Just a few decades ago, Customer Service was a counter in the department store. It's where you went to exchange or return merchandise, to fill out an employment application or to lodge a complaint.

And for those of you who don't remember spending much time in brick-and-mortar stores, Customer Service is the department you call on the phone when you have trouble understanding your invoice, or when you need a return authorization number for that sweater that didn't fit.

And for even more of you, Customer Service is the tab you click on your favourite retailer's website, used to open a chat box with a customer representative who can answer your questions about how to assemble that hover board or how to remove a firewall from your laptop.

And for the rest of you, Customer Service is less of a place, less of a department…and more of a concept.

It's a state of mind.

It's a business commitment.

It's something that's important to your customers, and therefore important to your brand.

But what does Customer Service really look like in the 21st Century? How can you deliver the best Customer Service in your industry…and integrate that into your brand's reputation and identity?

You can employ the strategies I have found most effective—and which I'm about to share with you.

The Modern Face of Customer Service

Customer Service is no longer just about 'putting out fires.' More than ever, it's about fire prevention. It's about keeping customers so happy that even if something does go wrong, they barely notice.

Think about your ideal customer for a moment. He or she has a problem you can solve…better than anyone. You share common values, and therefore have similar ideas about what matters most.

Delivering stellar Customer Service starts with choosing the types of customers who will appreciate what you do and who will be happy to pay you for it.

After you accomplish that, I suggest employing these principles every day:

  • Deliver What Your Customer Wants. Well, that just sounds a little too simple, doesn't it? Of course, you need to deliver what your customers want…however, lots of brand-builders are too blinded by what they wish to deliver, and that's causing them to lose sight of keeping their customers interested. You think you know what your customers want; how sure are you that it isn't really just what you prefer to give them? Really listen. Have an open mind. Exercise empathy. Be flexible. Your brand's future depends upon it.
  • Solve Your Customer's Entire Problem. So, you've identified your ideal customer's problem, and you've set out to solve that problem in a unique way that works. It's important that you look at the results (and your customers' level of satisfaction) to determine if you're completing the job, every time. Is your solving of the initial problem causing subsequent problems? Or is your solution leaving lose ends that haven't been attended to? Your solution can be groundbreaking and joy-inducing; however, if the aftermath is painful, you're going to find yourself looking straight into the eyes of a customer-service nightmare. And remember to follow your customers for some time after their problem is solved. Are the positive effects long-lasting? Or do they change their mind about their level of satisfaction after time has passed?
  • Let Them Know You 'Get Them.' There's no better feeling than finding someone you can be vulnerable with; whom you can look in the eye and say 'me too.' That's the power of empathy, and when you show that to your customers who are suffering with a problem (one you probably suffered with in the past), you lay the groundwork for stellar Customer Service. As you move through the building of those relationships, speak to your customers as if they were your younger self—the person who was once crushed beneath the weight of the same problem they're experiencing right now.
  • brand-loveAcknowledge and Reward Customer Loyalty. Whether it's repeat business, or a referral or testimonial, always recognise your loyal customers' efforts and make them want to give you more of the same. One loyal customer is cost-effective to retain (and more profitable for you), whilst new customers can be expensive to acquire; so take care of the people who love your brand.
  • Show Appreciation for Negative Feedback, Too. When a customer expresses dissatisfaction, particularly on a public stage, never defend your brand's actions, make excuses or ignore the comment. Instead, express gratitude for their feedback and get right to finding out exactly what went wrong and tell them how you're going to rectify the situation.
  • Treat Them Well, Even Before They're Customers. This piece of advice follows the same lines as the giving of valuable advice, for free, to people who aren't yet part of your brand. This sets the tone, and starts to establish perceptions, for your brand. People will think, Wow, if this is how they treat people who aren't even paying them, imagine how well they treat their customers!
  • Use Your Customers' Ideas to Fuel Brand Innovation. I want you to imagine that you're a customer of your brand for just a moment. You have an idea for how one of the products could be improved, and so, you send the owner a message. Of course, you know he's busy and probably won't respond…so how flattered would you be if he not only replied to your message, but promised to look into your fantastic idea? And then, how cool would it be if you found your suggestion implemented into the next-generation product? This is the kind of customer engagement that breeds viral brand loyalty. If you listen to your customers in this way, and let their suggestions fuel your brand innovation, can you imagine how much they're going to talk about your brand to their friends? And how much more customer-friendly your products and services will be?

Does any of this change your view of Customer Service? Can you see that it's now more about being proactive than reactive? When we first got started here, I mentioned that you should have a number of values in common with your ideal customer. Do you know what those values are? Or have you never really thought about this facet of your brand?

Corporate values are one of the cornerstones of brand-building and if you're branding without them, you're probably attracting all the wrong customers. Click here for my Brand Values Questionnaire, to help you name your values and get started putting them out there to attract more of your ideal customers. Don't hesitate. It's FREE!

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