While your product or service is crucial to your brand, your customer service is just as important to retaining and serving your people. Without quality customer service, your brand is at a severe disadvantage. So whether you’re serving customers and clients by the millions or by the dozens, here are a few practical ways you can build brand equity with those individuals for a lifetime.
1. Learn what your customers value.
If you put all your energy into a customer loyalty discounts program, only to find that your customers don’t actually value discount programs but prefer white-glove service, you’ve wasted your resources. Understanding your target audience’s values is a key part of any marketing strategy, and the same goes for customer service.
There are a few practical ways you can find out what your customers value. The most obvious is to simply ask them. Depending on your list, you might contract with a third party to run a comprehensive customer survey, or you might create something simple in-house. You could make phone calls or send emails. You could send a follow-up text after a customer opts-in to text messages from your brand.
If you’re not going to run your own survey, look at market research and white papers for your industry. Then cross-check that data with some of your repeat clients or customers.
In addition to asking your customers what they value, you can also study your own customer data. In fact, you should do this before you design any sort of survey for your customers.
Some questions to ask as you comb through your data: Do customers purchase whenever you offer bundles or deals? Do they buy around the holidays, regardless of sales? Are products delivered to the same address as the shipping address, or to a different address (suggesting gifting)? What methods do customers prefer for payment? Do they purchase using affiliate links? This data can help you infer things that might matter to your customers—then you can build a stronger survey to drill down into customer motives.
2. Kickstart a gifting strategy.
Have you ever received a gift that made you feel seen? Appreciated? Wanted? A strategic gifting program for your top clients and repeat customers can do the same thing for the people who are already developing loyalty to your brand.
There are a few key steps to a great gifting strategy. First, of course, you need to decide your budget. Gifting return on investment (ROI) can be difficult to calculate—but you should be able to calculate the lifetime value (LTV) of your customers, then go from there.
Once you decide on a budget, you can create a rubric for when to give gifts and how to choose them. The gifting experts at specialty gift basket company Spoonful of Comfort offer guidelines and ideas for customer and client gifting. They recommend using your gifts to tell a story by connecting a physical item with an experience that resonates with the recipient.
For example, you could send a pair of branded shoelaces (or, for a big client, a pair of sneakers in your company’s colors) to a customer who just completed the New York City Marathon. Think about including messaging with your gifts that ties your brand to your customer’s life in a personal way.
By connecting with your customers outside of a typical exchange of goods and services, you’ll continue to make positive brand impressions and build lasting relationships.
3. Reduce your resolution time.
“Time is love.” So sings country music star Josh Turner, acknowledging that we’d all rather spend time with our loved ones (or doing something else we love) than work or do tasks. Your customers feel the same.
Take cell phones, for example. Almost all of us use them daily, making them a necessary part of our daily habits and productivity (or lack of productivity…but that’s a different story). Because they’re so important to our daily lives, we don’t like to wait when we’re having issues. So we go into the store, or call customer service. When we get put on hold or wait in a long line to resolve our issue, we naturally get frustrated.
Then, sometimes, we end up badmouthing our provider, or even switching providers, in hopes that another will offer faster service.
The Importance of Regular Customer Service Audits
As you consider and audit your customer touchpoints, ask yourself every question you can think of regarding your customer’s time.
- When someone submits an online ticket, how long until they get a response?
- When someone calls, how long do they have to listen to a phone tree?
- When we meet someone in a brick-and-mortar location, do we have robust SOPs in place that enable them to get the fastest, most accurate service possible?
- Are people returning to us to solve the same problem multiple times? Why? How can we change that?
- Is it obvious where to find answers on our website? If a customer can’t find an answer, is our contact information easy to find?
By tweaking your internal processes and customer-facing systems, you can reduce pain points that drain the time of your team and your customers. And once you’re in a really solid place, you can add your resolution time to the list of differentiators that you can use to market your brand. If time is love, your customers will love the way you respect their time—and it’ll keep them coming back.
Take action sooner rather than later.
Our hyper-interconnected world has greatly reduced the amount of time it takes for a competitor to swoop in and poach your repeat customers. True, consumers do tend to be creatures of habit. However, they also want to be reassured that they aren’t missing out, either. And they definitely don’t like feeling undervalued.
make appreciation and gratitude a regular part of your overall customer service strategy. Your regulars will be far more likely to resist tempting promotions from competitors. The market changes rapidly, so what your customers valued three months ago may well have shifted. Keep these three tactics in regular rotation. By doing so, you’ll increase the amount of prodding it takes to chip away at your client base.