By Scott Prichett
Last month we examined developing a unique selling proposition to help market your business. This month, we’ll address something simple, yet very important to the perception of your brand to consumers: How to use customer service to help market your business efficiently and effectively? We believe that this installment will provide insights into how you and your employees can do more to grow your business every day.
Economic development in Indian Country means an uptick in diversified businesses are being started. Tribes and tribal members are entering the business world and/or expanding their businesses more today than ever before. And that sometimes means learning a lot, in a very short timeframe, about marketing and customer service.
Marketing is usually viewed as one thing, and customer service as another. Sure, it would appear on the surface that the goals are different, too. Marketing is about customer acquisition—or getting new customers. Customer service concerns customer retention—or keeping the ones that you already have.
But it doesn’t take a lot of thought to realize these two efforts are absolutely complementary to one another, and that they can overlap significantly. The customer retained based on great service adds to the total number of customers, just as the one acquired from marketing efforts does. Conversely, the customer lost due to poor service reduces the customer count, requiring an additional acquisition to make up for that loss to remain at the same customer count.
It’s way more impactful to your bottom line when both marketing and customer service are working well together.
Good customer service does not need to cost a lot, unlike most marketing efforts. After all the time, effort and money spent on marketing to create awareness, interest and desire, hopefully action happens—a new customer will actually walk into your business.
What happens then? What kind of attention and service do they get? What is your plan to keep them as a customer now?
Those are important questions. Customer service acts as an integral brand extension, and needs to fulfill the marketing promise, so delivering a customer experience that matches expectations on a consistent basis is key to driving business growth.
But there’s another surprisingly simple component worth considering. The Customer Contact Council, an organization devoted to measuring loyalty, developed a Customer Effort Score (CES) in 2008. It strongly indicates that simply being easy to do business with pays off—big time.
The CES asks customers to answer this simple question:
“How much effort did you personally put forth to handle your request?”
The answers are scaled and then matched to repeat purchases by customers who answered. And it appears that customer loyalty can be driven by simply reducing the effort the customer needs to make to satisfy their desire. In other words—the more effortless it is for the customer to satisfy their need with you, the more loyal the customer will be, especially nowadays.
With that in mind, let’s look at some things that increase difficulties for customers, which can drive them away:
Making customers wait: No one enjoys waiting in line. But worse is when a delay happens that didn’t need to happen. For instance, a salesperson is distracted, perhaps taking a personal call. This does not give a good impression.
Issues that are not easily eesolved: When a customer asks a question or indicates a problem, he or she would like the question answered or the problem solved promptly. Research indicates that loyalty increases when a problem is solved quickly and efficiently.
Treating “problems” or challenges as an interruption: Challenges, when you think about it, come from only one source: customers. No customers, no challenges, right? Treat every interruption from a customer as a chance to do something great that will be remembered—and rewarded with loyalty.
Treating customers Rudely or with suspicion: Yes, some people will complain about a meal in hopes of getting it for free, just as others will wear an item once and then return it. Lose those people if they make a habit of it, but don’t grill everyone else along the way. Instead, graciously comp part of the meal, or happily accept the return. Through this action, create many brand ambassadors—it’s cheaper than marketing.
Being hard to contact: Imagine the manager who hesitates to put his or her direct line or email out front, where customers can see it. The perception could be that the manager is actually afraid of being contacted by customers, or does not want to be held accountable. Being upfront and accessible pays dividends—mainly in becoming aware of problems quickly and having the chance to resolve them.
Being overly pushy or aggressive: The fact is that people hate to be sold, but they love to buy. So your business should believe customer service orients around listening to the customer, gauging what his or her true needs are, and providing information and guidance to help easily solve the problem.
Businesses who don’t focus on creating positive experiences may feel the brunt of the ‘bad news’ side of this equation: a negative experience—wherein customers feel it was hard to do business with your company— is four times more impactful than a positive experience. These customers are 61 percent less likely to repurchase, the Customer Contact Council says.
So go ahead. Use customer service as an “in-field” marketing extension. It costs very little, it makes customers happy, positions your brand in a positive light—and it just feels better.
We always recommend engaging an experienced and capable agency to support your efforts in developing unique and effective service standards to function as a brand extension. Understanding your audience, and the various triggers that impact them in a positive way, are essential to engaging consumers and creating an experience that resonates so they come back for more. Do your customer service standards accurately reflect your brand? ♦
The Marketing Circle is a monthly resource to provide a greater understanding and insight into the complex world of marketing and advertising. Advertising professionals from Redline Media Group, an award-winning, full service Native American woman-owned creative marketing and advertising agency, weigh in to share best practices, guidance and expertise relative to a variety of topics in the world of branding, marketing and advertising.