THE BLOG
09/10/2015 12:35 pm ET Updated Sep 10, 2016

How Good Customer Service Can Be Your Most Powerful Marketing Tool

When we talk about marketing, we often talk about defining your ideal customer, creating great content, and making sure that the product you're selling delivers on your promises. But we don't talk enough about customer service and how exemplary customer service is an important element of successful marketing.

What Does Good Customer Service Look Like?
Customer service trainings are full of truisms about what good customer service looks like, with statements like "the customer is always right," and "customer service is like a good marriage."

Unfortunately, these sorts of sayings are handy to pass along, but not very helpful in a business setting. Providing great customer service is an art, and that's part of what makes it such an impressive marketing tool.

How do you know if your representatives are providing the kind of customer service you'd want to receive yourself?

  • Measure. Invite your customers to take a survey about their experience.
  • Observe. Reward them for their quality service, and coach them in the areas in which they can improve.
  • Listen. There's a difference between "How can I help you today?" and "What seems to be the problem?" There's also a difference between "What else can I assist you with today?" And "Is there anything else I can assist you with today?" No one is asking for forced glee here, but make sure that your representatives are choosing great words and positive language.

How Does Good Customer Service Support Your Brand?
Why does customer service matter so much? Surely, your customers just want to make their purchase, and then either go away, or come back again, right?

Wrong. Even though customers may make a purchase without interacting with a representative, around 25% of customers leave reviews, and around 70% look at reviews before deciding to make a purchase, according to Forrester Research Inc. If your reviews are full of people protesting bad service, late orders, and broken products, and there are no responses from the company, you're going to lose sales.
Invest in great customer service in order to keep your customers satisfied and keep sales coming in.

  • Look for review channels. Customers may be leaving reviews in a variety of places. Marketplaces, social media, and Yelp are just a few. Look for the places your customers are gathering, and be approachable in these areas.
  • Address negative reviews politely. Apologize for customer's experiences, and try to make it right if possible. You can't fix every bad experience, but at the absolute least, you can learn from them.
  • Don't make your reps stick to scripts. Give them the basic outlines of what they can do, but trust them to make the right decisions. Customers know when they're being read a script, and they will react badly. If you can't trust your reps, you need new reps, or the reps you have need more incentive.

How Will Investing in Great Customer Service Drive Sales?
The old adage is that a customer tells between one and three people about a good experience, and between nine and fifteen about a negative one. A customer service manager may start to look at customer service as a reactive skill instead of a proactive one. You're not just trying to ensure that customers have a great experience, you're trying to make sure they don't have a negative one.

If you want to see how great customer experiences can drive a brand into success, take a look at the story Margarita Hakobyan tells about starting her business, MoversCorp. Hakobyan built her company on her own frustrations with the process of moving, and created a website marketplace where people who were moving could accept bids from moving companies, ensuring that they were getting good, fair rates.

When she got her very first booking, Hakobyan didn't just send the customer an email. She called the customer directly, and told the customer that they had won a $50 gift card when they completed their booking. The customer was delighted, and Hakobyan found that her site started to receive more hits as the customer told her friends about the gold star treatment that they had received.

You might not want to give every customer a $50 gift card, but here are some simple customer service tricks to improve brand perception:

  • Thank early adopters for their purchases by offering them discounts for referring friends or sending gifts to others.
  • Set clear expectations. Don't bury things in fine print; be clear and up front with your customers. If something's going wrong--late shipments, faulty products, or other issues that crop up--tell them the truth. Make it right before they call and complain.
  • Be approachable. If your business is on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media, be prepared to have customers approach you in those venues with questions. Answer them appropriately and promptly.
  • Even if you can't fix the problem right away, say something. In the Internet age, 24 hours is too long. As soon as you know there's an issue, acknowledge it, even if there's not a solution yet. Telling your customers that you're aware, and working on it, will gain you a lot of ground.

When you are creating a small, niche business, your loyal customers will be your greatest asset. Reward them by treating them as well as they deserve, and make them the cornerstone of your marketing plan. When you turn customers into brand ambassadors, you'll strengthen your brand and set your company up for future success.