I think marketing is also cyclical.
Old School customer service went something like this:
The rule of the thumb that most managers should adopt is that: put yourself in the shoes of the customer and work towards what that customer would expect. If somebody feels that they are being listened to and their queries handled properly, they would become a loyal customer. Therefore, prioritizing the needs of the customer is something that any company cannot ignore, especially if they are interested in achieving repeat sales.
Repeat sales are something many small online business are finding are not as valuable as new sales when marketing is on point. Unfortunately that naturally leads to companies to forgo customer service because the bottom line seems to reward new customers over repeat ones. I have worked on a few accounts where increase in rankings and good content netted so much new business, It seemed most viable to keep pumping energy into the top of the funnel.
But this won't last another decade. When every single adult with money has grown up on the internet, good solid digital marketing simply become regular marketing, it will no longer give you an edge over the competition. It will become a pre-requisite to even compete in the first place.
This is were customer service and harboring brand loyalty will cycle back in as effective strategies. Right now you can hire someone like me and say "Get me more traffic." which I do (and i'm pretty good at it) That traffic will correlate with more business. But I think in 10 years people will be hiring someone saying "help me retain the traffic I'm getting and get return business".
Why? because the methods to get more traffic now, are cheap enough and effective enough that you can get a really good ROI on it. Eventually the internet will be so competitive your ROI will be better investing in customer service. (for the majority)
Churn and burn mentality works really well in a ton of niches right now, but there is an expiration date on this.
Case and point: I have mentioned many times prior that I worked with Brilliant Transportation and have had some of my best results of my career. Their luxury 36 passenger minibus has the best margins out of all their vehicles. The problem is, there really wasn't a ton of search at a local level, and very little nationally to capture sales for that vehicle. On their other vehicles, focusing top of the funnel netted HUGE results, but eventually we capped out on KW's.
So what next? Customer service.
Luckily customer service is something Brilliant believes in. We started providing extra value to customers, creating thought leadership content and building an email list. All of this had no direct trackable ROI, however after providing so much value and building a list, they began marketing their bus to their list and guess what?
So what did I learn from Brilliant and other companies about customer service? I know that we can use it to build list and brand loyalty, but how do businesses really do that?
The first thing is that every manager should understand is that good customer service emanates from the leaders of the company. Maintaining courtesy and enthusiasm will motivate all the other team members to follow suit. To lead by example, one needs to allow for an inclusive network that allows every person working in that company to share their thoughts regarding how customer service can be improved.
How you treat your employees will set the bar on how they treat your customers.
Most successful companies invested in seeing satisfaction among their workers, something that proved invaluable as far as improving customer service is concerned. Indeed, customer service begins with treating employees fairly. Why is this so? You understand that service delivery is placed in the hands of employees, meaning if their working conditions are not favorable, they will not deliver their best. This is one of the greatest mistakes that some companies make. Very few have managed to prioritize the needs of their workers. For example, paying below the expectations of your employees simply means they will serve but without the enthusiasm and motivation they would have if the company offered something above the current salary.
Showing appreciation is also a factor that helps to create more satisfaction for customers. This leads the customer to feel important and recognized. Calling a customer by their name shows that the company values their presence and they are not regarded like any other person out there. They feel different from the rest. Surprisingly, most companies do not consider these factors when serving their customers. This could explain the reason it takes longer to get established in the market.
Solving disputes has also been a sensitive aspect of managing a business, which if not handled properly could lead to collapse. However, solving any dispute is easy. First, the problem should be handled as soon as it occurs, otherwise it will grow bigger with time. Second, managers are advised to refrain from greeting agitation with agitation. Acknowledge the problem and apologize. Do not forget to address the customers by their name as this makes them to feel that you are interested in addressing their complaints.
This becomes harder and harder the bigger your company gets. Many companies begin cutting corners to handle such a high volume of complaints as cheaply as possible. Have you ever tried resolving a problem with Comcast?
If Comcast wasn't the only viable internet option for so many people, I think they would wither away.
Recently I bought a pair of glasses from Glasses.com. They get massive amounts of traffic and deal with millions and millions of orders every year. This is a big company and I was just one lonely little customer. I used their virtual try on app to pick my pair of glasses out digitally. Unfortunately the glasses didn't actually fit my face the way I thought they would. They looked the same way they looked in the app, but they fit tighter than I had anticipated and were not terribly comfortable.
Glasses.com didn't do anything wrong, their products looked right, was what I ordered, shipped fast and so forth. The issue was my inability to anticipate the fit without physically trying them on. Not only did they refund me my money, including shipping, paid for the shipping to send the glasses back they offered me 50% off any other pair of glasses.
Now lets think about this, they are getting millions and millions of new searches a month. There is an endless amount of new people every year that need glasses. People who used to not then begin having eye problems and need glasses. Long story short, I would argue that they lost money on me. I probably wont need another pair of glasses in a while, and even if I bought two more pairs, they may have at that point broken even on me. But here I am giving them free promo.
You cant track that in analytics. You can't measure ROI on it, you can't really measure the value of customer service.
But it has value, while you're digging into marketing, chasing rankings and conversion rates and expanding your reach don't forget that you may be missing out on opportunities in the customer service dept. It may not look like its worth the investment but I believe it always pays itself off in the long run.