Some say customer service has gone the way of the do-do bird. For many it’s a lost concept, something that’s been buried over time in favor of the bottom line. But it says it all right there in the title: customer service. It means serving the customer, but it should mean so much more than that. As the leader of your company, you may have your neck on the line when it comes to cold hard profits. After all, you have a boss to answer to and he has a boss to answer to, and so on. Healthy positive earnings are rewarded, not necessarily the customer experience.

While you may have a fancy website, chat features, or even a robust e-commerce store, there’s so much more sandwiched in between the lines when it comes to truly understanding what “customer service” means. No, it hasn’t gone extinct, but it may be on the endangered species list. Something’s missing, that extra service with a smile, offering convenience to clients, going the extra mile to ensure someone is happy with their experience…that’s where so many companies fall short these days. It’s time to bring back the art of customer service.

At the Heart of It…

You can have the most streamlined services in the world or the best product…you can have the best CEOs in charge of your company or top of the line leadership teams converging in the conference room once a day to come up with innovative ideas. But customer service doesn’t happen in the boardroom or on a memo. It happens out there, with the people who are buying into your products and services. Customer service is more than just a phone number, more than specials and coupons. At the heart of customer service? People who care about the end result. Period. Who’s there to pick up the phone? Who’s there to solve a problem? Are there live people your clients and customers can speak to about an issue or do they get bounced around a virtual black hole until they’re finally dumped off to someone who doesn’t necessarily know how to help?

Just think about the quality of customer service in your personal life. Feeling valued is what makes people connect with a company. If you can’t achieve that, you won’t see repeat customers. Before you go thinking that a healthy bottom line means you automatically have great customer service, think again. Some of the wealthiest companies in the world have sub-par customer service, but this doesn’t necessarily make them great from a customer perspective.


A Simple Principle

It’s a simple principle: happy people come back to you, while unhappy people go elsewhere. Worse than that, they tell anyone who will listen about their awful experience. In fact, the Houston Chronicle says those who have bad customer service experiences tell between nine and 20 people, while people who have a good experience only tell between two and three people. Can you afford those kinds of repercussions?

Do one thing and do it right: make the customer feel they matter and that’s half the battle. Following through on that is also important, but that’s a story for another day.

A positive customer experience is the Holy Grail of all companies striving to connect with their intended audience and build loyalty. In fact, the 2016 Digital Marketing Trends Report polled companies on the single most exciting opportunity for their organization this year — “customer experience” emerged as the top answer for the third year in a row. This ranked higher than even content marketing, mobile, and social!

Positive Experiences Breed Loyalty

Known as CX for short, customer experience involves interactions between a customer and an organization throughout the life span of the business relationship, spanning from discovery and cultivation to purchases and service. Customer experience is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to the broader segment called Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. Bottom line is, the more positive experiences a customer has with a particular business, the more likely they are to become a repeat and loyal customer. After all, it’s a no-brainer: treat your customer poorly and you won’t get them to come back. Treat them well, and not only will THEY come back, they’ll tell their FRIENDS about you as well. Double win. So how do you get there?

Know Your Customers

The first step is to understand who your customers are and develop customer support teams who can connect and empathize with what your customers are going through, what they want, and what their ultimate goals are. This involves developing personas that encompass each kind of customer your business likely comes into contact with. For example, if you own a technology company, you may find that one major type of customer is a Millennial, who by definition is tech savvy, can largely teach themselves processes and protocols, and doesn’t need much in the way of guidance. You may have another type of customer, perhaps an older adult, who isn’t as tech savvy and needs clear, concise directions to follow every step of the way. Knowing your customers’ needs is the first step to giving them what they want.

Connect With Your Customers

Fostering an emotional connection with your customers is key in finding common ground from which you can build a lifetime of loyalty. Research shows that more than 50 percent of a customer’s experience is based on emotion — and that emotion often drives their purchasing decisions. Loyalty develops when customers feel emotionally attached to the company they are doing business with. They like the feeling of being heard, being respected and being valued. In fact, studies show that companies that put that emotional connection first tend to outperform their competitors in sales by about 85 percent, with emotionally engaged customers more likely to recommend your product or service to a friend, more likely to re-purchase that same product or service themselves, and much less likely to shop around the next time they need that product or service.

Get Real-Time Customer Feedback

In order to know how your customers are feeling at any given moment, it’s necessary to get a snapshot of their satisfaction. Customer engagement in real time is crucial towards this end. You can do this in several ways, from post-interaction surveys and emails to phone calls and social media interaction. Garnering insightful feedback is a critical part of the customer engagement process.

Fostering a sense of loyalty with your customers doesn’t happen overnight, but with patience and dedication, your business can make strong headway in the area of customer experience strategies.