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Having an effective online Customer Service strategy for your BRAND is crucial to create retention and loyalty.
BRANDS selling online is a way to diversify their business, increase reach and grow. For many, it’s also key for survival.
With a large population of consumers doing the majority of their shopping online these days—it’s estimated that there will be over 2B global online shoppers by 2021!—the standard for online businesses has never been higher.
Consumers are expecting BRANDS to accommodate their contact preferences, from Live Chat and Facebook Messenger to traditional channels like Email and Phone support.
Standards are becoming higher for a good reason; customers are making a conscious decision to invest in your product or service – and anticipating a particular experience in return! Your customers are the heart and soul of your business, and your job is to serve them as best as you can.
To thrive in today’s pro-digital market landscape, and compete with the other BRANDS already customising their services/products for online platforms, it’s no longer enough to just deliver on your product or service – it is about GIVING. The experience you are providing and how you making them FEEL when they need assistance is what will make your business stand out in an ever-more crowded market.
So, where do you start?
We’ve put together this guide of our best tips and tricks to help you create an excellent Customer Service Strategy. Our aim is to not only boost your bottom line but, most importantly, make your customers happy!
This strategy will be dedicated to the Sales Process and Customer Satisfaction rather than the sale itself. A good sales process generates Happy Customers and Happy Customers bring more Revenue!
Companies can have all the elements of Customer Service in place, from staffed phones to return policies, but if customers are not satisfied with the way their transaction was handled or its results, they won’t be back.
1. Why having an effective Customer Service strategy is critical for BRANDS
Without customers you don’t have a business – it’s as simple as that.
Good Customer Service is absolutely essential to the survival and success of your BRAND. You could have the coolest, highest quality product out there, but it means nothing if your Customer Service experience is poor. Businesses invest so much into attracting and selling to customers, so why shouldn’t the same mindset apply for Customer Service?
BRANDS committing to continually strive to provide the best Customer Service possible is especially important because:
Customer loyalty is crucial to most business’s bottom line
Great Customer Service is the prime driver of customer loyalty. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).
Businesses (especially small businesses) can’t survive long-term bad press
Customers judge the customer experience of every business they deal with — and unfortunately, they’re much more likely to share bad ratings and comments with other people than good.
What happens after poor customer experience?
78% of customers cancelled a transaction or intended purchase after poor Customer Service (American Express Survey)
96% of customers don’t bother to complain to the business, and 91% never come back (“Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)
Unhappy customers will tell between 9 to 15 people about their experience — and about 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people about their poor experience (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).
On the other hand, happy customers who have their issues resolved, tell between 4 to 6 people about their experience. The stakes are even higher, given that complaints about Customer Service are easily spread and accessible on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter etc) and reflected in online reviews (i.e Google reviews).
2. What does great Customer Service look like
Customer Service varies from BRAND to BRAND, but the key characteristics of outstanding customer service include:
Going above and beyond for your customers
Recall the times you were delighted by extra efforts to accommodate your needs or outraged by rudeness or negligence. This will give you greater insight into what makes for extraordinary Customer Service.
There are different ways you can show your customers that you’ll always have their back. Putting your best foot forward is always a smart idea, whether it’s rewarding them for bringing a site error to your attention or providing them with additional resources for them to further their skills or knowledge about your product.
Being timely, respectful, and empathetic
Your Customer Service team is the direct line between your BRAND and your customers. Your team is interacting and helping real people solve their problems and concerns. Therefore it’s absolutely vital your CS team are treating all customers (yes, even the difficult ones) with respect and empathy.
But it’s not enough just to be kind and understanding—you must be timely too. Customers are always looking for fast solutions. In fact, 66% of adults say that the most important thing a company can do is value their time.
For instance, a good practice for calls and emails is to respond within 24 hours. If you don’t feel like you can deliver on that, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what channels make the most sense for your business.
Also, it’s important to communicate your typical response timeframe to customers. If you provide this information, though, it’s expected that you reply within that period.
Making customers FEEL supported, heard, and valued
Excellent Customer Service means treating customers well and addressing their issues promptly. It also means making them feel like they are seen by your BRAND.
Putting the customer at the centre of everything you do will pave the way for a wonderful relationship. As we’ve said, without satisfied customers and their purchases, you’re out of business.
Make the decision today to treat all your customers well, because we know that great Customer Service is the cheapest and best marketing tool available. Great Customer Service that delivers over and above expectations is when your business will be rewarded.
3. Key steps for developing an excellent customer service strategy
Translate your BRAND vision and values to a digital experience
The first thing you’ve got to do when you’re developing a customer service strategy for your business is to sit down and review your BRAND core values and vision statement – where your BRAND is going and what it will look like when it gets there.
Do some brainstorming on what you think good service represents for your customers. Place yourself in their shoes, and consider what sort of customer service you would expect.
What sort of greeting would you expect
Which kind of communications would you want to receive along the customer journey?
What forms of communication would those messages take?
What would you want to be told before, during and after the point of sale?
Then, create a customer service vision statement, define your objectives and aims which would need to be aligned with your general BRAND goals.
BRAND consistency across platforms is essential as your customer needs to know they are relating to the same business.
Know your Customers
The better you know your customers the more effectively you can meet their needs.
Research your marketplace to find out what your customers expect of your business. This will help you tailor your level of service to suit your customers’ needs.
Identify your online buyer. How they speak, which contact channels do they use the most. Record what they buy, how often and why. It’s useful to get as much information as you can on your customers’ lifestyle, occupations and interests.
Keep in mind that customer needs and expectations are a moving target. What a customer wants today will be very differrent from what the customer wants a year or five years down the road.
As things change, expectations and needs change also. Strive to stay on top of these moving targets.
Define your Online services/products and capabilities
Review your current business capabilities and resources, and select from your range of services/ products which of them can be sold online. Make sure the quality of your product will not be impacted by the delivery process, and evaluate risks, extra costs and continuity.
Test first and don’t over-promise. It is better to offer fewer services/products without compromising on quality, and expand services/products offered with business growth.
BRANDS often fail, and waste valuable resources, creating products and services that they thought the customer wanted, only to find out it was not what the customer wanted at all.
Choose selling channels and draw your customer journey map
“Excellent Customer Service is the ability to constantly and consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.”
– Doug Howardell
Customer Journey - Touchpoints
If we’re going to consistently exceed customers’ expectations, we have to recognise that every aspect of our online business has an impact on Customer Service.
Identify which channels you are going to use to sell and promote your products/services, as well as the ones you will use to support your customers (web, social media, email marketing, live chat, text messages etc).
Once you define your online site, identify every process of using your system pre, during and after a sale and draw the customer journey map. This tool is going to help you point out challenges and problems, and find areas to improve before consumers experience your BRAND.
Analyse + Process + set an Action Plan
Identify in your processes the hot spots – the key decision points – where your customers can decide if they will buy or not. Optimise these points and make sure the process is simple and works smoothly.
Customer Journey - Stages
Anticipate in which parts of their journey your customer would need your help and let them know that you there for them – useful, supportive and prompt.
What to do if things don’t go as planned!
Online processes can increase problems. If this happens, empathy is the key.
Define an action plan in case things don’t go to plan. Evaluate different ways to offset your mistakes and compensate your customer.
It’s amazing what treating other humans like humans can do. The simple act of genuinely caring about your customers and their needs will put you leagues ahead of your competitors. Plus, your customers will remember how you made them feel. Of course, you’re bound to run into problematic situations and customers who make resolving issues more challenging. But remember even the difficult customers are just as important to business as your understanding, respectful customers.
For many frustrated customers, they just want their concerns to be heard. Treating them with kindness can be the difference between saving that customer relationship and adding another tick to your customer churn tally.
Remember a customer who shouts negatively about your BRAND also has the capability to shout positively! Turn the situation around for a win-win – happy customer and free publicity on how great your BRAND Customer Service is!
Test + Measure + Improve
Test every process on your customer journey and look at ways for improvement aligned to the ever-changing customer needs.
Collect and use data from the channels you are using to track progress and fill in deficits.
Establish simple and fast channels to collect clients’ testimonies about quality of product and buying process.
Try to connect with them introducing yourself and asking their name. Be a real person to them.
Post selling is one of the most important parts of the customer journey. Every client is relevant – treat them as they were your only customer.
When the training is over encourage them to do some learning on their own. Your team is made up of humans, not robots, so they’ll each bring a unique flair to the team with their own ideas and thoughts.
Train your CS team and encourage continuous learning
There’s no bigger train wreck than a Customer Service team that isn’t in sync, say except for an actual train wreck.
Your team is your best ally. Investing time into training your team is just as important as them implementing it. How are they supposed to know what to do if they aren’t prepared?
Make sure they understand the TONE they should talk with, interact, and otherwise assist customers.
Responding to customer complaints
Being responsive to customers
Meeting customer needs
Answering the phone, messages, emails
Translating BRAND’s standards for service
Reinforce this training by continually talking about the importance of taking care of customer needs. Share your point of view, vision and provide them with the necessary tools to carry good service through the entire customer experience – and ask for their feedback and experience of working in the field.
4. Key Takeaways
→ Don’t presume that you always will have clients – keep evolving + keep improving
→ Your customer holds valuable information to improve your business. They can help you identify costly problems, raise awareness of issues within your business that you were not aware of
→ Keep your customer informed in every part of the process, let them feel in control of their purchase/contact and what they bring to the BRAND
→ Be creative in your communication. Take advantage of what you do (how do you prepare the food, how do you deliver it, how is it a personal experience) and don’t be afraid to try a new way to be personable and available
→ You are relating with people. Understand everyone is different and interacts in different ways. Learn how to communicate with them; i.e braille, sign interpreter on videos, email or phone calls.
Take on board the benefit of Product Value AND Customer Attention Value. Be smart in your choices, select the best process for your BRAND and create a unique experience for your customer.
The Bottom Line: Take care of your customers. The ROI of doing so will far outweigh the effort that goes into building a solid Customer Service strategy!