Thank you very much to Julie who saved my bacon last week when a lost passport issue intervened in my blog writing plans, but like she said, I am back in the hot seat this week and wanted to carry on from last week really and add a few points. Customer service marketing is a very important aspect for all businesses but especially those who are starting out, planning a big campaign, launching a product or wishing to expand.

There are always glitches in business, especially at these crucial times and even the most extensive plan can’t prevent the odd irate customer or two.  A grievance could be caused by many issues with the most common being internal communication or the lack of it, product knowledge or lack of it, the product itself or the process the customer goes through when using your business.  At the end of the day the outcome is the same, an unhappy customer, and that is the last thing any business wants.

When dealing with customer complaints or issues your aim is ultimately to rectify the problem, retain the customer and keep your brand image intact.  Over my many years in customer focused and marketing roles I have learned how to combine service with marketing to benefit both the customer and the business.

Being a copywriter I perhaps think of problem solving in a different way to some of you and like to apply the ‘features and benefits’ mantra to the way I deal with complaints.  Resolving an issue is your opportunity to show your customer that your service is a feature of your  company and how it is going to benefit them.

Now, it’s not often that I complain but when I do I expect something done about it professionally, courteously and quickly.  So with social media providing so many platforms for quick and wide reach information surely this seems like the obvious choice for rapid resolution.  In this instance social media can do as much harm as good.  Whilst it is good to be seen as pro-active by using social media you need to consider how your tone is going to come across and also that it could be a very lengthy, and public, way to deal with customers.  With that in mind I am going to reiterate my message from two weeks ago, old fashioned methods are still the best and here is how.

You might remember that I said when dealing with a customer on the telephone you always had at least three opportunities to sell, it is the same when dealing with a complaint only you are selling (or re-selling) yourself.  For every customer that phones with an issue you can be sure that there are few who don’t and this is where you start to get negative comments, feedback and reviews.  These can be damaging to a business and you want to protect your brand identity but even in a negative situation you have a few ace cards you can play to turn a negative into a positive.

Customers are your biggest asset and it is easier to retain them than to acquire them and probably more cost effective too but you need to listen to them.  Customers are your ticket to ‘free’ market research and in this day and age they have so much choice so can afford to go elsewhere.  You need to ask yourself why they went to you in the first place and what is their loyalty as a customer and lifetime value worth.  What is it really going to cost you to offer something free and how can this ‘something free’ be turned into a feature that can benefit your company?

Was it your product, your service or your aftercare?  All of these can be given free as a form of retention marketing that will help raise  your brand profile and promote positive word of mouth marketing.

For example, if the problem lies with your product then you could offer another one free of charge, but just don’t stop there!  Show your customer that you have taken their complaint seriously and that they are valued by asking for their feedback.  If you involve your customers in the ‘improvement process’ then you are guaranteed to have a product that they want.

Can you add value to your offer of a replacement? This is often easier than you think and when it comes to a customer’s loyalty it is all about their perceived value of your gesture.  Adding value can be as simple as a phone call to see how they got on with their replacement, offering to send instructions or even links to ‘how to’ videos, all these little things on your part have a big impact on how the customer will now deem your service.

I know it sounds like a cliche but if you receive good customer service do you tell people?  I know that I do.

Next week I am going to look at how you can personalise an experience through customer profile and demographic.

The customer is always right Part 2

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