Customer service is an essential aspect of any business’s success.
Without good service, we fail to make the critical connections between our products and services, and the customer’s peace of mind. When we think about customer service and how it relates to customer retention, many businesses agree it has a big impact on customer retention. For the most part, we agree, but there is an opportunity to see customer service more clearly when it comes to retention.
Most of the customer service activity we do falls into two buckets: issue resolution or account management.
You are either fixing a problem with a customer, or you are helping a customer through a sale. The former, helping with a problem, is the typical interaction that a company would have with a customer after the sale has been made and would be more of the “customer service = retention” type of activity we think of. Our hope is if we do well in this interaction the customer would value us highly and continue to be a customer. This is the case much of time when the customer gets:
1) a fair resolution to the issue
2) is treated like a real person, and
3) when business is valued.
The customer might not always get what they want, but every effort should be made to get them a fair, or gracious return for the issue they encountered. This interaction is where brand stories are made. Each of these small interactions will build in the collective consumer conscience, and be the measure that goes with your control.
Another issue with customer service in this interaction is that it is purely reactive.
This type of customer service reacts to a problem, it has no opportunity to service the customer proactively. I think it would be fair to establish two ends to customer service, proactive and reactive. Just about every product or service has the opportunity to proactively offer service to a customer that is valuable and timely. With a little bit of thought, every business could establish multiple points of proactive customer service, to extend the life and build brand stories in the customer’s mind. Many do this with reminders and automated systems, but to the end of garnishing more sales.
It’s rarely seen to consider only the value from the consumers’ perspective. Things like follow-up calls, or thank you notes are a great start at these items. Consumers are very clear on motives, and your service is very transparent to them if it is not purely out of good will to your customers.
Take a moment to think about customer service in both the reactive and proactive activities. Successful customer retention can not rely on one of these, both need to be executed well for a customer to establish a real brand affinity.