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Are You Putting Your Customers First?

Companies that are hitting it out of the park when it comes to customer service are working around the clock to provide the right support on the right channel at the right — make that all — times. With digital communities and communications channels rapidly expanding, it can seem like you’ve got to scramble to keep all of the balls in the air. And you can’t afford to let them drop: Customer satisfaction has reached a pinnacle of importance, now that 84% of shoppers read online customer reviews. Here’s an overview of practices to consider implementing at your company.

Help onboard your customers. The reduction of brick and mortar storefronts means less opportunity to charm your way in with customers. How do you attract customers, other than trying to offer the lowest price? The answer involves treating them like they matter, and that includes helping them onboard. Whether they’re subscribing to your service, installing your product, or trying your cosmetics, customers love helpful hints. Include free digital manuals, offer online training or digital help-desks, and maintain relevant FAQ sections. The difference between a one-time and a long-time customer may be how easily they adapt to your product. Customers feel valued when you take the time to welcome them into the fold.

Facilitate word of mouth. Old-school word of mouth used to bring about the slow but steady acquisition of a loyal customer base. With digital marketing techniques, that may seem quaint, but the same philosophies apply. With social reach, word of mouth is now multiplied exponentially within minutes. Your customers are your strongest advocates, and their voice is essential to success. Customers who feel like their input is valued are sure to sing your praises. Inbound marketing and customer advocacy keep your customer’s opinions at the forefront of your mission. Solicit and implement customer feedback and promote customer reviews, likes, and subscriptions by offering customer loyalty rewards.

Be a good listener. Customers aren’t sharing their experience with the expectation that their offered opinions are going into a void. Whether they leave a glowing review or call to lament a product that arrived damaged, they’re seeking an authentically caring response to their feedback. In an increasingly automated world, a lack of response feels colder than ever and may cause customers to jump ship to a company where they might feel heard. It’s not enough to offer platforms for expression, you should spend time addressing the comments. Responding to a negative review shows transparency and may help you retain the customer; it also demonstrates to others your willingness to resolve issues. And it’s even easier to address a positive comment; not only are you reinforcing a satisfactory customer experience, you’re demonstrating your concern for all interactions, not just the squeaky wheels that post problematic comments.

Make yourself available. How useful is a customer service line that closes at 5:00 p.m. if your customer needs assistance after work? If they’re not in your time zone, your limited availability could make it even more inconvenient. Automated phone services aren’t the solution; some issues are tough to explain or require follow-up questions. When customers can reach you 24/7, they put more faith in your brand. Even online purchases may involve a follow-up phone call or question best addressed by a live support agent. Companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines make themselves available around the clock via Twitter, live chat, phone, and more. Their customer loyalty is proof that availability is highly valued. Companies like these know that a commitment to excellence requires availability beyond traditional work hours. Those without the capacity to offer this are wise to look to supplement their in-house teams with experienced support experts who are available on nights, weekends, and holidays.

Give them more than they expect. When Nordstrom mails a customer a beauty product, chances are there will be free samples included. Zappos offers free returns to U.S. buyers. Amazon ships things at lightning speed, posts anticipated questions and answers on Twitter, and maintains a robust informational forum. Offer customer service before, during, and after the purchase, to exceed their buyer expectations. Retail merchants have even more consumer-friendly options at their disposal, including personal shoppers, custom tailoring, and the availability of “buy online, pick-up in-store” (BOPIS) products.

Any successful business relies on its ability to gain and retain customers. Today’s smartest companies demonstrate a customer-centric philosophy that helps fuel their success. Review your own support offerings to make sure you’re covering all the bases: Help users start their customer journey in a friendly, efficient way, solicit their input and then listen to their insights, simplify an ongoing two-way communication stream, and be generous. Sounds simple, but executing these tactics sometimes requires assistance. Don’t hesitate to look for support yourself; bringing in the resources you need may be the key to offering the best customer experience around.

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