What is customer service?
Customer service is, essentially, the way you support your customers before, during, and after they buy from you. It’s a way to ensure their purchase goes to plan, and is straightforward and pleasant. It can be made up of information, advice, or guidance.
In the past, customer support typically took place by the phone or, perhaps less frequently, by mail. An unhappy customer or somebody with questions about a product or service would get in touch with the company in question. They’d communicate with a dedicated member of staff whose job it was to make the customer’s life easier. This was designed to leave a positive impression of the company and encourage the customer to spread the word and return to buy more at a later date. Later, online forms and email addresses gave customers a way to access customer support more efficiently.
Customer service and social media
The advent of social media made customer service staff far more accessible to customers, who can now tweet their supermarket, or leave a Facebook message for their local café if they’re unhappy with their service or perhaps have some questions about a product. The immediacy of social networking means that people are now unhappy if their complaints or queries don’t get an instantaneous response, so even small companies are expected to be monitoring their social channels and replying to messages within minutes.
Even if this is not realistic for a small startup or a brand new business, speed is still something to aim for — with customer service staff monitoring mentions and notifications as frequently as they monitor incoming emails and phone calls.
How to deal with customer service
The way your brand handles customer service will depend on the size of your customer base and the type of products or services you deliver. You may want one channel dedicated to queries and another to dealing with feedback, for example, and you may need both online and offline methods of communication.
Using good customer relationship management software can involve a financial outlay, but great software will simplify the process and make sure you don’t drop the ball when dealing with people who need support. On a smaller scale — and a less pricey one to boot — is the option to monitor social media feeds using software such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite and deal with questions and problems as they come in. Tools like Mention will help you to establish whether people are talking about your brand elsewhere. For offline support, a good old telephone line may be all you need, as long as you have policies for dealing with queries and support needs.
The importance of good customer service
Coping well with the customer service demands of your clients can work wonders for your company’s reputation, while ignoring problems and hoping they will just go away can cause massive problems. As people expect immediate solutions to the problems they publicly share on social media, a brand can suffer serious reputational damage if they are not seen to be taking action when a problem is encountered. How often have you complained about poor customer service recently? You definitely hear it more and more.
Feedback — both positive and negative — spreads quickly and widely on sites like Twitter and Facebook and, even when problems are evident, the careful and tactful handling of these issues can make a big difference to how a company is perceived. A touch of self-deprecating humour can go a long way to making a customer smile and even share the funny response. Delaying responses or denying that a problem exists, however, could cause exasperation and negative public awareness.
Great customer service delivers results that go far beyond your reputation, too. Consequently you might want to consider these points:
Happy customers return to a company to buy more, and it is easier to retain customers than find new ones.
Amazing customer service can differentiate you from your competitors, giving you an edge even in a crowded market.
In certain sectors, such as SaaS, customer support may be absolutely required for the customer to get the best out of their service. Plan for this ahead of time, if possible.
86% of customers are happy to pay more to get better customer service, so bear this in mind, especially with premium products.
Learning from customer feedback
When positive feedback comes in, think about how you can take advantage of it even further, perhaps by retweeting great reviews or sharing glowing testimonials on your website. After all, that is what social media is all about: starting conversations. It’s a great way to keep visible online.