Has the value of good customer service changed?
Barry Moltz of OpenForum.com would argue it has. In a recent column (Feb. 3), he wrote that previous generations expected good customer service as a product of the “customer is always right” approach. But now, in a post-recession economy, the value of customer service has radically changed, Moltz writes.
“In today’s world, geographical advantage has been largely obliterated. Most things purchased are commodities. As a result, customer service has become the only sustainable competitive advantage. It is the only proven way to ensure long-term profitability for your business.
“In our ‘reputation economy,’ a company provides excellent customer service because it’s the profitable way to do business,” Moltz adds.
“Customer service has become the new marketing.”
Social media have had a tremendous impact on the customer-service-as-marketing revolution. “It used to be that companies were afraid that a dissatisfied customer would tell seven people,” Moltz writes. “Now, through social media tools, they can tell seven million people.”
Today’s consumer is better informed than ever. In some cases, shoppers know more than the salespeople themselves (see More Connected). They visit peer review sites like Amazon and eBay and read tweets, blogs and random reviews about whatever they’re interested in buying.
The key for companies and retailers: Build strategic infrastructure within your company to handle social media feedback from all types of customers, Moltz writes. He also suggests the following five keys to offering excellent customer service in the social media world:
- Don’t ask customers how you can help them; ask “How can I help you feel more satisfied?” Because the idea of good customer service is relative, you should approach each interaction with a desire to make that individual customer satisfied, Moltz writes.
- Provide many ways for customers to give feedback. “Don’t just use comment cards or other surveys. Add e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.” Remember that the bad feedback is what you’re looking for; use it to make your service delivery better. (See Social Consumer Connects to Social Business.)
- Don’t just listen to what customers are saying. Reply. “People realize that their issue can’t always be resolved immediately, but your company can always be listening. Empathy is the biggest key to customer satisfaction.”
- Hire people who have been in the hospitality industry. “Studies show that with this type of experience, employees can build long lasting relationships with customers. Look for skills like courtesy and attentiveness. Problem solving skills can easily be taught.”
- Tie customer service to profit. “Keep the customers that make you money and fire the others that cost too much. Value a customer by looking at other areas besides revenue including the cost to service, referrals they generate, and their lifetime value. Know how you as a CEO personally stay connected to the customer through your actions every day.”