As customer service speakers, experts and executives know, providing quality customer service has become more than just a given, or common courtesy. It’s evolved to become a core necessity in the age of abundance and commoditization, where dozens of competitors are literally just click or a call away. Unsurprisingly, in today’s hyper-paced world of blogs, social networks, online retailers, on-demand content sharing services, and mass connectivity, where information travels at the speed of tweet, customer service may even seem to have taken on an entirely new meaning – one vital to any organization’s continued success and survival.
Similarly, because we now live in a business world fundamentally rooted in trust—or relationship economy as our team of customer service speakers refers to it—the very definition of the world “customer” itself has changed to encompass not just those who buy from us, but also those who interact with our organization or brand (and even personal brand) on every level, including:
- Internet and Social Media Users
- Strategic Partners
- Industry Watchers
Even communicating a mission statement to the general public as an exchange of information and energy with potential customers, all of whom you’re asking to buy into your vision and ideas. Activities such as customer service serve as a fundamental driver of trust, loyalty and positive relationships. Noting this, in addition to helping buyers solve problems, customer service’s role now serves as a bridge to:
- Build or reinforce reputation
- Enhance shopper satisfaction
- Boost engagement
- Drive awareness
- Encourage positive word-of-mouth referrals
- Increase leads and sales
- Influence decision-making
- Promote support and sharing
Today, companies need to learn how to adapt to provide effective customer service in the age of the echo chamber. Thanks to the Internet, a single opinion has the power to travel further, faster, and louder than it ever has before. And like echoes, our exchanges—online or otherwise—tend to reverberate. Before you visit an app store or online retailer, you’re likely to have consulted friends, family and other influencers’ opinions; upon visiting, you’re likely to notice reviews and comments; and after, you’re likely to share your own experiences and reactions. With the marketing funnel less a funnel than circular journey, increasingly, customers’ opinions have begun to carry more weight than advertising, marketing or public relations—and often make this influence felt prior to purchase, or at the very point of doing so, right as audiences are on the cusp of a crucial buying decision.
Customers have more of a voice than ever before… and growingly, more voices than simply those we traditionally consider clients are joining the chorus. It’s important that we allow their opinions to be heard, and that we acknowledge their concerns. Relationships, conversations, and dialogues are all two-way streets—it’s crucial that companies listen to what customers have to say, even if those customers aren’t the type of individuals (i.e. buyers) they’d traditionally identify as such. Moreover, every opportunity we have to interact with a customer is yet another chance to amaze them and create goodwill. The goal, as we customer service speakers say, is to promote conversations, not critics.
Today, it’s important to consider that the business of relationships is as much about engagement and empathy as it is attracting attention or providing a satisfactory service. What we call “customer service” is increasingly changing in the relationship economy: A world in which trust is the fundamental commodity, and the wheels of business are driven by the relationships that you nurture and build.