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We recently published a list of the top 100 marketing buzzwords for 2008. Noticeably absent from the list was "customer service". Maybe it's because customer service is not a buzzword, it's more of a necessity. The whole premise behind customer service is to enhance the level of customer satisfaction that your customer receives. For it is this very customer that allows you to market your product. If you have not been able to figure it out yet, the customer is in control. They are the reason you are in business. Whether it's B2C or in the B2B arena, your clients/customers are your lifeline.
Is customer service an over-hyped buzzword? Or is customer service a vital key to success? Many would argue the later. Sure everyone says that the provide great customer service, but those who truly focus on providing outstanding customer service understand:
7 Reasons Why Customer Service is Necessary for Success
#7. Accountability - Especially in the online world where online reputation can mean the success or failure of your business, customers tend to be more forgiving of organizations who acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes rather than denying them. Owning up to mistakes and errors can go a long way to providing exceptional customer service to grow your business.
#6. Customer Perception - Great customer service vs. good customer service or poor customer service can change the customer's perception of your brand. If you rub your customer the wrong way enough times you will lose them for life. In the online world, if your website does not provide the right experience for your prospect or existing client they will abandon your site and visit a competitor. In addition their perception of your brand may be impacted in a negative manner as they share their experience with others.
#5. You Cannot Afford to Not Provide Exceptional Customer Service - If you turn one, and yes just one customer away due to poor customer service, two things may happen:
A). They Resent You and Your Brand Never to Return
B). They Turn to One of Your Competitors
#4. To Build Relationships/Evangelists - providing great customer service is a great first step in building a relationship with your clients. The greater the relationship you develop, the more likely it is that your client will become an evangelist for your brand and your organization. Have you ever overheard a conversation where one person professed a positive experience with a brand or company such as a restaurant where they experienced a great meal and great service? Personally I have, and as a result I filed the name of the restaurant in my memory so that the next time I was in town I made a point of visiting that restaurant. I too experienced a great meal with exceptional customer service.
#3. Continuous Improvement - Customer Service is necessary for continuous improvement. Through client feedback and interaction, you can learn about what clients liked about your brand and which areas you may need improvement in. Using customer service as a tool for continuous improvement often leads to customer satisfaction. In fact many use customer satisfaction as a key performance indicator when measuring their success. Take ASK.com for example. I attended a Webcast that described how ASK.com used customer satisfaction analytics to guide their site redesign. This was a very interesting process for ASK.com. They started by measuring online customer satisfaction in 2004. They wanted to gain a better understanding of who the users that were coming to their site were and why they were coming to ASK.com. They ran two surveys, one being a Model survey and the other being a custom survey to see what their users felt about ASK.com. ASK compiled results for a number of months until they came to some obvious conclusions.
In 2005, ASK determined that Search Results were the most critical item for them to improve. So they began beta testing the ASK X interface. They also found that a number of users had old stereotypes associated with ASK Jeeves (in terms of using the search engine by asking questions...) So they retired Jeeves.... Through the use of A/B testing (of the ASK X and ASK 3-D design) and customer feedback, ASK began testing a new look with their search results. The results proved to be interesting. Visitors to ASK 3-D were more satisfied with accuracy, freshness and comprehensiveness of the new look site. With certain market segments, that included skilled searchers, researchers and tech-influencers, the satisfaction levels with ASK 3-D were very positive.
ASK determined that there was a need to promote channels with high satisfaction such as ASK City, Maps and News. Really this was a prelude into ASK incorporating more blended search results into their search results pages. The end result was the launch of the new ASK.com in June of 2007. ASK used customer satisfaction surveys as part of their continuous improvement process to provide better value/service with their search product. It has proven somewhat successful as comScore reports that ASK continues to be the fastest growing search engine.
#2. The Need for Lifetime Value - Similar to our entry at number four, customer service is a necessary means of creating lifetime value. If you are able to provide your customer with an unforgettable positive experience, they will stick with you for life. The cool thing about lifetime value is that it is measured not only with the experience of that single customer, but with all of the additional business that they may have brought to you (either directly or indirectly) as being an evangelist for your brand. Once an Apple user always an Apple user.
#1. The Customer is Your Lifeline - as mentioned earlier, the customer is why you are in business. Think about if advertisers had no way to market their product and services online. There was no pay per click model like Google Adwords. Google would not be the multi-billion company that it is. These advertisers are Google's lifeline and represent how Google makes money. From retailers to car dealerships to record companies and musicians, without an audience (customers) you are not going to be in business for too long. As corny as it sounds, you need customers to "run" your business.
The fact of the matter is that exceptional customer service can lead to customer satisfaction. In turn, customer satisfaction can mold the future of your success.