Tuesday Mar 19, 2013

Differentiating Your Brand with Customer Service By JP Saunders

Can you imagine what the conversation with the venture capitalists must have sounded like when Tony Hsieh, co-founder of Zappos, told them that his business plan was to sell shoes over the Internet? We all know that you have to try on shoes before you buy them, and as good as the virtual experience can be, it can’t tell you if your toes will be cramped. But that didn’t stop Mr. Hsieh. As he says in an interview with his Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences alumni newsletter, “The goal is to ‘Deliver WOW Through Service’, so we don't have scripts, call times, or upselling the way most call centers do.”

Zappos teaches us something fundamental—to treat customers the way they want to be treated and apply great customer service practices to meet their expectations while achieving your business goals.

Bottom Line: Customer service matters. JD Powers published a study called, "Beyond Satisfaction: J.D. Power 2012 Customer Service Champions—Brands That Deliver Service Excellence to Maximize Business Results.” In it they analyzed the feedback from hundreds of thousands of US consumers doing business with more than 800 companies. They found that remarkable companies use service excellence to drive superior business results. Included among the 50 companies recognized as all-stars, were Oracle RightNow customers: Bass Pro Shops, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Kohl’s, ING Direct and others that we aren’t at liberty to mention.

But how can we be sure that great customer service matters to the bottom line? 1to1 Media and Peppers & Rogers Group put it to the test in a fund created based on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). According to the study, “the cumulative return of a $100 investment in the ACSI fund from April 2000 to April 2012 was $490, a gain of 390 percent. By comparison, the S&P 500 returned only $93, a 7-percent loss.”

So, what can your company do to differentiate its brand with customer service? Maybe it’s as easy as following the advice of Kate Leggett of Forrester. Leggett identifies the top 15 trends in customer service in her blog entry, and her categories are just what you’d expect: Personalize Customer Service, Empower Agents for Quality Service and Take Advantage of Maturing Customer Service Solutions.

What happens when you go onto your brand website?  

  • Do you have access to service where you need it, not just on the service page?
  • Does a live chat agent appear just when you’re about to give up on your search?
  • And, when that agent is chatting with you, do they know where you’ve been on the site in that session and what you’ve done historically with the brand? 
  •  Are you able to connect with a community of experts and hear from your peers?
  •  When you’re on the brand Facebook page, are you able to connect to customer service? And, if you are posting on social channels, does your customer service organization know just when to proactively reach out to help?
  • Have you ever ended a call with a customer service agent, just to call back to get connected to a different, more knowledgeable agent? I hope not, but if you have, what are you doing to ensure that everyone who contacts your brand from their preferred channel is getting a consistent and reliable service?

It’s not just about one of the bullets above. It’s a consistent and reliable focus on these points and others. What does your customer journey look like and what do you want the customer to take away from each experience? What happens when your customer Tweets they are looking for a way to refinance their mortgage and searches your brand site for an answer at the same time? Live Chat triggers a session and the chat agent sees where that customer has been on your website, as well as the customer’s Tweet. A quick cobrowse session allows your agent to guide the customer through the steps of filling out a re-financing form. And, a confirmation email is sent with relevant auto-generated links. This customer experience is a meaningful and successful customer journey where the next interaction continues to build the customer relationship.

How you serve your customers and what you do to elevate their experience is up to you. The next time you think your service experience can be better, rise to that challenge and demand an answer.

Learn more about Differentiating your Customer Service and Reducing your Costs on our website.

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