Customer service is now the heart of marketing. Don’t believe me? Today consumers rely much more heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations – so much so that a great customer experience can become a company’s strongest marketing asset. In other words, getting the entire organisation aligned around the singular objective of creating a consistent, excellent customer experience is an integral part of marketing best practice.
Of course, aligning an entire brand with this goal in mind is easier said than done. Nevertheless, there are several strategies that can drive excellent customer care interactions that can be implemented right away.
Most leading brands now offer customer care—meaning “support, pre-sales and innovation/research”—in channels ranging from email, to chat, to phone, to social. By making sure customers receive consistent, excellent service regardless of the channel they prefer, you can expect them to reflect those experiences in their conversations on and offline.
Many brands have actually improved their customer call centre response times due to customers’ expectations for immediate responses on social channels. That being said, businesses should not be at the mercy of their customers to respond to every whim. Brands have the ability to (and should!) set the expectation for response times. This is especially true for organisations with limited resources to direct to social customer care.
When satellite TV provider DISH Network first launched its social customer care program, its operating hours were weekdays plus Saturday. As the program proved effective, they were able to expand these hours and increase their ability to satisfy customers. Like DISH, brands should only set expectations they can live up to: if they can only respond to Twitter during business hours Monday-Friday, they should say so on their Twitter page.
Moving up in complexity, some brands are experimenting with ‘express lanes’ that resemble theme park fast-passes: “Got 5 minutes? Call 1-800-SUPPORT. Got 5 seconds? Pay $1 and skip to the head of the call queue.” This offer makes intuitive sense; you pay more, you get more. It is a concept that most customers understand and accept, given that it is more or less how the rest of the world works.
But it is also an offering that risks a backlash: more than a few companies have tried and abandoned this approach, citing egalitarian concerns. Others like mobile phone service provider EE are doing it with very good results. The key is to ensure that customers truly understand these types of innovative service options and that close tabs are kept on their reaction and acceptance of them.
Communities are vital for brands online, enabling them to create real relationships with their consumers. These communities also provide the platform for consumers to connect – not only with a brand but also with each other.
For businesses that have already implemented a customer care platform that includes a peer-to-peer component, they should connect customers with questions with customers with answers. This is an established best practice for telecom, tech, and similar businesses with a complex product and diverse customer base. Simply put, customers scale across customers faster (and more efficiently) than dedicated agents.
Ultimately, turning a consumer into a brand ambassador is dependent on the relationship an organisation can build and maintain with them. The key for brands is to convert influencers into advocates who take action and play a real part in the business by generating interest in it. Most importantly, brands need to regularly show their appreciation by thanking socially influential followers – because frankly, a simple ‘thank you’ can be the difference between making them feel part of the brand rather than just another consumer.