Today with the growth of the internet and the advent of social media, the customer is in charge of the relationship with product and service providers more than ever before and their expectations are greater than ever.
Customer service is more important during the recession than before. A 2011 study by American Express has shown customers (70%) are willing to spend 13% more with those companies that provide excellent customer service versus 2010 when 58% of customers were willing to spend 9% more.
Here are four keys I see in engaging customers today:
- Provide the opportunity for immediate interaction. I’m in operations and marketing for a small B2B company. Our hours are 8:30 to 5:30 but I’m typically in the office from 7:30 to 6:30. We have a policy of responding to all customers or prospects within one business day. If I’m in the office when the call or email comes in, the customer or prospect will get a response immediately. People are genuinely surprised and happy to receive such a timely response. If I’m dealing with a large, online product or service provider, I expect an immediate response because I’ve got a pretty good idea they have CSRs on call at least from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. If I ask you a question over the weekend, I certainly expect a response no later than Monday.
- Interact with the customer via the channel in which they prefer — email, text, Twitter, telephone, in-person. I make my initial response this way. However, email, text and Twitter cannot communicate the emotion of a phone call and a phone call cannot show how much you sincerely care about the customer as much as a face-to-face discussion. Don’t risk miscommunication or misunderstandings by failing to pick up the phone and call someone rather than engaging in an electronic “conversation.”
- Personalization is key. Everyone wants to be, and deserves to be, treated as an individual. In the interest of efficiency, training and standardization it’s fine for your company to have defined processes for how certain situations will be handled, but use this as a guide for you and your employees and don’t be afraid to vary the process based on the individual.
- Multi-channel integration is key. Have a good CRM system whereby you can document all of your customer and prospect interactions. This is especially important with loyal customers. You need to know their history, their preferences so that you, and everyone in your firm, can directly and indirectly meet their needs and wants by delivering a consistent cross-channel experience.
Customers expect personalized answers in real-time. If you delivery an outstanding customer experience they’ll tell their friends and followers about their experience. 55% of customers are willing to recommend a product or service if they receive exceptional service. Service will generate more referrals than price.
Companies must engage in, or at least monitor, this communication to know what customers are saying and to learn what trends are evolving.
What are your keys to engaging customers today?