Decades ago leading edge companies began to rethink the most basic relationship in business—the one between themselves and their customers. Long gone are the days of a customer service “department” that merely assisted customers. Nowadays, customer service is an attitude that can only be called customer-obsessed.
Today’s customers are connected and empowered with knowledge, with options, and, thanks to social media, with a louder voice. Like it or not, customer perception is your reality. Super competitive markets mean that the way you address customer relationships can give you the competitive edge. Indeed, if you’re on par in terms of price and product, it might be the deciding factor between you and your competitors.
The answers to these questions can spell success or failure:
- How do you meet customer needs?
- How effectively do you address issues?
- How well do you anticipate what customers will want next?
- Are you close enough to tell customers what they want even before they realize it themselves?
Success begins when you start to think of people less as customers and more as guests of your brand. Customer service is an important part of the customer experience, so it’s a key component in the total brand experience.
Brand experience can be defined as the intentional design of moments that physically, visually, and verbally integrate into people’s lives and their lifestyle, expressing the purpose, promise, and pillars of the brand, and triggering an emotional response. Service as a part of this isn’t what you do; it’s who you are. Every part of the service whole contributes to and reflects your brand at every touchpoint. The customer experience encompasses every interaction—not only with your product, but also with your people and your processes.
Of course, this isn’t a new idea, but it is often overlooked. Brand audits typically include evaluations of visual and verbal communication—how your brand looks and sounds—but what about the human element? What about how your brand feels. This should embody the foundational components you’ve so purposefully defined. Interactions must be relevant and add value. And the customer journey should feel effortless.
At BOLTGROUP, we are devout believers in and proponents of the brand ecosystem—a system intentionally designed to allow for the emotive qualities of a brand to extend up to and beyond the functional needs of customers. The brand ecosystem ensures that the brand is unique, ownable, believable, desirable, defensible, and sustainable. Through constant and consistent alignment and leveraging of the brand’s power to positively influence the behaviors of audiences, the inward- and outward-facing experiences of the brand are symbiotic.
Providing a negative experience to one customer can be damaging; repeating the mistake can be fatal. When something does go wrong, view it as a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the positive way you handle it, consistent with your brand. A good example comes from the lifestyle destination site, One Kings Lane (OKL). They recently had a rocky technical experience in upgrading their site, which spelled issues for web and mobile users. Though no one I know personally experienced problems, we all commented on the apology that came in a well-written letter from their president. The letter is evidence that OKL cares about the total brand experience and is a thoughtful company, run by thoughtful people. The fact that a negative occurred may have actually earned them additional business, simply because of the way they handled it.
Guests of your brand are on a journey and your goal should always be to make their touchpoints with you as on-brand and effortless as possible. If your focus is on customer loyalty and retention above customer acquisition, you are creating customers who, in turn, will create more customers. In this way customer service can be your most valuable asset.