Customer service is a frequent topic on Wright Stuff Radio, and for good reason! The cost to bring in a new customer is usually substantially more than the cost to generate repeat business from loyal customers. How do we build that loyalty? With excellent customer service, of course!

As small businesses, that level of personalized customer service is often what sets us apart from our larger cohorts – the bigger “box” stores and service providers. It’s why people keep coming back for more.

Customer Service 101

Customer experience in its most pure form is the quality of all consumers’ encounters with a certain business’ products, services, and branding.

While this seems extremely straightforward, digital media has changed many aspects of customer service practices. Customer service today is vastly different than it was even a mere five years ago. It is vital for your success to understand these changes, and create a plan to adapt.

A truly effective customer experience strategy covers both the physical and digital settings – because one is vastly different than the other.

Customer Service in a Physical Setting

Customer experience in a physical setting is determined by a wide range of factors. For example, temperature and lighting contribute to your physical customer experience. The dress, demeanor, and speed of your staff also contribute to your physical customer experience.

In a physical setting, most patrons don’t mind waiting a few minutes for service – but they may balk at excessively long lines or being placed on hold for an extended period.

Traditional physical customer service is also fairly reactive. For example, a customer will come into your location, present their need, and get a response or resolution – then leave. Until they walk into your store, you don’t know the issue. You simply handle concerns as they occur.

Customer Service in Digital Media

Digital media has changed our sense of identity in many ways – most notably, it has changed how we communicate. Combined with the proliferation of smart phones, today’s consumer expects a bit more than traditional customer service practices would allow in the past. Digital customer experience encompasses your website, social media accounts, mobile apps, emails, and support technologies.

One of the most notable changes that comes with digital media is that today’s consumer is quite impatient. According Kissmetrics, 47% of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40% of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds. Go log into your website – how long does it take to load? Now, go try to pull up your website on your mobile device. Are you within than 2-second window? If not, you’re giving up 40% of your prospective customers.

Convenience is key with digital consumer experience. Today’s customer doesn’t want to have to drive all the way to an office to work with a business. In fact, 80% of consumers report using social media, email, or chat as their main method of contacting companies.

Making Support Technology Your New Best Friend

There are unique customer experience opportunities that come with digital media. While traditional customer service is mostly reactive, small businesses can now take advantage of technology that helps you encourage customer loyalty.

Google Analytics offers an in-depth look on how your website is performing. How long are customers staying? How many customers are coming back? What pages are most popular? Which have the highest drop rates? You can identify potential issues early by closely watching this data, and having a plan to address the issue.

Though not appropriate for every business, a solid CRM (customer relationship management) system can help you create real-life user profiles that enable you to create content and marketing materials that truly connect with your customer. This information can help you segment your email lists, and help you effectively cross-sell similar products or services that may be a good fit for the customer.

There are a wide variety of similar support technologies that can help you as you create a digital consumer experience strategy. We’ll cover a few more specifics in a future article.

Can’t wait? Schedule a free consultation with Heeren Content & Strategy for more information on best practices.

Consistency is Key in Customer Experience

The core element that will never change when it comes to customer experience is that consistency is a must for any strategy. It is imperative that you take the time to determine your business values, and how you want your consumer to perceive your brand. Then, seek out the tools and practices that match those core values.

Your social media content and online imagery should match the physical customer experience. Your blogs should match the tone and expertise of your service staff. Your approach to handling an unhappy customer should be documented for both online and physical incidents, and every employee should be trained on these practices.

Above all, keeping the needs of your audience first and foremost in your mind is key to any successful strategy. If you can maintain that focus, you’re already on your way.

Contributor: Erika Heeren is the founder of Heeren Content & Strategy and serves as Project Manager for Wright Stuff Radio. A 14-year marketing and public relations veteran, she has a professional focus on integrated media spanning 16 different industries. She works with small businesses and non-profit organizations to provide affordable, professional-quality content development, marketing, and public relations services.

Heeren has been featured in NextGen Military Spouse, Veteran on the Move, Wright Stuff Radio, and Social Media Week.

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