With every growing business trying to bring down overhead, customer service quality is often first on the chopping block. It’s tempting; your products are selling well, and you feel confident in the enthusiasm for your brand to carry your customers through any extra hoops they may now face. But what makes a brand? Take a deeper look at your own business, and you may find that it’s the customer service itself. Before you cut your overhead by outsourcing personnel, increasing hold times, or limiting human contact altogether – you may want to consider the results.
Commoditization Makes Customer Service More Important than Ever
Depending on the nature of your business, odds are your products are viewed as a commodity. In a world where ecommerce has evened the playing field like never before, there have to be some reasons people choose to shop with you rather than the competition. Perhaps it’s free shipping deals, or a loyalty reward program – but chances are, people will stick with the customer service that’s done them right.
When a shipping address needs to be changed, will someone answer the phone to reassure that it’s gone through? When an order quantity needs to be doubled at the last minute, who can speak accurately on that possibility? If a customer is in a pinch, it isn’t the checkout page that calms their nerves – its people. In a world of commoditized products, customers go with the shopping experience that feels best, and has the least problems. This often comes down to the customer service people involved in the transaction – and they represent your brand value.
Tales of Bad Customer Service Spread Quickly
Businesses can be quick to sacrifice customer service on the altar of fortune, often because they can’t see the direct value that it brings them. You can’t always track that the great service you gave a customer on their last order is the specific reason they retuned for their next. For evidence of customer service’s value, look no further than the rampant negative press bad service experiences get online. A recent customer service study showed 58% of people are more likely to tell other’s about their service experience than they were just five years ago, good or bad. Stare that number in the face, and ask yourself – is there any factor that can have a greater impact on your brand?
It’s not About Perfection, It’s all About Accountability
Award winning customer service companies like Zappos and PrintingforLess.com have thrived in their industries for years, because if something does go wrong with an order – there’s someone who answers the phone, and corrects the issue quickly. They’ve built a brand on accountability. Customers can count on these companies, because they have human contacts who are present, and accountable.
The fact is, neither of these companies are the cheapest place to buy their commodity products, but consumers know they can trust the buying experience there, and the service that comes with it. In turn, both PFL and Zappos have been growing companies for years.
It’s Easier to Lose Customers than to keep them
Branding isn’t all about bringing in new customers, it’s also about the strong lasting brand association that keeps your best returning customers coming back time and again. Creating a lasting impression is all about differentiating yourself from the competition, in a good way. Great customer service is one of the easiest ways to separate your company from those who simply won’t invest in it. If you don’t outshine your competitors – even if your customer experience was perfectly adequate – they’ll likely buy their next order from whoever pops up first in google product search.
Now, if you happen to give a customer a particularly bad customer service experience, they’re likely never to shop at your business again. In fact, a consumer study showed 82% of US consumers left brands due to poor customer experience. Invest, take the time and work on great customer service, and you’ll keep customers coming back. Disappoint them with poor service, and they’re gone forever.