You don’t need to be a customer service speaker to understand: How to please and delight customers is a crucial subject to consider for any organization that’s serious about winning. Just one thing—in a world where trust, empathy and word-of-mouth have become precious currencies, the word ‘customer’ no longer refers exclusively to people who buy from us anymore. Everyone we interact with is now a customer—examples have grown to include coworkers, casual observers, peers, partners, our bosses, contacts and connections, or even members of the media who will tell our story. These are all customers and an exchange occurs when we interact with them—make sure it’s a positive transfer. The bank of goodwill is always open, and willing to take deposits or debits.
Exchanges with customers reverberate. A lot of people (including customer service speakers) like to talk about social media as a form of communication, when what they’re really referring to is customer service in the age of relationships. The Internet is the single largest echo chamber the world has ever seen, and information and opinion has more power to travel further, faster and louder than it ever has before. What many organizations miss: A conversation has to work two ways—we must always consider what creates value for others, how to best engage them, and make a point to acknowledge and respond to their contributions.
Word of mouth echoes. Do you know the single most influential factor that impacts purchase decisions today? It’s not advertising, brand awareness or product affinity. Ultimately, it’s word of mouth, which can echo powerfully, and is often present at vital touchpoints, e.g. right when we’re reaching for our credit card online. Creating conversations, not critics, is the goal—that requires us to respect others’ input, spark constructive dialogue, and act wisely upon it.
The customer’s voice is powerful. Think about what you see when you go to an online retailer or an app store—reviews, opinions and commentary right there at the point of purchase. Customers have more of a voice than ever before and it’s pressingly vital that we not only allow their opinions to be heard, but also that we acknowledge them. Every opportunity we have to interact with them is an opportunity to amaze them and to create goodwill. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it takes many good deeds to build a positive reputation, and just one bad deed to ruin it.
The basic principles of marketing involve frequency and reach. When measuring the ROI of outreach efforts, proponents of social media frequently like to say it comes down to the numbers of shares, tweets or Facebook likes on any given campaign. But measuring impact today isn’t that simple. You could have 1,000 tweets on a particular piece of content such as a video or blog post, but what if only a painfully small fraction of that represent the actual audience you’re trying to reach? What if you can’t drive any call to action? And what if you never interact with these individuals again? The name of the game is now engagement—the ability to connect with an audience, compel action and create positive exchanges for all.
The relationship business is about engagement and empathy. The bottom line: As customer service speakers should be telling you, if you want customer loyalty, you’ve got to earn people’s trust. That means being genuine, being as good as your word and being capable of delivering high-quality work or insights on tight turnaround. It also means being willing to signal via your actions that you don’t just hear what they’re saying, but are further actively seeking out others’ opinions and assigning weight and import to both sides of the conversation. Think of it like dating—let others get to know you before leaning in for the kiss. With competitors often just a click away, there are plenty of fish in the sea… Woo others and build trust before trying to drop to your knee and put a proverbial ring on it.
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