Consumer trust in traditional marketing and advertising isn’t what it used to be. According to a recent global survey, less than half (49%) of people now believe the information they see in advertising and only 57% trust traditional media – 5% down on last year.
So, who do people trust? The same survey found that 62% trusted the people in their community and nearly three quarters (74%) the people they work with. For businesses, this has the clearest possible implication. The best way to attract new customers is through positive word of mouth and to make that happen, the experience you provide your current customers must be the best it possibly can be.
What this means is that your customer service teams have, in some ways, become your new marketing department.
The importance of customer service to your brand
Do brands recognise the important role that customer service is now playing? Perhaps not. A recent survey by Zendesk found that 44% of European consumers think customer service still “feels like an afterthought” to the companies they buy from. In the UK, Spain and Italy, that figure is even higher.
Yet, despite what customers feel, 57% of companies surveyed would still give themselves “high marks” for customer service. With trust in traditional communications channels dropping, and personal recommendations becoming increasingly important, it’s time for businesses to reassess their customer service strategy.
While marketers often focus their efforts on acquiring new customers, research shows that it’s not the full story. After all, acquiring a new customer costs up to five times as much as retaining an existing one. And because word of mouth is now the most effective way of reaching new customers, concentrating on keeping the customers you have happy, so they advocate for you, is a highly effective way to fill the top of the sales funnel.
Both from a growth standpoint and a financial one, brands can tap into the voice of their customers to get real time feedback that helps them to make decisions on how best to adapt to meet changing expectations, as well as encourage loyalty and advocacy. They must also help to amplify the positive voices of their customers to attract new ones. And when positive feedback comes, brands need to be ready to amplify those voices to help attract new customers.
A well-designed customer experience is just the marketing you need
The good news is that great customer experience is far less subjective than many people think. The right technology and approach can help you to define and capture exactly the metrics you need to measure the quality of your customer experience, at every point in the customer journey.
As businesses look to up their customer service game, measurement is key. Companies need to invest in the right tools to track, evaluate and react to shifts in customer preferences. On top of that, you might also want to consider:
- Improving ‘listening’ capabilities to collect data from specific channels
- Analysing text
- Conducting surveys
- Segmentation discovery, predictive analytics and propensity models
This, however, will require some investment. Yet only a fifth (21%) of European leaders believe their company is investing enough to support a standout customer service team. Not surprising perhaps, when only 36% said they viewed customer service primarily as a revenue driver, with the majority still viewing it as a cost.
Not only will investing in the right customer experience strategy help turn your service operation into a key element of your marketing strategy, but it will also send a powerful message about the kind of company you are. It's hard to see how companies that focus on acquisition over retention, that don’t invest in CX, and that don’t think strategically about their customer-service departments can thrive in an increasingly skeptical and competitive market. Especially, as almost half (49%) of European businesses do not have a strategic plan for their customer support departments.
At best, they will find it difficult to work with the voice of the customer to amplify their message and reach new audiences. At worst, they will find that the voice of the customer works against them, and they won’t be equipped to turn that situation around.
Making customer experience a key differentiator
The increasing focus on loyalty and retention is making service, alongside marketing, a strong, value-generating business centre, but this may require a mindset shift for businesses. A good customer experience is more than just how a customer is treated by customer service agents. It is a promise that the company makes to its customers. From fair policies to a seamless user experience and thoughtful after-sales service, every aspect of your business has an important role to play in building brand loyalty. Make customer service part of your marketing strategy, and it’s a win-win for you and your customers.