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Joerg Schmikale | 07 November 2016

Are you putting your customers first?

Are you putting your customers first?

Customers are at the heart of your business – that’s an old adage you know. What you may not know, though, is that increasingly customer relations determine a company’s economic value. As brands, products names, and trademarks are becoming less and less valuable, companies’ worth is increasingly tied to the number and quality of their existing customers, and their loyalty to the brand. Big brands like Whole Foods and spice company McCormick have even started using their social media stats (number of followers, levels of customer engagement) over traditional metrics like sales and turnover as a measure of the value of their brands.

Are you delighting your customers?

So, how can you keep your customers close, and increase your brand value? According to the experts, to get your customers’ loyalty, you shouldn’t focus on lowering your prices, or increasing your product lines. Instead, offer exceptional service. Consulting firm Walker predicts that by the year 2020, customer experience will be the number one brand differentiator – ahead of price and product. The trend is already quite evident: Bain & Company report that customers are four times more likely to go to a competitor if the problem service-related than price- or product-related. So how can you step to up your customer service, retain more clients and make your brand more valuable? Here are five tips from us:

Spread the word in your company

Have you made customer service your priority across your whole company? Or do you erroneously believe that only the sales staff should worry about giving great service? Customer service must become an integral part of every aspect of your business – not just the marketing department or sales staff. Putting customers first across the company means many different things: for example, making information easy to find and clear to understand in your website and stores; being honest all the way (meaning, no hidden delivery costs on your website, no over-complex return policies, no surprise fees); keeping the communication channels open all the time, at all levels.

Be available

Social media analysis firm Socialbakers reports that, in average, companies respond to only around 30% of the questions they receive on Twitter. At the same time, 7 out of 10 customers expect a response from brands they reach out to on Twitter. Of those users, 53% want that response within an hour. What can we read from these stats? Companies in average disappoint and upset at least half of the people who reach out to them on social media. This is quite a sizeable chunk of your customer base, especially if you consider that when you do not respond to inquiries or complaints on social media, all your customers see it – not just those who inquired. Social media can be an excellent means to stay in touch with your audience: communication is immediate, and you can offer a more personalized, one-to-one brand experience. Plus it pays off to interact with fans: a recent Rosetta Consulting study shows that people are seven times more likely to respond to promotional offers after a brand interacts with them in a meaningful way. Most of all, though, rapid, personalized communication on social media has become a service benchmark: you cannot afford to leave your customers waiting – or worse, feeling ignored.

All feedback is good feedback

When your customers send you suggestions, do you:
  1. take time to consider them (after all, these are the people who buy your products and use your services; they know what they are talking about)
  2. immediately discard them (after all they buy your stuff, but what do they know about running a business?)?
If you answered "b" – boy, your company is in trouble. Smart brands embrace customer feedback, both positive and negative, and use it to improve their services and products. Implementing customer suggestions has two great benefits:
  • You can improve your services and product lines
  • You can transform your detractors into your biggest fans.

Switzerland-based supermarket Coop discovered that their most loyal fans were not, as they expected, the customers who had never had an issue with Coop’s services. Remarkably, the supermarket’s most staunch supporters were those shoppers who had made a complaint, and had their problems resolved. Unhappy customers can be a great driving force for your company: do not discount their opinions.

Do some social listening

We have discussed how you can use social media sites to interact with your customers and promote your brand. Social networks are also great places to get the customers’ pulse. Modern consumers increasingly share their purchases on social media, making these networks valuable windows into people’s tastes and preferences. Look at your brand mentions and interactions, and analyze the information: What time of day are your customers most active on social media? How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative? How many comments relate of a poor customer experience in person or online? What do your fans, and shoppers similar to them, like to talk about and share? Amplify your social media presence to learn what consumers really want – and be the first to bring it to them.

Bring valuable content to the table

In order to create real engagement on social media, you need to offer valuable content to your customers. Take a good, hard look at your social media accounts, and ask yourself: what is in it for my customers? Are you giving them something valuable, like useful content, special incentives, exclusive information, or polls to influence your decisions? Or are you just sharing pictures, products and ads promoting your brand? If you are using your social media sites just as a megaphone for your products and marketing activities, you need to change strategy – now.   Are you running a customer-centric business? If you are not, the time has come to change direction and bring extra value to your brand.   [hubspot id="10"]
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