When was the last time you had a terrible customer service experience? How about a great one? Chances are the former is much easier to recall, and you're not alone in feeling that way.
Unfortunately, traditional customer service models are designed around these negative experiences - the only time a customer hears from customer service is after he's called in to cite a problem or issue he's having with the product or service.
A Persistent Problem
Fixing the outdated customer service model is critical. More than three-quarters of customers have abandoned a transaction due to a negative experience with customer service, and a majority of Americans would stray from their typical brands or companies in favor of an option providing better service.
In a misguided effort to combat churn, companies of all sizes spend a fortune on high-tech call centers designed to simplify the service process and minimize frustrating wait times -- methods that rarely deliver the intended result.
Instead of merely addressing the outlet for negative customer interactions, they should approach the service process as an end-to-end experience, seamlessly integrated into all aspects of customer engagement.
Fixing customer problems in a timely fashion is great, but a complete customer experience involves a more in-depth approach. These are just a few of the ways you can integrate customer service throughout your business.
1. Humanize Your Company
Just as you don't want to reach an automated messaging system when you call with a problem, nobody wants to interact with a vague corporate entity. Whether you have one employee or a thousand, humanize your business by adding faces that represent your brand.
Start a company blog with a different employee contributor each week, or if you're a local business, demonstrate that you're involved in the community and various outreach programs. Social media is also an excellent opportunity for interacting with customers, from fans and followers to those needing assistance.
2. Personalize Messaging
Part of being human is connecting with other people on an individual level. Personalizing your messaging goes a long way toward making your customers feel like they're part of the family. Don't stop at putting their first name in your email newsletter templates -- send them information on products or services based on their needs and interests.
In today's data-rich world, there's no excuse for sending customers irrelevant communications. According to a study by Janrain, 74% of customers become frustrated when shown irrelevant content -- it's bad customer service. Get something like their political affiliation wrong, and you might not see them again.
3. Provide Useful Content
Design content around helping potential customers -- not pushing unhelpful sales. In addition to providing relevant advertising, create blogs and newsletters that showcase and share your expertise in your field.
If you're a marketer, you could make a list of the five social media marketing techniques you've found most effective. Photographers could provide a video series that gives beginners an introduction to photography basics. No matter how you do it, design content that people find valuable to plant the seed for their continued loyalty.
4. Create an Omnichannel Engagement Experience
Encourage positive interactions, whether it's through requesting testimonials and reviews, reaching out via social media, or sending a follow-up email asking for feedback. Companies such as TeleTech specialize in customer engagement as a service and will help you reach customers wherever they are.
A complete customer experience is a two-way street. Keep track of your interactions across different channels. If a customer reaches out for assistance via email and then calls the next day for help, know what issue he's dealing with without asking him to explain it and remember his frustration all over again.
Customer service is evolving, but it sometimes feels like it's at a glacial pace. Unhappy customers used to be worth little time -- companies already had their money. Today, one disgruntled customer can utilize the social media bullhorn to gripe to everyone he's ever met (and even more people he hasn't) about his experience.
Fortunately for your business, the opposite is also true. Go the extra mile to create a complete customer experience, and your customers will engage with your brand because they want to -- not because they have to.