When you think of marketing what comes to mind? Digital, TV, Radio, PR? How about customer service? With the rise of social media and so many opportunities online for people to speak about your brand, your customers are actually a vital marketing source. Building a base of loyal customers and especially those who become brand advocates can really propel your brand forward, especially online.
Having loyal customers is more than having a great brand, it is about making sure that the customers experience at every touch point is high quality. Many companies excel at the sell, they have a well thought out and successful route to purchase which engages the customer and connects them to the brand. However, they miss out on possibly the most crucial part of the customer journey, and that is post sale. Having worked so hard to draw the customer in, they fail to retain them due to poor customer service and aftersales.
A dissatisfied customer can be costly, not only in the loss of their future purchases but with availability to some many online channels it is easier than ever to publicise a bad customer experience. Even a simple search on google will not only bring up your company details but also your online reviews. Being the pessimistic beings we are, most of us head for the bad reviews first to establish our view on the company.
So how do you avoid this dissatisfied marketing? It is all in the planning. No company can maintain a perfect operation at all times, things will go wrong, it is how you deal with an error that establishes your level of customer satisfaction. There are generally five stages someone will go through when they are unhappy with a product or service and it is having a plan to deal with each stage that will boost your service and quality.
Stage 1: Customer in distress
Whether it is an issue with their product or service, or a query they need answered, your client is in need. Don’t make it difficult for them to tell you. It is amazing how difficult it can be to find contact details on some sites and especially support details. Use standard wording such as ‘contact us’ or ‘support’ to make it clear how to get in touch with you. Web forms are a great solution for customers and can allow you to gather basic information about the query before engaging in a dialogue. It is also important to let your customer know what expectations they should have in terms of response times and ensure that you are able to meet them.
Stage 2: The Acknowledgement
Nothing is more frustrating that completing a form or sending an email and not getting confirmation that it has been received and is being looked at. Make sure your customer knows you have received their query and tell them how and when you will respond. An automated email is a good idea at this point, you can include an acknowledgement and also reassure the customer regarding response times and perhaps give some additional help sources in the meantime.
Stage 3: Finding the Expert
Ensuring you have a clear idea of the what the customer needs means that you can route the query to the appropriate person or department. Being able to connect the customer to an ‘expert’ on their issue will give them reassurance about your brand and a sense of satisfaction that their query has been taken seriously.
Stage 4: The Response
Most companies will find that queries have a few common themes, and whilst the company should then try to solve these issues, in the meantime, a library of pre-template responses can be useful. The relevant expert can then tailor the response to take account of the details of the customer query and of course personalise the email. Where there is a new issue, or a one off issue with a particular product or service, there should be a service protocol put in place as to how these are dealt with.
Stage 5: The Follow Up
Don’t assume that the clients issue has been resolved by your single response to their query. Always provide a follow-up option should a client need more help or still has a problem. An option to reply to an email is okay but this can get into a situation of email ping-pong which is not efficient for the customer or the company. Offering a phone call or a live chat facility can help bring about a swift resolution. A phone conversation has the most personalised touch and can help the customer feel that the company actually wants to help. From a company perspective it can also open up opportunities for relationship building and potential upselling and cross selling.
However you decide to deal with these stages, ensure that you have a plan in place to keep your customers happy. A customer who has a problem that is solved by a company in a timely and personalised manner is likely to sing the praises of that company to friends and family. A happy customer is a key part of your marketing mix and a customer-centric approach is becoming essential in the digital era.