The first time I started an online business I spent the vast majority of my time actually creating the service.
Why great customer service is the best marketing strategy
Any company that outsources their customer service is being silly, and are inviting competitors to swoop in and pilfer their client base.
Customer service is one of the few real opportunities you have to forge a solid relationship with people. Why on earth would you want to hand it over to someone else (who hides you from the people that sustain your business)?
And while handling customer complaints and queries can seem like a chore, it can be converted into one of the most powerful marketing strategies available to you.
As a small business owner, with limited resources, you are most likely in the fortunate position not to be able to consider customer service outsourcing - you have to take care of customers in-house.
Do it well, and you'll find that much of your early growth will come via the single most important marketing channel in the world - word of mouth.
Marketing with customer service
Every interaction between you and an existing customer must be seen as an opportunity to drive more sales and repeat business.
Think of customer service as its own sales funnel. A customer:
- approaches with a complaint/enquiry (i.e. a lead)
- receives a professional, timely response
- has a positive experience as their query is quickly resolved to their satisfaction
- has the opportunity to share their experience with colleagues, friends, and family ( i.e. a conversion)
In short, you can equate a complaint/enquiry to a lead, your customer service to a sales pitch, and finish things off by making it easy for that happy customer to recommend your business (a conversion).
Most organizations try to get steps 1 - 3 right, but miss out on a great opportunity by not putting step 4 in place.
Let's take a look at how an actual customer complaint was turned into a positive experience that ultimately lead to more revenue and profits.
Customer service marketing in action
Over the last few months, one of my online endeavours has been experiencing exponential growth in sales and revenue, and as a result, with more customers, there has been a jump in the amount of customer service interactions.
This is great news because it means that more and more people are building personal, strong relationships and becoming loyal fans who spread the word far more effectively than any paid advertising campaign.
Here's the original enquiry:
Can you pls look into my account, it appears that today I was billed $30 for adding 4 items for 3 mos. Should have been $12.
I incorrectly assumed that maybe the 6 I ordered yesterday (for $18) had not been processed and it was merely combining both days into one. But I see I got a receipt for $18 from yesterday, so this $30 (vs $12) charge today is a mystery.
Can you help pls?
In this case, the customer felt that they were over-charged for their purchase and wanted to understand what had happened.
At this point, there is a slightly unhappy customer who has reached out to support staff at a company they have never had any personal contact with. Right now, both parties are strangers.
As it turns out, the customer had accidentally left some items in their cart and completed checkout twice for some products. Here's the reply (minus the personalized greeting, etc):
I looked at your account and it appears that you have a few products that are tracked for 6 months. Whenever there is a purchase for a subscription that already exists on your account, the system extends the duration.
If you take a look at:
and a few others, you’ll see their expiry dates are 2014-12-20.
If you don’t want to track these products for 6 months, I can drop their expiry date back to 3 months, and offer you credit on your account. Trace credit can be used to renew or purchase new subscriptions without the hassle of reaching for your credit card.
Alternatively, if you would like a cash refund via PayPal, I can do that too.
Let me know what action you want me to take, or if you are happy to leave those subscriptions at 6 months.
The most important aspects of this reply are as follows:
- I looked at your account - someone has taken action to help solve your issue
- it appears that you have a few products that are tracked for 6 months - here's the potential problem
- Whenever there is a purchase for a subscription that already exists on your account, the system extends the duration - here's the reason why it might have happened
- If you take a look at: XXXXXXXX and a few others, you’ll see their expiry dates are 2014-12-20 - here's the evidence
- If you don’t want to track these products for 6 months, I can drop their expiry date back to 3 months, and offer you credit on your account - here's a good solution
- Alternatively, if you would like a cash refund via PayPal, I can do that too - here's another solution
- what action you want me to take - how do you want to resolve things?
The customer was happy to receive a credit refund (so the business did not have to issue a cash refund) - a net score since the client never intended to purchase those items in the first place.
The client also expressed their gratitude for swift service and indicated that they would be utilizing the service much more in future - loyal customers and repeat business are worth their weight in gold.
Benefits of customer service based marketing
Aside from that, the following benefits were also derived:
- opportunity to meet a customer face to face
- able to demonstrate a willingness to help solve problems
- able to generate goodwill by offering a refund for mistakenly purchased items
- build trust
- able to follow up with a conversion post
Points 4 & 5 are the icing on the cake from a marketing perspective. At the conclusion of a positive customer service experience, it's professional to drop them a line and say something similar to this:
- we're happy to get to know you
- we're glad we could help you
- we're here if you ever need us again
- we'd love it if you would share your experiences
Again, the final point is really important:
Make it easy for customers to convert their goodwill into positive reviews and recommendations.
For example, we add the following snippet to the bottom of our final follow-up email:
Did you find our service useful?
Please take a second to recommend us to your friends, colleagues, and business partners, or consider writing an article/blog about us.
- Send an email
- Tweet about us
- Share us on Facebook
- Share us on LinkedIn
Thanks again for using us, and we look forward to serving you in the future.
By providing a few quick suggestions (i.e. a list of links to share via email or social media) for the client to pass on their positive experience, we can leverage that positive customer experience into invaluable marketing capital.
It's a case of striking while the iron is hot. But, even if the client decides not to share their experience immediately, you can be assured that they will recommend you in future, if it comes to it.
So successful is this strategy, that I'm absolutely certain it is the primary cause behind the massive growth the business is currently experiencing.
What do you think about the relationship between customer service, marketing and sales? Would you do things differently? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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