How does one enter into the business of making customers happy? For many companies like Amazon and Mariott, exceptional customer service is at the top of the list for company objectives. This idea is based upon a principle of organic growth which comes from the inside—happy customers coming back for repeat business and telling their friends about it, too.
Putting customers first is straightforward enough, but putting that idea into action is a different story. In many cases, this requires a transformative look at how you approach your goals. Here are three considerations to help you decide if this approach is right for your company.
Put Your Money on It
Making customers central means going above and beyond to remedy mistakes and provide exceptional service—and this can’t always be done on the cheap. It takes a significant monetary investment to accommodate customer needs and their interaction with your company positive. Cost-cutting policies concerning shipping, returns, and exchanges should bear careful reconsideration. Think of the money which you invest in your customers as a marketing expense. By putting money back into the customer experience, you gain a strong base of repeat customers who help attract new customers through word of mouth advertising.
With startups especially, there is a tendency to focus on making everything efficient and scalable. While important, this can come at the expense of quality. Ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice quick growth for a deeper, more loyal customer base. If the focus is scaling, individualized customer interactions are usually the first thing to go. Startups that take more time to understand their customer and make sure their product is right eventually surpass those that grow too big before their time.
Empower Employees to Put Service First
No matter how much money you funnel into marketing, the face and fate of your company image ultimately rests with the employees who interact directly with customers. Outsourced customer support, while a common way to cut costs, underestimates the impact of these one-to-one interactions. The most successful companies embrace the potential of all employees, and include them in company objectives on a minute level.
It’s crucial that each employee understands how their work contributes to achieving those objectives. If the goal is prioritizing the customer experience, employees also need the go-ahead to put this into practice without potential backlash from higher-ups. Newsworthy customer service happens when employees feel confident reacting to customer experiences and independently making timely responses. In this way, customer service employees become less technicians, and more interpersonal artisans with the authority to enact central tenets of company philosophy.
Of course, putting the best face on your company requires a high degree of employee satisfaction. If employees don’t feel valued and invested in the company, they won’t be willing to go to bat for the company. Customers are quick to pick up on even subtle clues about the company. To augment employee satisfaction, think beyond one-off pizza parties. Make sure that the lines of communication with management are open, and encourage employees to voice problems and suggestions.
Think Like a Customer
When a company makes decisions about something like packaging and shipping, it is often a negotiation between expenses and considerations of the company’s image: How does what we offer stack up again x and y competitor?. Instead of thinking about the company on a large scale, think for a moment about the physical realities of your customer. What your product looks like sitting on someone’s doorstep. What it feels like to open the package. The first thing a customer sees once they rip open the box. We’re used to doing this for marketing, but putting customers first means taking their experiences into account at every stage.
Apple is a prime example of this. Everything, from the recognizable white packaging to the presentations of new products, suggests that being an Apple customer is about more than the simple purchase. Apple turned being a customer into an interactive experience with tangible effects on organic marketing. With each new product comes thousands tweeting and posting about their new gadget.
Customer service is no longer a sidebar of a thriving company; it is a philosophy which impacts every employee and company decision. Achieving a whole scale customer orientation requires substantial effort, yet this move is becoming increasingly important. Customers expect more of their companies and reward those who accommodate them.