If you want your business to thrive, not just survive, you’ll need more than startup funds or an employee brain break zone with a foosball table. What you should really be focusing your efforts on, especially if you’re a small business or just starting, is your customer service. And if you’re wondering, “is customer service important?” – we’ll tell you that, in our experience, your customer service will make or break your company.
In business today, we’ve become used to customer service robots taking our calls or messages, so we’ve lost the human touch that makes consumers feel understood. Somehow, customer service has fallen by the wayside, leaving many businesses unprepared to handle customer feedback. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” and your business suffers when you fail to provide customer service.
Emplifi, the leading customer service platform, confirmed in a recent study that 63% of U.S. consumers said they would leave a brand they were loyal to due to poor customer service. So, going back to the importance of customer service, imagine losing 63% of your customer base because you neglected to spend time developing your company’s customer service system.
But when it comes to developing that system, we see so many business owners fail because they don’t fully understand what customer service is — their plan only covers what they should do if a customer complains. This strategy is mediocre at best, and if you only focus on grievances, you’ll miss countless opportunities to provide your customers with an outstanding experience.
What Is Customer Service?
In simple terms, customer service is the direct one-on-one exchange between a consumer and an employee from a company. This exchange supports customers before, during, and after purchasing your product or service.
That definition is where most business owners stop, but it’s incomplete. That’s why we say some businesses don’t fully grasp what customer service truly is.
Customer service also includes the time it takes to effectively respond to customer inquiries, the quality of correspondence they receive, and the customer’s ability to communicate with your company through their channel of choice.
Today, customers use 7 channels to correspond with businesses, so it’s essential to utilize the appropriate communication methods for your demographic.
Most commonly known as a phone call, voice is the oldest method of customer service communication and still the most popular type of contact to date, with 76% of consumers reporting they prefer phone calls for their customer service experience. In this channel, a customer calls a phone number and is directed to a representative who will solve their immediate problem or give a more detailed answer to their question. For many, this is a more transparent and concise option that leaves little room for misunderstandings or technical issues.
After phone calls, email is the second most-used form of communication for customers. According to Statista Research Department, 20% of consumers start with an email first when contacting a company. Many customers prefer this method because of its convenience and built-in record-keeping. It also allows parties to provide attachments or links, such as proof of purchase, tracking numbers, or a how-to video.
This is text messaging. This customer service channel is becoming more popular, with a 29% increase in use from 2018. It’s popular because texting can be done on the go and doesn’t require as much time. It also allows customers to have a physical log of everything said during the communication; that way, if they need to save directions or important information later, they have it in their pocket. The conversations can continue as long as they need to over an extended period. So, even if a customer service agent has to take lunch, do their research, or talk to their supervisor, the communication can pick up where it left off with minimal interruption.
This includes your company’s Instagram page, Facebook, or Twitter. While these platforms are great marketing tools, they also have direct messaging capabilities, and customers use them to contact businesses with questions or concerns. This option is popular with younger consumers or individuals who don’t have an immediate service emergency. Social media is also the most transparent regarding the quality of your customer service. Users can leave reviews or tag your company’s page in their posts if they have something positive — or negative — to say about their experience.
Your help page, FAQ page, or customer portal is usually the first stop customers make when they have a question or an issue. These pages provide fast answers to common questions and save your customers time. The 66% of companies that utilize this channel report lower case volumes, meaning these pages allowed for a better customer experience by streamlining the path to assistance.
When you open a company’s web page and a little message box appears asking if you have any questions, more likely than not, it’s a chatbot. Chatbots are an instant messaging system that use AI to evaluate queries and answer them appropriately based on the customer’s request. Your business provides the system with common questions, concerns, or feedback and the answers or responses to those inquiries. The bot will also route the conversation to a live agent if the customer’s message is too complex or the issue needs more attention. This method is becoming more popular, as it saves companies time. However, it is usually the most impersonal of all customer service channels.
Sometimes, a customer may need to be guided through a solution or show a representative something for their inquiry to be solved. The video channel allows a customer to talk to an agent over a video call, providing them with a live interaction that will help solve an issue on the spot with guidance from a professional who can see their situation. This channel is the most personal and transparent, as both parties can view each other and develop a complete understanding of the inquiry.
Each channel provides an opportunity to make your customers’ experience with your brand fantastic. The effectiveness of your customer service system is a strategic part of your company’s operation, and spending time to ensure those one-on-one interactions are effective, compassionate, and successful is crucial to your business’s ability to thrive.
But that still doesn’t answer the question. Is customer service important, and if so, how important? Furthermore, why is customer service important?
Why Is Customer Service Important?
As we said earlier, your customer service is essential to retention. And for small businesses with limited budgets or resources, hunting down new customers to replace those who left because they were unhappy is a quick way to exhaust your assets.
So, the most straightforward way to get customers to stick around — or better yet, become a brand advocate — is to provide exceptional customer support. A happy customer who feels heard, understood, and assisted when they reach out is more likely to become a repeat customer and refer others to your business.
But outstanding customer service can do more than ensure loyalty; it provides growth opportunities. Here’s how.
It Increases Sales.
Many companies assume customer service only applies to existing customers who have questions or concerns about their purchase, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Prospects often field hesitations through a customer service channel before hitting “purchase.” With a fast response and seamless interaction, customer service can give potential customers the information they need to feel ready to buy.
It Provides Opportunities To Upsell.
If you do it right, customer service interactions are the perfect time to analyze a customer’s unique situation and potentially offer them better options to fit their needs. The best way to do this is to record every customer interaction in customer relationship management (CRM) software. Doing this allows everyone in the organization to view details about customers and their previous purchases, feedback, or inquiries. That way, your support team can better understand their needs and suggest products or services they might be interested in buying based on their history.
It Improves Your Products.
Part of providing the best products possible to your customers is knowing exactly what they’re looking for. While your marketing team may know your current line of products inside and out, they aren’t communicating with customers regularly to receive feedback.
Your customer service lets you hear exactly what your customers think about your products. If your team notices a lot of feedback on one particular issue, take that insight and use it to improve your products. Keeping a log of customer service interactions is the best way to do this so you can track trends over time.
It Allows You To Optimize Your Business.
Customer service provides priceless insights into how customers view your brand and their interactions with it. You can evaluate how your teams perform with the data collected from your customer service calls, emails, chats, or messages.
If your support team reports that customers are unhappy with emails or targeted ads they are receiving, relay that information to your marketing team to enhance their strategy. If data shows people are unhappy with your customer service communications, it’s time to retrain your support team. Feedback allows you to pivot and organize your business to better suit consumers.
Enhance Your Customer Service.
Whether you already have a customer service system or want to start from ground zero, developing a program that ensures satisfaction is crucial to your success. And don’t just take our word for it; the National Business Research Institute reports outstanding customer service increases sales by 20%, making it a key component in driving profitable growth.
When it comes to what you need to stand out in customer service, you can implement several strategies.
Understand Consumer Demands.
Everything your support team says or does should be filtered through what your customer base feels they need. For instance, if your customers desire convenience, you should utilize the self-service channel and provide a help page on your website so they can easily find answers and be on their way. If they need information, institute channels like email or mobile to provide customers with a way to store facts, terms, receipts, or instructions for later.
If you don’t know your customers’ needs, ask them! Send out a survey inviting customers to share what elements are essential to them when doing business. Then, use that information to train your team and provide extra support concerning those specific areas.
Create An Empathetic Customer Service Culture.
Most of all, people want to be treated with respect and feel understood. Simply answering the phone is not enough. Customers need to feel that whomever they correspond with gets their situation. This strategy is crucial to achieving long-term success. Customers who can chat with a service agent, like talking to a friend, are more likely to buy again because they don’t have to worry about the risks. They know the company will respond effectively if something goes wrong.
Train your team to use more empathetic language in their responses. Some examples of empathetic language include:
- “I’m here to help. What can I do to make your situation better?”
- “Thank you for trusting us to solve your issue. It means a lot to have customers like you.”
- “From what I’m hearing, you are feeling X, Y, and Z. Is that correct?”
This type of response demonstrates that your company goes above and beyond to understand the individual.
Measure Your Customer Service Performance.
The only way to know where to improve or what to change is to measure performance. To start, we recommend choosing a key performance indicator (KPI) to track over time. This could be monthly, quarterly, annually, or whatever you decide, but it’s essential to review the trends in these indicators at some point. As we mentioned, customer service involves many different components, not just communicating with customers. Depending on your company’s goals, a few options exist when choosing a KPI.
You could track any of these:
- Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), or how happy customers are with their correspondence
- Negative Response Rate (NRR), or how many poor reviews your support team receives
- Average Resolution Time (ART), or the time it takes your team to resolve a service correspondence
You can track other KPIs to improve your customer service experience, but these 3 are probably the most important to start with. Begin with one and evaluate the performance regularly. If the data isn’t where you think it should be, retrain your team.
Invest In Performance Management Software.
We’ve mentioned tracking data a lot, and using valuable time to do it manually can be out of the question for busy entrepreneurs. Luckily, you can use many customer service performance management systems to measure these metrics for you. They save time and provide valuable insights while streamlining your customer service strategy.
The best part is that many of these platforms allow you to use all customer service channels in one spot, so you never miss a beat when providing your customers with methods to get in touch. Some of our favorites include the following:
- Zendesk — This software allows customers to communicate easily with your brand in one place. It also lets your service agents correspond with each other, so they all stay updated with what customers say.
- Kaizo — Remember those KPIs we were talking about? Kaizo lets you track the indicators you’re looking for on its platform and provides real-time customer service data.
- SproutSocial — This software monitors and manages correspondence across all social sites, allowing your team to respond quickly and cohesively so your brand is present and engaging on any social media platform.
The most successful businesses, including behemoths like Amazon, have made customer service a major priority. With 24-hour call centers or the ability to leave reviews after service, the landscape has changed for providing your customers with the ultimate experience.
So, next time you ask, “Is customer service important?” remind yourself that customer service cultivates a relationship that builds retention, improves your business, and grows your profits.