How to Elevate Your Brand Through Customer Service
When it comes to protecting your brand’s reputation, nothing can tarnish it faster than bad customer service.
It amazes me when I speak with professional services firms or real estate development companies how often they think of customer service as a retail issue and not something they need to make a key part of their strategy. Yet response time, employee knowledge and skill, attention to detail, and courtesy are universal customer service goals, regardless of your business. Failure to deliver consistently on any of those can tarnish your brand.
I know customer service matters to the brand reputation, but I wondered if there was a way to prove that. So I talked to Laurie Morrow, vice president of research services at Market Connections (a market research firm that conducts branding and customer experience research). After conducting brand studies as well as customer satisfaction and experience research for professional services firms, Laurie has seen the data to prove customer service impacts the brand.
“If a brand touts they offer great customer service, they better do it. In the age of social media, it doesn’t take long to hurt a brand,” Laurie said.
This is because customer service has a halo effect on everything in the business. If a company gets a bad score on customer service, marks on everything else will be lower too — including trust in the brand.
Bottom line: poor customer service will erode your brand. Maybe not overnight… but more quickly than you can imagine.
What steps are you taking to ensure you’re delivering good customer service? Some key strategies are:
- Creating processes for everything. Have a system for every type of customer interaction. If something new arises, document the way to handle it the next time.
- Train every person in the organization. When your employees have processes for handling customer interactions and have been trained, they are prepared to respond well and provide better service.
- Create a brand-messaging document and social media plan. Everyone needs to be on the same page about the brand promise, how that shows up in customer service and how to manage and respond to any issues that may arise.
Laurie says it is also a good idea to do a brand study and/or customer experience study to get an unbiased perspective on how your brand rates. Laurie has done brand research that revealed issues/weaknesses in customer service, and she has done customer satisfaction research that indicated the brand reputation may be in jeopardy. With that information in hand, the companies could act and correct the situation.
In fact, world-class brands regularly conduct customer experience and satisfaction research and assess their brand reputation. And then — and this is the important part — they implement changes based on what they find.
If you do decide to get feedback on your customer service, be prepared to listen to what customers are saying, even if you don’t agree with them. It’s important to understand that customers’ perceptions are reality, regardless of whether these perceptions are true or not. You may not need to implement every suggestion they make, but you should focus on understanding what experiences and attitudes are behind their perceptions. At the same time, don’t overthink and overanalyze the meaning — that would keep change from happening. Create a sense of urgency around changes.
When your customers see that you are sincere about learning from them, you will find that your brand’s reputation will soar.