With competition fiercer than ever in our ever-volatile market, it is imperative to not only run a successful business, but to offer a service head and shoulders above the rest. After all, customers are going to want the absolute best.
That is where the importance of building a customer-friendly brand comes in – if a customer can connect and relate with a company, their emotional engagement is sure to return itself in their loyalty. Therefore, how do you keep your customers on side when dealing with your service?
Photo courtesy of SalFalko on Flickr
The new rules of putting the customer first
In 2012, Metro Bank began to expand and said that its fantastic success during a period of recession was due to their dedication to provide good customer service.
Anthony Thomson, the co-founder and chair of Metro Bank said that their unique business model allows them to build their company around their customers’ needs, which differentiates from the more traditional method of banking. For example, the bank sets their staff with customer satisfaction goals rather than sales targets, and opens for 12 hours each day to suit each and every customer.
Profit should not be the reason to go into business, says Thomson. Although it is a pleasant by-product of success, the reason that you want to succeed should be to fulfil the purpose of your business and provide exceptional service to your customers.
This service based mantra has clearly served the company well, as they continue to grow.
However whilst a company can aim for perfection every time, things can go wrong. Often the way that the situation is handled is a testament to the company and how they value their customers, so if things don’t quite go to plan, how do you maintain great customer service?
Facebook throws fuel on the fire
What happens when you’ve been annoyed beyond the realms of acceptable? Often we broadcast it, using social media as a method to vent our frustrations. Imagine this applied to business; the instantaneous nature of networking online means that a molehill can explode into a mountain in just moments.
For example, take the recent case of Virgin Media applying a late payment fee of £10 due to the direct debt being refused on the grounds of the payer having just died. Jim Boyden, the son-in-law of the deceased, posted a picture of the bill on Facebook on the evening of 22nd April, and by 24th April it had been shared by more than 53,000 users.
Virgin Media have since apologised to the family of the customer, but social media experts have said that this example shows how important a role social media plays now in customer service. Dr Lisa Harris, head of the digital marketing master’s programme at the University of Southampton spoke to the BBC on the matter and was said:
“Corporations are very good at promoting themselves; they recognise that everyone needs a Twitter and a Facebook account and they are aware the networks exist but they don’t have the strategies in place to deal with the issues that can arise from those networks”
The head of BT customer services Warren Buckley says that 40% of their complaints now come from social network Twitter, further stressing the importance placed on social media in the service industry.
Therefore to avoid becoming embroiled in similar situations, it is important to maintain an active presence via social media, and reply to those who take the time to get in touch with you. Take for example O2, who regularly respond to individual queries via their Twitter feed to resolve issues quickly.
By learning from the faux pas of some companies and implementing the customer-friendly strategy of others, you too can build a brand that attracts business and begs forgiveness when necessary.
Rosie Percy writes for the business sector and specialises in customer facing areas such as social media, lead generation and customer satisfaction. For more information on lead generation visit http://www.marketmakers.co.uk/lead-generation/. Rosie has previously written for the Guardian as well as lifestyle blogs, and now lives and works in Brighton.