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Customer service is the new marketing

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In a world where consumer and peer reviews are easily accessible via social media and the web, positive customer experiences become amplified and produce word-of-mouth referrals. On the flip side, negative customer experiences become amplified as well and can be kryptonite to even great companies.

Quality customer service is a vital ingredient in a company’s ability to maintain profitability and continued success in business. Not only does quality customer service build loyalty for both company and product above all other forms of marketing, it almost guarantees a company’s viability in today’s diverse and competitive market.

And, it all starts at the top.

As a leader of your company you must buy into the fact that your organisation needs to not only meet your customer’s expectations, but strive to exceed them.

If you do not accept this, or are not willing to provide the necessary resources to meet a customer’s needs, you will soon find yourself scrambling for business.

Speak to any one of your customers and they will agree that customer service is one of, if not, the most important part of your company’s overall strategy to conducting business. Without customers, you really don’t have a business.

So, if this is the case, why is it mostly everyone as consumers can easily cite examples of poor customer service in their daily lives? I believe every company either has, or thinks it has, good customer service. However, if certain steps are not taken to ensure this, the reality of their situation is often far worse than their current perceptions.

There are hundreds of different strategies you can implement to improve your customer service, but I believe none are as important as the three strategies listed below.

Listen

First and foremost, customer service is all about listing to your customers. It’s not rocket science.

Getting feedback from your customers is an excellent way to track and measure your level of service. You should not only benchmark your company against your competition, but also against the goals you set for yourself.

Once again you must remember you are trying to not only meet, but exceed your customer’s expectations. Written surveys are one way to gage customer satisfaction. This can be useful to obtain feedback on a wide variety of company functions. Always allow for written comments, as these usually will help shed light on problem areas.

Management’s interaction with customers is an excellent way to not only measure overall efforts, but to also show the level of commitment the company has towards their needs. You always feel better if you have the chance to talk to someone who actually sets policy, not just someone paid to carry it out.

Try to deliver value to them and give them the tools to share their positive experiences. When they have negative experiences, be the first to hear them, take responsibility, and “make it right”. You’ll be surprised at how many of them you can convert into advocates.

The word “sale” is derived from a Norwegian word called: Selyey. It means: “To Serve”. The better you serve your clients, the greater the likelihood that your business will increase sales through the best form of marketing proven over decades of business: “Word of Mouth”.

Add value

Expectations of customers have increased as they have become a lot more informed and, better educated about the choices available to them. To stand out from the competition and build a loyal clientele, you can no longer simply provide a product or service, you have to go beyond expectations.

Consumers make purchasing decisions based on the perceived value of what is being offered by the companies they communicate with. The greater the level of perceived value, the more likely customers will buy from your company.

So, you need to consider how else can your company add value, beyond what is currently provided? What are some secondary services you could provide that would solve other challenges your clients may be facing?

For example, let’s take a recruitment firm. The primary value recruitment firms offer a business is staffing and recruitment needs. Apart from those needs, that same client may be facing challenges in their sales, social media marketing or, looking for some PR.

Why not go far and beyond what all your competitors are providing and, set up quarterly seminars for all your existing and new clients where by you bring in an expert to educate your clients on the top four most pressing issues they face. Incentives like this show your clients that you care about the overall success of their company, not just their recruitment.

Train

Proper training is one way to develop a company culture that embraces excellent customer service.

Every employee must understand what is expected of him, or her, when interacting with customers.

Is there a uniform way to answer the phone? Are there set procedures in place when a customer has a question or problem? Is there an established chain of command to make sure that issues are handled in a timely fashion? And most importantly is everyone trained to carry out these company procedures?

How you handle the problem is far more important than the problem itself. A customer must always feel their best interests are being taken into consideration, even when you can’t give in to their demands. It is far better to say no with a smile, than yes with an attitude.

In today’s world of bigger, faster, better everything, you need to be the company that gets it right the first time.

Let’s face it, your first impression is often your best or, your last. You rarely get a second chance once you drop the ball.

Alex Pirouz is the founder of RIDC Advisory, a business advisory firm partnering assisting companies successfully start, grow and exit their business.

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