Few things can tarnish your brand’s reputation faster than a bad customer experience, and customer experience starts with customer service.
“It amazes me how often professional services firms tell me customer service is a retail issue and not something they need to make a key part of their strategy,” said Jen Sterling, Brand Strategist and Founder branding agency Red Thinking.
This could not be farther from the truth: response time, employee knowledge and skill, attention to detail and courtesy are universal customer service goals, regardless of your business. Failure to deliver consistently on any of those can tarnish your brand.
After conducting brand studies as well as customer experience and satisfaction research for professional services firms, we have consistently seen the data to prove customer service impacts the brand.
“If a brand touts they offer great customer service, they better do it. In the age of social media, it doesn’t take long to hurt a brand,” said Laurie Morrow, vice president of research services.
This is because customer service has a halo effect on everything in the business, Laurie adds. If a company gets a bad score on customer service, marks on everything else will be lower too — including trust in the brand.
The proof is in the research: poor customer service will erode your brand. Maybe not overnight, but eventually.
Steps to Improve the Customer Experience
What steps are you taking to ensure you’re delivering good customer service? Jen suggests three key strategies for her clients:
- Create processes for everything — have a system for every type of customer interaction. If something new arises, document the way to handle it the next time.
- Train every person in the organization. When your employees have processes for handling customer interactions and have been trained, they are prepared to respond well and provide better service.
- Create a brand-messaging document and social media plan. Everyone needs to be on the same page about the brand promise, how that shows up in customer service and how to manage and respond to any issues that may arise.
Laurie adds that it is also a good idea to do a brand study and/or customer experience study to get an unbiased perspective on how your brand rates. This research often reveals issues/weaknesses in customer service. She has also conducted customer satisfaction research that uncovered the fact that the brand reputation may be in jeopardy. With that information in hand, the companies correct the situation.
In fact, world-class brands regularly conduct customer experience and satisfaction research and assess their brand reputation. And then — and this is the important part — they implement changes based on what they find.
Laurie says if you decide to get feedback on your customer service, be prepared to listen to what customers are saying, even if you don’t agree with them. It’s important to understand that customers’ perceptions are reality, regardless of whether these perceptions are true or not. You may not need to implement every suggestion they make, but you should focus on understanding what experiences and attitudes are behind their perceptions. At the same time, don’t overthink and overanalyze the meaning — that would keep change from happening. Create a sense of urgency around changes.
When your customers see that you are sincere about learning from them, you will find your brand’s reputation soars.
Webinar: Best Practices in Retaining Customers and Contracts
Join us on Tuesday, December 13 as Laurie shares best practices in customer experience research, and how to leverage results to ensure business growth. In this webinar, you will learn:
- Why customer experience research is important
- Pitfalls and best practices
- How to leverage results
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
11:30 a.m. EST
Duration: 30 minutes