The Rise of the Customer Service Agent

Customer service can be companies' most important branding initiative because customer service agents are often the first to interface with consumers. That experience, good or bad, can seal the deal when it comes to the consumer continuing to buy your products or services.

The adage is that a good customer service experience will lead to one or two positive remarks; a bad customer service experience will lead to several potentially far-reaching negatives.

Developing the ultimate customer experience should be a major focus of any corporate marketing strategy, and here's why:

You finally have a chance to deliver on your brand values. Think about your customer service department as the connection between your company and the consumer. It's not about your next big ad campaign or your last highly produced TV spot. Those only set the scene for what's to come: your brand story on a personal level.

It's the small interactions your customers have with your social media or customer service teams on a daily basis that drive a relatable, authentic brand story. If your customer service agents are fully immersed in your brand values, every interaction is an opportunity to live out those values with your customers. Remember, your customers are calling because they are either facing a problem, have a question, or need help. The way your agents handle those needs will either reinforce why your customers chose your company in the first place or give them serious pause.

Technology has given everyone a megaphone. Social media and review websites have been a game-changer for companies, and the benefits and drawbacks are equally impactful.

It's easier than ever for customers to sing your company's praises. It's just as easy for negative situations to become amplified. Today, everyone is an influencer. This means customer service agents have to think on their feet, remain savvy, and field questions knowing that their conversations are never truly one-on-one. With technology, sharing a positive or negative experience with thousands is only a few clicks away. These interactions can build trust and confidence or tank your company.

After all, your company is (or should be) about your customers. With 90 percent of people looking at consumer reviews before making purchase decisions, the customer service experience might be just as important—if not more important—than your next product launch.

So, what does all of this mean for the future of customer service?

Customer service agents have to be highly tactical in branding, incredibly empathetic to the consumer, and comfortable wearing many hats. They're one-part listener, one-part mediator, and one-part digital master, all with a dash of PR thrown into the mix. The demand for top-quality customer service agents is definitely on the rise, and the need for competent team members who create positive, interactive experiences will only continue to grow.

Maria Christensen is director of quality assurance at Crystal Geyser Water Company.