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Ways to Earn Customer Loyalty


April 24, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

Customer service is what you and your organisation provide. Customer loyalty is the result of the service – Shep Hyken  Customer loyalty is the desired outcome of every relationship between a brand and customer; a mark of the success of … Continued

Customer service is what you and your organisation provide. Customer loyalty is the result of the service – Shep Hyken

 Customer loyalty is the desired outcome of every relationship between a brand and customer; a mark of the success of that brand. Over time, consumers tend to associate certain attributes with a product or service they consume on a regular basis.  The consumer will favour one brand over another based on the quality, convenience, performance and customer service it offers. This consistent favouring of one over another brand is what loyalty is all about; the trust that customers repose on that brand is ultimately that companies work towards – loyalty ensures future profitability. Customer loyalty is the result of a chain of positive events that starts with a high quality product backed by good quality customer service leading to customer satisfaction. This results in a customer choosing to buy one rater than another product; preferring one brand or shop over others consistently.

It is an obvious fact that loyal customers are more valuable and profitable than other customers. Why? They buy more, they buy more often and they cost less to serve. A loyal customer also insulates a company from price competition. Finally and very importantly, loyal customers are like brand ambassadors. Loyal customers often feel compelled to offer justification for their loyalty and in the process extol virtues of the product or service they prefer. This positive word of mouth is invaluable for brands looking to create customer loyalty.

 

There are several aspects that converge to create this feeling of allegiance towards one brand and the exclusion of others. A consistently positive emotional experience using a product or service, the satisfaction that stems from the physical attributes of the service or product and the value of that experience in the customer’s mind all contribute to growing this sense of loyalty.  It is this customer satisfaction; with its very strong emotional component that can and should lead to customer loyalty. It is ultimately about building a company that customers love!

The first step towards building the loyalty of customers is to concentrate on the basics: create a good quality product and make sure the quality is consistent. Offer top notch customer service and ensure complaints if any are addressed promptly and satisfactorily. Have in place a set of standard operating procedures so that your company performs consistently and your customer knows what to expect.

Build customer loyalty by associating your brand with certain values. According to one study,  69% of brand loyalists surveyed said that shared values were the main reason for their preference for one over another company. The perception of shared values may come from several directions. The sort of advertising a company does demonstrates it in a certain light: the advertisements for a certain food product could speak about family values, a vegan product could project empathy for animals and a cycle manufacture could align itself with environmental issues such as reducing one’s carbon footprint and so on. Telling the consumer what your product stands for will strike a chord with your consumer and help to earn their loyalty.

Transparency in all dealings and working to building trust is another essential aspect of creating brand loyalty. If there is a problem with a product, conduct a product recall. If there is bad news for the company, such as a security breach, share this without trying to hide it. Immediately follow this up with updates about remedial measures and provide an assurance of no repeat of the oversight that caused the situation in the first place. This perception of honesty and good faith builds trust, which in turn builds customer loyalty.

A company also earns the trust of their customer when the customer is convinced that the company is acting fairly and is endeavoring to deliver good value for money. A customer, who feels that a company is not trying to rip them off, is reassured about reposing faith in that company. Even a marginal price rise will not deter the customer from buying when the customer is convinced that the company delivers good value for money. Keeping in touch with your customers and creating a relationship with them is another way to foster that elusive sense of allegiance. Small gestures matter: sending a welcome or a thank you email when the customer buys a product and follow up emails subsequently to ask about problems they encountered; if any. Organising social media promotions where customers are encouraged to participate and share comments, photos and feedback about their experiences with your brand is not difficult and may be very effective for the entire exercise of creating customer loyalty. Involving customers in such exercises, helps create a sense of community and belonging. Not only that, this could actually mean valuable customer feedback upon which a company can act. Take this a step further: make changes based on the feedback that a loyal customer provides and you cement that loyalty even further.

Companies can also work to foster the sense of community and the connection between the customer and the company in other ways: send birthday greetings to show you care; offer a special discount on a birthday or during the anniversary week. This lets the customer know that the company cares and cares enough to offer actual, tangible benefits to customers the company considers valuable. Additionally, examine your workforce. You want your employees to be committed to creating and preserving customer loyalty as well. Do your employees conform to the same ideals and values that your company stands for? Are they able to communicate this effectively when dealing with customers? This is something that employers may be looking to address at the interview or hiring stage and consolidate by appropriate training and refresher courses in the future.

Create loyalty programs to encourage your customer to buy from you and not others. Make it profitable for your customer to continue to buy from you. For instance, your customer can earn points each time they make a purchase or spend a specified amount. These loyalty points accumulate and then can be redeemed against future purchases, entitle the customer to a gift or other benefit such as special member discounts and so on.

Another instance could be a customer being rewarded for eating at a restaurant repeatedly. While the taste and quality of food and the restaurant ambience are aspects that typically determine customer loyalty in this instance, a loyalty programme could help tilt the choice. Say, on a given day, a family is undecided about choosing to dine at one or another restaurant. It is more likely that that family will decide to choose the restaurant that will serve them one free roast chicken every fifth visit or after every five roast chickens ordered and so on. Anticipate the needs of your customer to create and retain their allegiance towards your company or brand. Currently your customers enjoy using a product or service of yours because it offers utility, convenience and possibly affordability. By anticipating the needs of your customer, you are ready with a solution when a new need arises. The customer does not find the need to turn elsewhere when their favourite brand already provides a solution.

Strive to earn customer loyalty and to retain it. It is not easy to get; but once you have it, that loyal customer base will be your company’s most valuable asset.

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Sell More to Customers through Product Knowledge


April 23, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin Yes, it is possible to sell more to customers through product knowledge – in fact, it is an essential skill for every person in a company. Through an … Continued

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Yes, it is possible to sell more to customers through product knowledge – in fact, it is an essential skill for every person in a company. Through an understanding of the products and services of the company, especially for the service staff, they would be better equipped to present the benefits and features of the products more accurately, confidently, and a lot more persuasively. The truth is that customers are more likely to respond to a company and its representatives who seem enthusiastic, passionate, and confident about the products and services, and who seem eager to share and pass on benefits to the customers. As a customer, you would know that you would be more believing of a sales person who not only displayed self-confidence, but also was confident about the products she or he was selling. It is possible to build confidence and sell more to customers through product and service knowledge.

The idea is not always to sell more to customers, but rather about being honest with them even about the shortcomings of the products. Being honest and open will ensure that they remain open-minded – rather than being sold something for the sake of it, they would respect a company that gave them complete information. Through proper product knowledge, company representatives would be able to let customers know whether a product or service is right for them and in doing so would gain the trust of customers. When trust builds in the mind of customers, they are more inclined to return with more business for the company, or at least provide glowing testimonials and referrals – which usually translate to more business.

With technology ruling and digital communication being the preferred mode, customers today know the importance of both. The customers of today are smart, knowledgeable, digitally connected, and have large digital social networks, which means that they would gain as much information as they need about products and companies before they even decide to approach companies. This also means that customers are better equipped to ask tough questions – which may not be part of FAQs or any other information that the company may have disseminated. Companies must often as the question as to whether their service staff is equipped to handle such ‘bouncers’. It would be a lot easier to convince and sell more to customers through product knowledge – thorough and in-depth knowledge. When customer-facing staff is able to exhibit such knowledge, they would be able to make a personal connection with customers by providing a trustworthy experience for them.

Experts say that product knowledge is perhaps the most important and critical tool to sell more to customers. Through this knowledge, service staff would be able to inspire trust, respect, and dependability in the mind of customers – and we know that customers tend to buy more and stay longer with companies they trust. Customers need to know that the company will care for them and solve their problems in the future too – confident and self-assured company representatives would enable customers to be at ease. A knowledgeable and highly trained team would know how to manage proactively any negativity, and would have ready and effective answers for customers who may ask ‘hard hitting’ questions. They would be able to provide customers with precise, intelligent, and effective answers through product knowledge. Customer-facing staff with limited product knowledge would become flustered and defensive over such questions and difficult ‘requests’, and may completely ignore the problem / question. In doing so, they would be sure to irritate customers, who would view this behaviour as disrespect and an attempt on the part of the company to hide something. This in turn would lead to distrust and ultimately the customer moving away.

With so many options and choices both in terms of companies and products, customers are in a position of power. Customers now make buying decisions based on how much trust and affinity they can have in a company, and not just on product quality and range. This means that in order to sell more to customers, company representatives must be able to appear as trustworthy and genuine sources of information – information that should be including and beyond the data customers may gather about the company and its products from various sources. When customers hear something ‘familiar’ and more related to whatever they already know, their trust would instantly rise and they would be more open to discussion, which could lead to a decision to buy. Therefore, to sell more to customers the most current and up to date product knowledge is essential.

As mentioned, with so many companies and product lines, customers tend to believe that all products would be similar. In order to appear unique and distinctive, companies must do whatever it takes, which would create a lasting impression on customers. In-depth product knowledge is essential to elevate the customer’s buying experience. The knowledge would enable the customer-facing employee to educate the customer and display the commitment of the company to satisfy the needs and interests of the customer first. With so many companies pushing information and products towards customers, the companies that display genuine desire to help and connect with customers, would win.

The reason that companies can sell more to customers through product knowledge is that such knowledge brings power. The power to convince, negotiate, and build trust – proves indispensable to the success of any company. Product knowledge makes communication a lot easier and more forceful – a thorough understanding of products allows the customer-facing staff to apply varying techniques to present the product, depending on the customer before them. Stronger communication skills empower the company representative to adapt their style of presentation, speech, and body language to have a greater and longer lasting impact on the customer.

It is possible to sell more to customers through in-depth product knowledge since it helps the salesperson to feel confident and therefore a lot more enthusiastic about the product. Their enthusiasm and excitement brimming over would be ‘infectious’ and the customer would be sure to want to know more and even buy. This confidence in addition, lends credibility and authority to the salesperson, and customers love to do business with companies that exude such attributes. With amped up confidence, trustworthiness, and credibility the company representatives will have very little problem in overcoming any objections and doubts that customers may have, especially with regard to products sold by the company’s competitors.

In order to keep customer-facing staff up to date on information, they must receive regular product training geared towards product knowledge and the ability to disseminate that knowledge to existing and prospective customers. As a customer, you would know that a bright, upbeat, knowledgeable, and confident company representative would have a better effect on you, as compared to a sullen, diffident, and moronic sounding one. Companies must ensure that every employee understands the importance of proper communication and product knowledge. Communication is not talking – it is the ability to convince someone of the efficacy and truth about the subject under discussion.

We know that the products and or services alone do not sway the customer of today, when making a buying decision. What matters is the experience that comes with these products – every company has at least one competitor in the market, and it therefore, is imperative for a company to ensure that it stands out such that customers never go to another player to have their needs met. Demonstrating robust product knowledge creates an impression of power and wisdom, which in turn would instil trust and faith in the customers – making it a lot easier to sell more and consistently to them. Where does your company stand with knowing its products and services?

 

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Creating a Sense of Urgency in Customers


April 22, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Create a sense of urgency by respecting your customers’ needs and they’ll respond by buying,” – Tara Gentile Most businesses and enterprises are designed to sell products and services to customers. The act of selling can be achieved by many … Continued

“Create a sense of urgency by respecting your customers’ needs and they’ll respond by buying,” – Tara Gentile

Most businesses and enterprises are designed to sell products and services to customers. The act of selling can be achieved by many means – these include a variety of approaches, including creating a sense of urgency in customers. This tactic takes advantage of the buyer’s mentality of obtaining goods and services at a very good price, however this  objective may not be necessarily shared by the selling party, but closing a sale remains the holy grail of the commercial enterprise, because sales drive profits. We must bear in mind that when a selling party chooses to pursue subtle pressure tactics, the intent is to introduce the customer to a proposition that offers high chances of culminating in a sale. We must underline the fact that the selling party is obliged to craft a genuine sales tactic that offers a tempting proposition to the buyer. This is the crux of commerce and has been so since time immemorial.

Business strategies that hinge on creating urgency in customers should be constantly refined and polished over time. The customer could be a businessperson or a professional entity and therefore, short-term selling strategies should be abhorred. A genuine bargain may be packaged and offered as part of the strategy to sell to the said customers – this may be well- appreciated by the buyer and could win long-term customers who trust the selling party. Replicating such business strategies may expand the customer network, while helping to boost the annual turnover of the business. We could say that such tactics can yield business benefits beyond the obvious; interesting insights may emerge from the frequent use of such subtle selling strategies. The fact that a business is leveraging urgency in customers may enable a deeper interaction with the customer(s) and could reveal insights that may help to widen the commercial fortunes of the enterprise.

An important source of business profits lies in repeat customers. These individuals are satisfied customers that can boast about products and services offered by a business establishment or a merchant house. Such actions can have the effect of attracting their friends and acquaintances to the said businesses. These new prospects may be subject to selling strategies that induce urgency in customers. Therefore, we may say that that one of the cornerstones of an enterprise is to create customers that create more customers.

A business is subject to business cycles and seasonality; such factors may enforce certain compulsory business practices. These stages of the business cycle may mandate clearing out the product inventory at certain points in the calendar. Such business imperatives may force enterprises to fast track their selling plans by creating urgency in customers. Businesses may choose to offer deep discounts and freebies to boost sales in the hope that such actions may achieve the desired effect. In addition, an extension of such a strategy operates when businesses take customers into confidence and create selling pressure by disclosing low levels of stock. Such tactics may force the customer to accelerate a purchase decision because the alternative scenario is to face zero stocks.

The act of paying close attention to customer requirements and specifications is a subtle means of generating urgency in customers. Consider this: an indecisive customer may choose to make a wide and in-depth survey of the goods and services being offered at a business establishment. The polished salesman may choose to answer every question at length in an attempt to help the customer to arrive at a purchase decision. This scenario creates a perfect picture of the ingredients required to close a successful sale. The attentive salesman has managed to close all avenues of further inquiry while enlightening the buyer about all products and services. This situation leaves the latter with very few options and arriving at a purchase decision promptly would be one such option. The events described above are a positive illustration of the power of creating urgency in customers.

Long-term business plans may call for a systematic deployment of strategies that trigger urgency in customers. Consider this: a product development company may choose to implement such methods of doing business to impart momentum to its product cycle. Software product developers may consider withdrawing support from certain early versions of their software products. This automatically creates pressure on steady customers to upgrade to the latest versions of the said products. Such upgrades may not be a choice for consumers because the use of the said products is embedded deeply in their daily operations. This is essentially a long-term strategy on the part of the software developer to sustain and expand their business under all economic circumstances. We may note that this is a telling example of the efficacy of putting together selling techniques that hinge on creating urgency in customers.

Certain business channels may lend themselves wonderfully to business expansion by creating urgency in customers. Online business models may offer special discounts and coupons to Internet-savvy customers. These legions of smartphone-borne shoppers may find it beneficial and convenient to shop through the said business channel. The aforesaid discounts and coupons may be tailored to exist only in cyberspace and consequently, a zero existence in brick and mortar establishments. Such an approach automatically creates a steady surge of business through online channels to the detriment of sales registered in traditional, physical business establishments. Having noted that the Internet is a recent phenomenon (and online sales even more so), we could say that the evolution of electronic and online technologies has imparted deeper, more substantial meaning to sales tactics centred on creating urgency in customers.

A different illustration of expediting business by generating urgency in customers lies in changes in government regulations. Consider this: certain technologies may be deemed to be hostile to the natural environment and detrimental to public health. The government of the day may choose to act precipitously and ban these technologies. Commercial considerations may play no role whatsoever in the actions of the government. A short deadline may be announced and businesses may have to react on a war footing to dispose of the accumulated inventory based on the recently banned technologies. Such a situation naturally calls for high pressure selling strategies based on creating urgency in customers. Steep discounts and friendly shoptalk may be the planks on which such merchandise has to be disposed of legally at short notice. This instance illustrates the efficacy of such sales tactics in an emergency.

The examples cited in this article illuminate the importance of devising sales techniques that hinge on creating urgency in customers. Such techniques may not be appropriate in certain lines of trade, but work wonders in most aspects of commerce. Urgency, when handled subtly, can provide much needed sales momentum in commercial establishments. The use of such strategies has to be perfected over time and must be applied judiciously. The traditional practices of buying and selling will continue into the future, but the skilled salesperson should be aware of all types of selling tactics. We must make a note of the fact that selling products and services is a refined art, and such artists must continue to polish their craft at all times.

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Customer Service in Luxury Businesses


April 21, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage,” – Bernard Arnault The quote above sets the tone for customer service in the business of selling luxury. Customer services in such industries must be handled by experienced, seasoned professionals. … Continued

“In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage,” - Bernard Arnault

The quote above sets the tone for customer service in the business of selling luxury. Customer services in such industries must be handled by experienced, seasoned professionals. Such services have the power to sustain luxury businesses over the years and take the trade to higher levels. The heritage and brand value of a product has to be marketed to the discerning clientele. In addition to top product quality, the customer service has to be at par with the very best because such actions alone can sustain the business into the future. Consider this: a high end watch boutique that operates on the premises of a five-star hotel located in the heart of a city. The shop sells only marquee brands to a select clientele. This establishment stocks only luxury brands that sell at globally benchmarked prices, and therefore, customer service is one of the planks that help to sustain this business. Such service can assure the customer that his money is well spent and that he is guaranteed relevant services long after the sale has been closed.

The luxury trade has to earn and retain the customer’s trust in order to function properly. The high-value merchandise – whether it is watches, clothing, automobiles, hospitality, furniture, cruises, etc. – demands careful, calibrated selling practices. High-pressure sales tactics are anathema to luxury businesses. The select clients have to be handled with kid gloves and plied with top notch advice. The rarefied environs of the showrooms used in the luxury trade are a far cry from the usual practices of the mass markets. These showrooms and trade premises have to be tastefully appointed and must carry the veneer of understatement and sophistication. The clients that frequent such showrooms seldom stick to budgets and therefore, the sky is literally the limit for an accomplished salesman. Customer service in this domain has to be perfect and courteous.

The importance of personal interaction in luxury businesses cannot be overstated. The luxury trade in every continent is subject to the usual business cycles and therefore, must be sustained intelligently. The high tides of commerce may create a surfeit of custom in these domains. Such points in the business cycle are marked by heightened activity and interesting levels of growth. In addition, competition in the luxury trade offers choice to the customer. These aspects of the trade need to be evaluated critically and the norms of customer service must be modulated accordingly. However, we must note that every customer in this business remains an asset and must be handled accordingly. Individual tastes, likes and dislikes, personal preferences, and other metrics should be mapped clearly. Such information can help the purveyors of luxury to create bespoke selling strategies and tailor customer service accordingly.

For instance, the luxury consumer originating in a country in Asia has specific tastes and choices. Such consumers tend to shop in luxury establishments in all points of the globe. The merchants are accordingly tuning their strategies to cater to these customers of luxury businesses. Customer service operatives are being trained to converse fluently in the language of the country. They need to create the impression of being fluent in the country’s customs, history, cuisines, and traditions. These are some of the tactics to interact with the customers at any point in the globe. English may not be the best lingua franca when dealing with customers globally. The well-heeled clientele has to be briefed in the best merchandise the season has to offer. Therefore, educating the customer remains one of the primary objectives of the luxury businesses. This remains true because once the customer has created a fair assessment of all that is on offer, he/she has a better chance of arriving at a purchase decision.

The luxury trade compiles numbers and statistics like every other line of work. These numbers reveal that luxury customers tend to be ‘borderless consumers’ that are attracted to all manner of luxury offerings, irrespective of geographical boundaries and national borders. One way of dealing with this elite clientele is to profile them individually and then developing the profile at every opportunity of trade interaction. The luxury businesses take such activity very seriously, and yet such actions are undertaken discreetly. Such activity helps to inform the customer service representative of business matters. The selling and the subsequent customer service may therefore proceed on the lines suggested by the information culled over the years. For instance, if a customer has a soft spot for luxury leather products, the sales and service representatives may team to offer the customer a compelling proposition. A happy customer is likely to share his findings with his social or professional circle, and this may help to multiply the sales of luxury businesses.

Customer service in the luxury trade can find an extension in the form of digital marketing. We may say this is one aspect of the luxury trade that runs parallel to the mass economy. Information can be transmitted to the electronic mailboxes of customers at regular intervals. This kind of information can inform the customer about the latest offerings awaiting his/her attention at the showroom. Digital media can also be used to share an electronic copy of the sales receipt or any servicing statements. Information about special offers and discounted items can also travel to the customers’ desks through email. Such actions may have the effect of amplifying sales. Therefore, luxury businesses are obliged to create and sustain a virtuous cycle that transmits information and garners future business from customer(s).

A reputation of unbiased and steadfast customer service can benefit luxury businesses in the long term. Such soft skills can help the commercial establishment to treat the well heeled customer like a king. This is no mean achievement for the business. The regular customer may also be offered special discounts, in addition to privileged prior access to new luxury offerings. The business must essentially package the experience such that customer service, sales and marketing, and closing the sale form a seamless experience for the paying customer. Loyalty points may be blended into the service package to the effect that the customer accrues special privileges every time he shops at luxury businesses. His/her friends, acquaintances, and family members may be encouraged to shop at similar establishments and these referrals could win the customer special points.

In conclusion, we have to acknowledge that luxury businesses represent a crucial segment of the global economy. The manufacture and sale of high value goods represents the livelihood of many individuals. Skilled customer service is one of the final touches that grace the luxury goods value chain. Interesting customer insights may emerge from an in-depth interaction with the customer. Such insights may boost the science and art of customer service and raise it to the level of a fine art. The human appetite for luxury may be whetted through the services of seasoned customer service personnel. The intelligent application of soft skills and the dedication of service representatives can build a brand that may eventually spread beyond its immediate origins. It becomes imperative for companies in the realm of luxury businesses to strive consistently to provide the highest levels of customer service, or risk losing their high net worth customers to the ‘lying in wait’ competitors.

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Ways to Handle Customer Service Challenges


April 20, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

Consistency doesn’t mean you never have a problem. It means your customers can count on you if there ever is a problem – Shep Hyken Your relationship with a customer does not end when you make a sale; far from … Continued

Consistency doesn’t mean you never have a problem. It means your customers can count on you if there ever is a problem – Shep Hyken

Your relationship with a customer does not end when you make a sale; far from it. The sort of customer service you offer after that sale is what will determine the sort of relationship you have with that customer and the bearing it will have on future customers. Customer service is your ongoing relationship with a customer; starting before a purchase of a product or service and continuing beyond that point. There are many customer service challenges that companies can and do encounter; however, there are ways to counter those and many reasons to bother to do so as well:

Successful companies pride themselves on providing quality customer service and there are some very good reasons for this. The main benefit of top notch customer service is customer retention… because happy customers don’t want to go elsewhere. Good quality customer service results in positive word of mouth and this translates into free promotion of your business. Happy customers also tend to share their positive experiences on review websites, social networks and elsewhere which give your business free positive publicity and enhanced popularity.

Working on improved after sales service and overcoming customer service challenges also means satisfied shareholders, increased business growth, and a wider client base. As a business owner or manager, overcoming these challenges can be critical learning experiences which help reduce the risk of future business failures. When your customers are satisfied, this serves to motivate your employees, increases efficiency and also helps to reduce employee turnover.

Providing quality customer service is not easy; nor is it a challenge to overcome once and for all. Overcoming customer service challenges is an ongoing process; a day to day, person by person challenge. And no matter how good the feedback is today, tomorrow you have to start all over again with the next customer. As long as you and your employees remember that kindness, courtesy and the willingness to do whatever it takes to sort out a problem are at the root of a positive customer service experience; many other things will fall into place.

Research shows that organisations that value customer service tend to spend more on employee training processes. This is an expenditure that pays for itself over the long term. In fact good customer service can save you money! How? As one expert puts it, “when you do it right the first time, you don’t have to fix it the next time.” Read on to know about the most common customer service challenges and how can you overcome them.

Customer service comes into play when a customer has some requirement or complaint. If you concentrate on improving product and service quality and work towards easing the experience of using that product or service, there is that much less likelihood that a customer will call up with a question or complaint. You can head off and prevent at least some common customer service challenges by providing efficient services and product quality control.

You and your team have probably worked on creating all possible scenarios where a customer would approach the company for help or redress. Your customer service training has likely equipped your representatives with satisfactory answers to most possible questions. However there are always questions that your reps may not know the answers to. For instance, your representative cannot give current information on a shipment that has been dispatched but which a customer has not yet received, simply because your rep does not have that logistical information. Or it could be that a customer has purchased a new appliance and has a rather unusual question about its functions; a question not answered in the customer service manual!

The solution to such customer service challenges is not for your representative to say “I don’t know”. The solution is to try to find out more about the situation immediately and put the customer in the picture. If this is not possible, you would have to placate the customer by assuring them of a call back soon with the relevant information and then calling back as promised. The solution is to convey to the customer service rep that they have to be prepared to do anything that is needed to help and satisfy the customer. The solution can also be transferring the call to someone better equipped to answer the question or sort out the problem. This helps reassure the customer that you are concerned and are doing your best to help them.

This is another one of the commonly experienced customer service challenges: the volume of queries or complaints outstrips available customer services personnel. This results in the customer having to put up with the highly annoying experience of being made to wait with an automated message and some rather pedestrian piped music (or worse, the company’s repetitive signature tune or jingle) for company. No one wants to wait for that customer care representative who is “busy attending to other customers”.

So here you can use technology to overcome customer service challenges and to serve your customers better. Rather than keeping your customer waiting seemingly interminably, causing them to get more and more annoyed at the waste of time, assure them of a call back, confirm with a text message or email and then ensure that the call back occurs as promised. Suppose you were unable to make a delivery to your customer as promised or suppose you made an incomplete or erroneous delivery to your customer. Understandably, the customer is furious: perhaps they wanted butter urgently to bake a cake or needed that new iPhone to give as a gift to someone which did not materialise… you get the picture.

Such customer service challenges can be addressed retrospectively, because what’s done is done. However what you can do is mollify your customer some other way. Have a representative call up, explain the situation and apologise in no uncertain terms. If possible, offer a freebie with the next purchase, a complimentary shipping offer or some amount of store credit to the customer’s account. Not only will the customer be mollified, you will have successfully lured them back to make another purchase by virtue of your freebie or credit offer.

Sometimes your customer is just in a bad mood. Perhaps they had a falling out with their significant other, got yelled at by their boss or maybe had their car towed. Whatever be the reason, rude customers who are in no mood to be placated pose some significant customer service challenges. When dealing with such a person on the phone it can be relatively easier but dealing with the customer in person – where one has to school one’s expressions and control reactions – can be more difficult.

Choosing the right people for the job of customer complain redressal is the key here. It can be tricky to find the people who are both knowledgeable as well as polite and patient. So here you would need to reiterate the importance of politeness and patience during training during training. Emphasise the importance of not taking things personally, remaining calm and apologising – even when the customer is being unreasonable and doesn’t deserve the apology. After all, no one said customer service challenges are easy to overcome. As stated in the foregoing, customer service is a process, not an end in itself!

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Importance of a Standard Operating Procedure in Customer Service


April 19, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

In the not-so-little mind of your customer, consistency is absolutely essential in delivering a world-class customer experience – John H Fleming  Consistency is the key to building good relationships with customers. Customer service consists of pre-transaction elements, transaction elements and … Continued

In the not-so-little mind of your customer, consistency is absolutely essential in delivering a world-class customer experience John H Fleming

 Consistency is the key to building good relationships with customers. Customer service consists of pre-transaction elements, transaction elements and post transaction elements. When companies create a standard operating procedure for each of those phases of customer service, customer satisfaction ensues. If you’re your sales executives and your customer services representatives treat your customer with the same degree of enthusiasm, politeness and willingness to help before, during and after the sale, this fosters trust and confidence.

In  one word, a standard operating procedure is consistency! These procedures, also known for short as SOPs, are step by step instructions companies compile to help employees function and to respond appropriately in a variety of scenarios. These are meant to increase efficiency and reduce miscommunications. They also help deliver certain uniformity in performance and help an organisation comply with industry regulations and achieve quality standards. These set operating procedures also help to enhance workplace and operating safety.

They say, customer service should not be a department. It should be the entire company. In other words, all the procedures that a company follows need to conform to a consistent attitude across departments, across all units or branches. So, if your sales team is responsive, approachable, knowledgeable and enthusiastic about responding to customer queries and requirements, so should your customer services department. Such consistency not only helps cement a good relationship with a customer, it helps build your reputation and your brand. In general, creating and implementing these standard processes saves time, improves communication, prevents mistakes and empowers the workforce. A standard operating procedure benefits the company by reducing training costs, ensuring consistent results and supporting quality goals. Having established that SOPs are beneficial for the organisation as a whole, consider the benefits of implementing a set of SOPs for the customer services department as well.

The most important benefit of setting a standard operating procedure for customer care personnel to follow is the facilitation of clear and effective communication between your company and its customers. Standard answers to standard questions, clarity about when (and if) a customer should be referred to a supervisor, ways to greet a caller and the way to identify oneself; standard ways to handle various queries and common complaints… all these are laid down for the customer services rep, giving them confidence and ability to perform their job effectively.

SOPs can also clarify aspects such as whether it is acceptable to put a customer on hold, whether (or not) you can offer to call them back and what to do if the caller is speaking in a language unfamiliar to the customer care representative. So not only do your employees know what to do, your customers also know what to expect when you lay down a standard operating procedure.

It is this sense of comfort or familiarity that develops; a certain degree of care that your customers start to expect from you. They expect that their query will be answered and issues addressed in a set amount of time by polite, professionals who know their job. SOPs can ensure that your customer is met with the same degree of polite professionalism, knowledgeable people with the willingness to help; whichever branch or location of your company your customer deals with. The customer expects and gets consistency every time. It is a good idea to project this consistent image of your company.

A standard operating procedure translates into consistency and uniformity; which in turn translates to consistent customer service. A good level of training, clearly written answers to common queries, unambiguous instructions as to politeness when dealing with a customer and training refresher courses can all help to offer customers a positive customer care experience. SOPs help to keep the organisation running smoothly and also cause fewer day to day problems. A positive customer service experience means that your customer is more likely to recommend your product or service to others and also more likely to buy again from you/ your company.

Create clear and concise questions and their answers. Formulate appropriate responses to common (and also uncommon) complaints. Frame rules with regard to customer privacy and clarify how to protect sensitive information about customers. Clarify rules and procedures to be followed for ordering, packaging, dispatch and other aspects of order processing. The customer service representative should know how to respond in any given situation. A set of standard operating procedures would help them do this.

They would need to have detailed information about the features and function of the product. They would also need to be fully aware about warranties and replacements as well as the circumstances in which warranties are triggered and replacement options come into play. What support is routinely offered by the company and what isn’t? Where is the fine print that clarifies all this? SOPs help pass on this valuable information to team members so they are not caught unawares when they are faced with curve ball from an irate customer.

If clear instructions are not given, an employee may perform variably and may have to rely on guess work to do their job. This leads to uneven performance and stress. The customer services representative is not sure exactly what they are expected to do in a given situation. However if the procedures are clearly scripted and set out the employee gains a great deal of confidence and knows exactly what is expected of them.

They know how to react in a situation and are not stuck for answers when faced with a challenging query. To put it simply, there are fewer nasty surprises for our employees. This helps keep up motivation and increases productivity as well. Directly or indirectly, quality standard operating procedure helps in employee retention and lower attrition rates.

Once proper, well thought out SOPs are in place, this reduces the effort or ‘retaining’ employees or having to give frequent instructions and reminders. Customer services personnel can function better and with greater autonomy. SOPs also help reduce reliance on a few, talented members of the team. In the absence of a few key players things ought not to go to pieces! They can and should continue to run smoothly and with few hiccups because everyone knows that is expected of them. SOPs also help to create a paradigm within which employees can be evaluated. Managers or evaluators are better able to judge deficiencies in performance and to identify employees who perform well. In other words, the standard operating procedure becomes a yardstick to measure and evaluate employees and their performance by.

Employees who are already well trained and experienced in their day to day functioning can be helpful in fostering a appropriate work environment. Additionally, if you are thinking of widening your reach and increasing the size of your team, it is easier to take new members on board with set SOPs already in place. The training process can be easier to replicate and may even be facilitated by other experienced team members. New employees attending on-job-training can continue in a professional atmosphere that fosters learning and growth. Does your company have a standard operating procedure in place?

 

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Importance of a Positive Attitude in Customer Service


April 18, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Customer Service is not a department. It is an Attitude.” – Unknown It is no secret that customer service can have a profound and lasting effect on the customer’s experience of a company. Given that customer service as a role … Continued

“Customer Service is not a department. It is an Attitude.” – Unknown

It is no secret that customer service can have a profound and lasting effect on the customer’s experience of a company. Given that customer service as a role is demanding, annoyances and irritation are part of the everyday operations for the service staff, and it becomes even more imperative to remain positive while dealing with customers. A positive attitude in customer service is all about remaining calm during interactions, making every effort to build robust relationships with customers, and ensuring that customers view the company as authentic through their demeanour. Customers expect high standards of service and top class experiences with a company – every time and through every touch-point. Creating such positive experiences for customers is possible only by maintaining a positive attitude in customer service, which sometimes can be hard to cultivate and display. It is important for a company to provide training and coaching to help the service staff understand the important of offering the most positive service as possible.

The reason for positive attitude in customer service (and in every aspect of life) is that such an attitude spreads and has a profound positive effect on people. By remaining positive, the service teams would be able to mould customer behaviour and influence them a lot more easily. It is necessary for the service staff to focus on the good things and positive interactions they have with customers, rather than on only some of the negative ones that may occur. By maintaining a positive attitude in customer service, the service staff would set the tone for all their interactions with their customers, which would ‘rub off’ on the customers too. The fact is that when service staff focuses on the irritated, annoyed, and screaming customers only they encountered during a workday, the result is a feeling of dread and lethargy that will spill over to the next day, making them hate coming to work. These negative attitudes then snowball, and the service staff would possibly become rude and defiant.

Maintaining a positive attitude in customer service is about putting oneself in the customer’s position and viewing the problem from their eyes. This would make the service staff feels less threatened and anxious, since they would know how to deal with different emotions of different customers. By beginning each interaction with a positive attitude, the service staff would be in control of their mood, and in turn positively influence the customer’s attitude and response. The first part of positive attitude in customer service would be positive language. This would mean showing the customer a ready and willing demeanour that would display the willingness to see every interaction from the customer’s point of view. It would also mean being proactive towards the needs of customers, asking the customer what the company can do for them, rather than telling them what cannot be done. The idea is to make every experience more pleasant and efficient for them.

Customers love to stay with companies that provide them with as many positive messages and experiences as possible. It would be necessary for a company to revamp and reorganize its processes to allow for things that customers would want – free shipping, easy returns, swift and varied payment methods, and other such needs. In addition, customers expect to receive service and responses when they want and, as they want. For companies this would mean ensuring round the clock service, with speedy efficient responses. All these aspects would reflect the positive attitude in customer service, on the part of the company as a whole. The positive attitude must reflect through at every touch-point – that means whichever channel a customer contacts the company through they must have a positive experience. To display a positive attitude in customer service, the customer facing staff must refrain from negative words, and behaviours.

It is important from a customer retention point of view, to keep customers interested and engaged. The company must show its appreciation for the customer’s patronage by offering timely incentives and other ‘lures’. The idea is to ensure customers want to come back for more and offering them some such offers will make them. Even through intelligent content, companies can keep customers interested and entertained even outside the confines of the business relationship and ensure that customers keep providing repeat business. Creating and maintaining a positive attitude in customer service is beyond just offering satisfactory service in every customer transaction. It is about serving with a smile and with unfeigned interest. A positive attitude in customer service will ensure that customers have positive experiences each time, and would leave feeling good about themselves and the company, which in turn would mean wanting to do business with the company repeatedly.

When a positive attitude in customer service exists, the service staff will appear more amenable, amicable, responsive, and attuned to the needs and expectations of customers. This in turn would reflect in their behaviour towards customers, who would feel heard, respected, and cared for by the company. When service staff remains open-minded and positive, they would be able to ‘hear’ more than just the spoken words and requests of customers. They would be able to convey empathy and care by making a concerted effort to understand the thoughts and feelings of customers, which is what customers expect under every situation. Positive service staff will always appear happy and ready to help. Their style and manner of communicating would reflect their attitude, and if it is positive, existing customers would remain and the company would be able to attract more customers, translating to higher sales and revenue. A warm friendly smile, courteous mannerism, a willingness to serve, and an empathetic demeanour – are all part of a positive attitude in customer service.

A positive attitude in customer service means happy customers, which in turn means success for the company. Everyone wants to work and remain associated with a successful company – the overall work environment would be a lot happier, energized, and everyone would want to contribute to make it even better. A positive attitude in customer service would resonate with the whole organization, encouraging a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and a constant endeavour to ensure customer satisfaction at any cost. In addition, there would be better communication and cooperation between the employees, each team would understand the challenges involved in interacting with customers and hence would be more likely to provide timely help and support. Customers remember when they are treated well but may not talk about it. However, if they were not treated well they would be very likely to spread the negativity and tell a number of people of their poor experiences. It makes sense for a company therefore, to ensure that their employees treat each other and customers with courtesy and kindness.

Through a positive attitude in customer service everyone would feel more accountable, everyone would be more resourceful in searching for solutions, ensure regular follow-up to show customers that everyone in the company cares. The quality of products and services would become better, as everyone would strive for excellence and fairness while dealing with customers. Everyone would be more mindful of their manners towards customers and would put the customer’s interest in mind. When everyone keeps a positive attitude in customer service (service to customer), customers will be happier and as a result would work towards making the company successful.

 

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Increasing Customer Click Through on Emails


April 17, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read – Leo Burnett In today’s world, when online marketing is all about leveraging social media, email marketing has become rather old hat. Increasing … Continued

Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read – Leo Burnett

In today’s world, when online marketing is all about leveraging social media, email marketing has become rather old hat. Increasing customer click through is not something too many people talk about these days. According to some experts email marketing campaigns have been edged out more other marketing tactics in recent times. Many disagree however. Email marketing is still relevant and effective – even when you factor in the fact of spam filters and statistics telling us that the average person receives about 121 emails in a day.

Email marketing has been around for a very long time; however it still has significant advantages over social media marketing and other modes of digital marketing.  The first of these advantages is the linear delivery model of email. Further, email helps create value by permitting personalization and increasing engagement.

If a potential customer has signed up for something, this signals a willingness to engage via email. It makes sense to take advantage of this inclination and to push home the advantage by sending targeted, relevant and regular emails designed at increasing customer click through which ultimately translates into sales. According to a study, a majority of adults do still check their email first thing in the morning; so email marketing is something you cannot afford to ignore.

The content of your email, the subject line, its content, frequency and timing are all important. The email recipient’s ability to control and personalise the emails they receive is also important in preventing the user unsubscribing from the emails and in increasing customer click through.

If someone has subscribed to your newsletter or email update, they are reasonably agreeable to receiving emails from you. In the confirmation email that you send (typically the one with user name and password and similar information), urge the recipient to add your email address to their address book, to mark it NOT SPAM, to white-list it or otherwise ensure that messages from you are not filtered and misdirected to the spam folder.

For increasing customer click through, you first have to ensure that the recipient is interested enough to open the email. Make the subject sound interesting, mysterious or beneficial to the user. Catch their attention and make it intriguing enough. It’s not enough to say “Sale” or “clearance”; instead say “extra X% discount on specified purchases”. Create urgency by setting a deadline: it isn’t enough to say “last chance”. Instead say “last few hours” or “stocks running out fast” or “extra incentive (gift or extra discount) for the first 100 buyers” etc.

Quickly explain what you mean to say. Don’t be wordy and don’t use big words and impressive verbiage. The reader isn’t interested in this and they don’t have the time and patience for it. Be as concise as possible to get across the message. Use a bit of humour to engage with the reader and to catch their attention. Create a call to action – something that the reader finds irresistible and add a call to action button.

Make sure there are attractive images to encourage the reader to click through. Don’t underestimate the lure of images: trendy clothes or beautiful locales, invigourating services or useful, innovative products that stir curiosity… images of anything that you hope to be able to sell!

Influencers and user generated content can also help in increasing customer click through and building excitement around a product launch, sale event or similar. While celebrity endorsements are very effective; they are is neither feasible nor affordable for most businesses. In the event social influencers… people who are popular on social media sites and so on can help. With just a comment, post, or like (which you can quote in your email) these influencers can help drive traffic to your website.

Quoting user generated content such as customer reviews on sale pages, or on social media can be great to include in your email as well. This is good old word of mouth; still as effective today as it always was.

Another tip to increase the attention that a would-be buyer pays to your email: reiterate the message via SMS. Essentially the same message, delivered in a succinct one-liner could act as a reminder or attract attention to what you are trying to say.

Researchers found that sending an email 24 hours before a promotional deadline is an effective tactic, giving the reader enough time to react, but not too much. The time of day or night you send an email is also important in deciding what reaction or the amount or attention it gets. Frequency of emails is another factor you want to control. If emails arrive too frequently they become annoying and ‘spammy’. You can decide the best frequency depending on your product or industry and on the frequency that would suggest the best results.

You can also leave the reader free to decide how frequently they want to receive emails from you. This offers the user a sense of control and autonomy that may work in your favour and ultimately help in increasing customer click through.

You can include “Specially for you XYZ” in the subject line; XYZ being the name of the recipient. Such personalisation is more likely to catch the attention of the user. Research has shown that personlised emails could offer six times higher transaction rates by increasing customer click through.

Also personalise in other ways depending upon the users likes, dislikes, preferences and their lifestyle. What pages of your website have they visited? What items have they bought or shown interest in? Browsing history or buying history could be useful indicators.  If the recipient is vegan or prefers gluten free products, emails can be designed to dovetail with these aspects for instance.

Segment or divide your mailing list by geographical region, by age, personal taste and preferences. Research geared towards increasing customer click through shows that such segmenting translates into better open and click though rates. This technique helps narrow focus and lets you send more targeted messages that are more relevant to the user.

One study showed that opens were 14% higher, unique opens were 10% higher, clicks were 100% higher in segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns. Unsubscribing rates fell, bounces lowered and abuse reports fell as well.

Segmentation can be done by interest groups – users can be asked to indicate interests when they subscribe (use checkboxes or drop down menus to make this easy for users). Subscriber activity will also help in segmentation so you can create targeted emails.

Did a user add items to their cart but not complete the purchase? Email them asking why. Was it a problem with the payment gateway, was the site loading too slowly? They may have simply have been interrupted by something and may have forgotten to complete their transaction. A reminder or followup email can also help in increasing customer click through… the user may go ahead and complete that purchase, or perhaps make a new one. Even if that doesn’t happen, a follow-up email like this catches attention and shows that you care… always a good message to send out!

 

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Reasons Customers May Damage Company Reputation


April 16, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“The reputation of a thousand years may be undermined by the conduct of one hour” – Japanese Proverb Every company would have customers, and would be selling those customers goods or services. The customers expect that companies deal with them … Continued

“The reputation of a thousand years may be undermined by the conduct of one hour” – Japanese Proverb

Every company would have customers, and would be selling those customers goods or services. The customers expect that companies deal with them efficiently, remain courteous, treat them as important, and offer speedy recovery when things go wrong. Not serving customers with the highest standards would lead to dissatisfaction, and disgruntled customers are sure to cause losses to a company. Among the reasons that customers may damage company reputation, poor customer service and experience top the list. It would be prudent and essential for a company to fix shoddy service with courtesy before customers vent their anger in ways that could permanently harm the company. Surveys reveal that in the retail environment for example – for every 100 customers who would have had a poor experience, the company would be most likely to lose at least another 35 prospective and existing customers! This ‘multiplier effect’ can cause some serious damage to company reputation, which could be almost impossible for a company to recover.

Further statistics show that company reputation is the first thing under attack. Only about 6% of customers who experienced problems with a company actually go back to complain. However, at least 31% shared their poor experiences with their friends, family, business associates, and others. Of these 31%, about 8% shared their experience with one person, another 8% told two, and about 6% told more than six people – it is evident therefore, that even if customers do not complain to the company, they surely share their poor experiences with many others. This spreading of negativity is enough to damage company reputation – irreparably so, since complaints snowball and become a tidal wave of negativity even among those people who may not have experienced the company. The surveys further reveals that at least 48% of prospective customers would

Complaints snowball among shoppers who are not directly involved. Almost half (48%) of those surveyed reported avoiding a store in the past because of someone else’s negative experiences, and at least 33% were certain that they would not return to do business with the company. Bad news spreads fast. The power of word of mouth has the ability to damage company reputation, as well as raise a company on a pedestal for a long time. This form of customer communication is a lot like narrating a story – the negativity becomes glorified and more potent as it spreads. The worst part and main reason of the damage to company reputation is that people tend to believe negative information more than positive. The shock value makes the experience worth noting and paying attention to.

The reason why people do not complain to companies is usually a result of the incompetence, arrogance, and unwillingness displayed by companies to listen. Customers believe that the company may not do anything about the complaint, and the problem will persist, so why complain. Leaving the company seems like a better option, but venting anger by spreading the poor experiences is also something customers want to do. This is a double whammy – losing customers and the spread of poor experiences about the company causes serious and irreparable damage to the company reputation. The fact is that those who experience a problem with a company are almost certain that they would have the same problem in the future too and hence rather than going through all the trouble again, they bail.

The mistake that companies seem to have made and continue to make is paying attention only at satisfying customers, without making the effort to understand the reasons for customer dissatisfaction. Companies seem to fear customer views, and are hesitant to seek feedback lest they hear things they do not want to, and maybe even draw attention to the negative thoughts and feelings that customers maybe harbouring.

The fact is that there are several reasons due to which customers may damage company reputation, and if companies remain unaware, they could be in serious trouble. One of the top reasons for why customers may damage company reputation is when they perceive limited and unsound practices around ethics. Such practices become apparent when employees behave in unethical ways, making serious judgement errors, which in turn lead to theft, fraud in accounting, illegal behaviour. Even if a single employee were guilty of such behaviour, it is bound to have a significant and profound impact on the business as a whole. Customers are unlikely to see it as a lapse on the part of an individual, but rather as a ‘culture’ associated with the entire company.  These unethical practices can instantly spiral out of control – getting on to social media platforms and causing serious harm to the company reputation in a matter of a few hours. Existing and prospective customers are unlikely to want to remain associated with a company ‘known for fraud’ – this in turn would cause a drastic crash of profits, as even long-standing customers seek new companies.

Today’s customers prefer companies with stringent CSR policies. People are becoming more aware and concerned about environmental issues and giving back to society, and consciously avoid companies that do not actively support corporate social responsibility. Company reputation is sure to take a beating if a company would have failed to implement CSR policies as expected by their customers and investors. With social media and online information so visible and easily accessible, potential customers can easily ‘check on’ the activities of their favoured companies, which should include those that would be helpful to the planet and to society. When customers discover the brands they prefer have no CSR initiatives, contrary to what the company may claim, negativity would spread fast and furiously. This perceived irresponsible behaviour on the part of a company could damage its reputation swiftly and possibly, permanently.

Treating customers poorly is another paramount reason for why customers may damage the reputation of a company. Companies need to work hard consistently to improve the customer experience and ensure that every customer receives the same service and attention. If the employees of a company act rude and misbehave with customers, refuse to provide solutions for the needs of customers, or behave in other uncomplimentary ways, are sure to invite customer ire. Those customers who feel poorly treated, would surely share their experiences with others, and even ‘post’ their issues on social media. These comments and posts would tell readers and prospective customers that the company does not care about customers, and hence would stay away from the company. Not only does this bring down the sales and profits, it also damages company reputation, sometimes beyond repair.

The reputation of a company is possibly one of the biggest and most important assets. When existing customers say complimentary things about a company, and these comments become public, prospective customers would surely want to connect. This increases sales, profits, and company reputation. It is however, essential for a company to remember that the reputation it painstakingly built, can be easily destroyed by even a single bad experience, and could be impossible to rebuild. As a company, remember to assess consistently the risks to reputation and take special care to avoid service blunders and errors in judgement.

 

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Reasons Customers Complain about Brands


April 15, 2017 0 comments Customer Service

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. – Jeff Bezos, CEO, Chairman and Founder, Amazon A brand is more than just a name, symbol, or design that sets you or your product … Continued

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. – Jeff Bezos, CEO, Chairman and Founder, Amazon

A brand is more than just a name, symbol, or design that sets you or your product apart from others. The process of branding is a lot more complex and there are many reasons customers complain about brands. Branding is about making a name, product, or service identifiable and likeable; above all it is about people reposing trust in that name, product or service. A successful branding exercise not only conveys information about the quality and reliability of a product, branding also helps consumers become familiar with a group of unique benefits that the brand offers and helps them identify with what they perceive as the personality of that brand.

To understand why customers complain about brands, the power of a brand needs understanding. A Global New Product Innovation Survey found that nearly 60% respondents from all over the world prefer to buy a new product from a brand they are already familiar with. In fact brand recognition is the most important determinant in helping consumers decide what to buy. Brand recognition scored higher than affordability even, found the survey. The survey found that the value of brand recognition is even higher in developing market economies; where 68% of the respondents surveyed said that they would rather buy products from brands they were familiar with.

It is a fact that a successful branding exercise inspires confidence and signifies quality; helping set the brand apart from others. It helps the buyer predict what they are getting when they buy a product from a known brand. This assurance of quality that the buyer presumes about a brand is probably the most valuable asset of the company. Subsequent product launches of a brand are that much more likely to succeed simply because of this. The confidence with which a buyer makes a purchase is hard won… branding is a time consuming and costly exercise. No company can afford to fritter away this hard earned advantage.

Take a look at some of the most common reasons why customers complain about brands so that you avoid these pitfalls and guard your brand against the erosion of its worth… worth you have so painstakingly built.

According to experts, brand betrayal is the quickest way to the destruction of a brand. When a brand promises something and falls significantly short of delivering on that promise, the buying public feels betrayed. Violating a brand promise or violating values associated with a brand (values that may be important to followers) breaks trust, which can be impossible to repair or rebuild; one of the main reasons customers complain about brands.

For people who are their own brands, moral turpitude or scandal, the public revelation of lies, dishonesty or deliberate misstatement – such as the Grammy winners who were found to be unable to sing or the world famous cyclist who confessed to the abuse of performance enhancing drugs – constitutes such betrayal and the consequent implosion of that brand.

To avoid such a disastrous consequence for your brand, ensure that you know what your brand promise is and take care never to violate it to any significant degree. Stay true to the values of your brand and be careful to exhibit behaviours that are consistent with that brand promise.

Inconsistency of product quality is another reason customers complain about brands

If there is a cornerstone for the entire branding exercise it is about creating trust about the quality and consistency of a product. Consumers know to expect a certain quality or level of service when they buy from a particular brand. They also expect that that quality will remain consistent over time and that subsequent products launched by that brand will also be up to that standard of quality.

For instance, there is a blog that launched with a bang; with very high quality content. The blog owner reaped rich rewards in the form of high readership and the generation of ad revenues. In other words it was possible to monetise the blog because of consistent, high quality content. Over time however, the quality and frequency of later content on the blog failed to live up to the initial promise. So why would readers hang around only to be disappointed?  In a world where a new, more interesting blog goes live every day, where content providers have to contend with the reality of a fickle audience with tiny attention spans, the readership will simply move elsewhere.

Similarly a customer who has been buying, say a soap for several years because they are they like the fragrance and enjoy the way it lathers will not like it is the fragrance alters, the shape of the soap changes or the size becomes smaller. The customer won’t mind; may even enjoy more attractive packaging but other, more significant changes may be viewed as a lowering of quality and consistency. This perception is the reason customers complain about brands!

Not thinking about the customer – another reason customers complain about brands

As any experienced marketer will tell you, a customer buys for their reasons, not the company’s reasons. Manufactures or service providers need to think long and hard about the requirements of a consumer and then work towards delivering those. Never over-promise and never under-deliver! Provide all required information freely and fairly. Be honest about what the customer gets when they spend their money. Buyers hate nasty surprises such as hidden costs: buy an MP3 player but pay extra for the earphones, pay for a service and then find that this did not include several vital features of the service for instance.

The solution is to under-promise and over-deliver. If you don’t promise, you are not required to deliver on that promise. If however you are able to offer the customer something extra along with a service or product – without the customer having any real expectation of it – the customer is delighted and you end up strengthening your brand loyalty.

Inadequate or poor customer support makes customers complain about brands

Nothing is so off-putting for the customer as the feeling that a company is only interested in selling and nothing else. Here is typical scenario: a sales rep calls regularly, is polite and patient and answers all the questions of a potential customer… until the customer actually makes the purchase. After this, company reps are out of reach, they fail to answer phones, are abrupt and unsatisfactory in the replies they give. The sea change in attitude is disappointing to say the least.

When customers complain about brands, not only do you have to be easily approachable, you also have to be responsive to those complaints. Demonstrating concern about problems faced, and the ability to resolve those problems quickly and effectively is vital. Provide several avenues to get in touch: email, phone, social media, and/or website contact form. Respond quickly via knowledgeable personnel who are trained to respond appropriately and politely. Don’t skimp on customer support. Good customer support is vital for generating positive word of mouth and very important for retaining custom. It will pay for itself in the end.

Run down another brand while praising your own

Remember, customers are smart; they can see though the jargon and the marketing gobbledygook. So when you use terms such as ‘industry leading’ or ‘best in class’ or ‘first ever’ the customer may be less than impressed. When you compare your brand favourably with another, the customer may wonder why you felt the need to do so.

Clarifying why and in what way your product or service is superior to that of a competitor may actually be counterproductive; it may sound a bit desperate and may do no good to your brand. Remember you’re providing unnecessary publicity to a competitor and giving them undue importance that actually detracts from the virtues of your own brand. Rather than mention any other brand, concentrate on avoiding circumstances where customers complain about brands at all.

 

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