Snappy logos, award-winning campaigns and catchy strap lines…how much do these really matter when your customer is left deflated by contact with your call centre staff or lack of response through one of your social media channels?
Or put it this way: What is your customer most likely to remember (and talk to others about)? The double page spread you took out in Vanity Fair or the fact that he was waiting 45 minutes to talk to one of your customer service reps? Then only to be switched through to an 18 year- old with a challenging accent?
Brand values can be subliminally transmitted in the tone of voice, autonomy and attitude of your customer service providers. In Spain at least, a call put through to the American Express call centre confirms this, with well-informed, unhurried, educated operators that echo the company’s values of internationalism and quality service. Normally a cause for dread and remorse, a recent problem with a national telecom was solved entirely, and efficiently via on-line chat. And kudos to companies like Amazon (Kindle), who call the customer back rather than forcing them to spend a small fortune on a 902 number. These are heartening examples indeed.
After years of negative customer perception, a recent survey in the UK showed that it’s financial service brands that are heading up the ranks in terms of customer experience. Topping the list of 100 is First Direct. “While we are comparable on price to others, it’s not all about value for money, it’s about service,” states First Direct’s customer service director Karen Walker. The report also showed that budget retailing need not equate with a cut in customer service, with discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl gaining leads over mid-range counterparts.
Of course Social Media adds a whole new hemisphere and set of challenges to customer experience. A tweet from a less than satisfied client can have global impact on your brand– within seconds. An unanswered query on a Facebook page just makes the brand look sloppy and uncaring. Companies that have well-trained, self-ruling customer service reps can act upon these swiftly -- whilst those that don’t have to wait for the boss to get in the morning, by when the damage has already been done.
Why do so many companies fail to see that an engaged customer service staff is vital to engaging customers? According to this article from Forbes, customer service teams that ‘live the brand’ accelerate growth rates and boost profits. Word of mouth has long been trusted over advertising; this is especially true for the modern consumer whose scepticism is fine-tuned. Therefore customer service is the essence of your brand values. Companies that fail to recognise this do so at their own risk.