customer service

Make Customer Service the Start of Your Marketing Efforts

Focusing on customer service and increasing the average life of a customer can really impact your business’ bottom line. Here are 4 strategies that will help you make customer service [...]

If you’re a startup or small business, focusing on the customers you already have in your marketing strategy often provides more immediate and impactful dividends than the time and resources necessary to recruit new customers. For some industries, a five percent increase in retention of customers can net a 25 percent increase in profits. From social media channels to promotions that reward customer loyalty, catering to the needs of your current customer base helps your entire business grow and refine its services.

Neglecting customer service efforts hurts your business; eMarketer reports that more than half of Americans stop doing business with a company due to poor customer service. By aligning marketing strategies with the objectives of your customer service efforts, all departments will be strengthened. Collaboration improves among stakeholders who directly communicate with customers, which allows customer service teams to better anticipate customer issues and enables marketing to deliver content that proactively addresses those concerns. Here are tips on how to get there:

Market with the Customer in Mind

For every marketing initiative that is intent on gaining new customers, think about how to complement it with one that speaks to your current audience. Ideas include:

  • Content marketing – Use questions voiced on social media or to your customer service team to inspire blog posts that provide answers.
  • Social media – Spotlight results from a recent customer survey on a channel like LinkedIn, and explain what your brand is doing to address the responses.
  • Paid media – Target paid ads toward current customers and offer a discount on a product or service.

Crowd sourcing content from current customers that can be used in marketing materials is a way to make customers feel special, which increases trust in your brand. Re-post content that features your brand shared by followers on Instagram, include customer testimonials on your website and in emails and offer unexpected ‘thank you’ rewards to your current customer base. You can also examine top competitors’ marketing efforts that are focused on customer experience for inspiration and determine how to make those tactics work for your brand.

Refine the Customer Journey

Research from McKinsey & Company shows digitization as the preferred pathway for customers today, with digital touch points increasing by 20 percent a year. More than 40 percent of organizations say there are at least 16 touch points that are central to a customer’s experience with a brand. Everything from your home page greeting, to your contact page, to your mobile app, to the sounds of your notifications, to your e-commerce checkout process influences what a visitor thinks about your brand.

Creating a customer journey map is essential to taking control of customer experience. Beyond your website, the map should include actions taken when someone interacts with your brand on other channels, such as on social media or on review sites like Yelp. The map should include multiple paths for single actions and should include how customer service is influenced by each action. For example, there are likely many steps taken in the event that your brand receives a negative review. Perhaps the social media manager relays the complaint to the appropriate department and assures the user that their complaint is being addressed. Then, the actual investigation occurs, followed by a draft of a response, which is then posted once edited by the social media manager. If the user doesn’t respond within two days, the social media manager contacts them through another channel.

As you devise your map and your touch points, you should insert data gathered from user actions. Where is drop-off happening on your website? At what point during the shopping process do customers abandon their baskets? What issues are most talked about on social media sites and how can your team proactively provide helpful content on those sites to address those issues? Use data and testing to continue to optimize the customer journey to prevent complaints, dissatisfaction and drop-off.

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Prioritize Customer Service on Social Media

Today’s customers are more frequently turning to social media to avoid being placed on hold by calling a customer service telephone line. They expect social media responses to come quick; of those who contact a business through social media, one-third expect a response within a half-hour, and 42 percent expect a response within an hour. Nearly 60 percent of customers expect the same response time at night and on weekends.

The speedier your response, the more money customers are willing to spend on your brand. Research by Twitter showed when airlines responded to a Tweet in six minutes of less, the customer was willing to pay nearly $20 more for that airline in the future, while airlines that took an hour or longer to respond garnered only a $2.33 increase in spending. If you’re hesitant to employ a round-the-clock social media manager, consider what the cost of your customer is. Consider weighing the cost of losing unhappy customers with employing someone to have on-call, or even outsourcing social media to a company that will at least deliver a response acknowledging receipt of an inquiry or complaint.

Besides just checking direct queries aimed at pages, your team should also use a social listening tool to discover conversations about your brand online so you can jump in. An online monitoring tool like Radian6 from Salesforce alerts you to digital discussions about your brand.

Cultivate Loyalty Through Rewards Programs

Research shows that loyalty programs can increase trust and satisfaction in a brand, as well as commitment, when implemented successfully. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management found the most successful loyalty programs are produced when staff effectively communicate benefits to customers, when the perks are high-quality and when loyalty program members spread the word about the program to peers. In marketing materials, loyalty program rules should be easy to understand and perks should be highlighted. Including a referral reward aspect to a loyalty program can also be beneficial.

Loyalty programs are even more powerful when you present an obvious and encouraging framework for customers to achieve rewards. Research shows filling in punch cards with extra punches makes customers more likely to use them, while giving customers a “gold level” in a program when there are lower levels underneath them also spurs more purchases.

Like any marketing initiative, one that is driven by customers should have goals and measurement strategies in place. Involve your customer service team when designing campaigns and use customer feedback to find ways to improve and mine data ranging from website referral traffic to promotion participation to help you optimize your customer-centric techniques.