5 Tips for Creating Brand Advocates and Influencers Through Omnichannel Customer Service

Customers today actively engage with brands in a variety of ways. In our newly minted customer-centric world, this development has had a direct effect on the bottom line. Forrester's latest Customer Experience Index report shows that companies that outperform competitors in customer experience are more likely to turn customers into repeat customers, and repeat customers into loyal and engaged brand ambassadors. Simply stated, "customer service is king" is no longer just a marketing tagline, but a mantra that governs how organizations will continue to survive—something especially important to keep in mind as the holiday season approaches. Below are five key tips to make sure your organization is up to the task.

1. Ensure You're Utilizing a Holistic Approach

Part of a brand promise is being able to deliver the consistent experience a customer is accustomed to year-round, even during an event like Black Friday. This is a challenge that requires preparation to meet, especially when you consider that recent research shows 66 percent of customers are willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service. Take the time to map your customer's journey. After all, you can't know where your customers are going if you don't know how they arrived. Understanding your customers' perspectives is vital for organizations working toward long-lasting relationships and creating brand advocates. Journey mapping can help capture the interactions between your customers and brand across time, channels, and touch points to help meet those goals.

2. Make Sure Your Contact Center Is Up to the Challenge

Specifically in retail, the perennial concern boils down to being able to deal with scale. Customer service reps must use technology capable of handling the volume of inquiries they receive—not just through the contact center, but via chat, email, text, Web, and social—to enable threaded conversations to unfold across channels. If agents have complete context, they can carry the customer conversation even during the busiest times.

3. Personalize Your Web Presence

Without question, retailers must deliver a customized digital experience—it's simply what modern consumers expect. Fortunately, today, retailers have the ability to start the personalization process before the first contact is even made by immediately determining the customer method of referral (i.e. direct, via search, via deal Web sites, etc.) and then, based upon the lead source, optimizing the experience by device or browser and emphasizing the products customers are most likely to buy based upon their browsing behavior.

4. Guarantee Your Ability to Respond to Social Service Requests

Some retailers have carved out teams dedicated strictly to social support, while others have combined this function with the traditional call center. No matter what structure is employed, retailers must ensure social support staff is properly trained. Why? Because channels such as Twitter are open to the public, which means customer service misfires are on display for the entire world to see. To mitigate such risk, the right set of tools is required to capture each social post and guarantee responses are timely, effective, and "on-brand."

Overall, it's vital that through education and guidance, staff is trained to use such technology appropriately. They must be able to effectively differentiate between raw data and customer insight, and be able to gauge customer sentiment before responding—often in the blink of an eye. The result of such planning is undeniable: A recent American Express Customer Service study shows that almost 50 percent of customers will praise a company for a great service experience via social media.

5. Advance In-store Capabilities

An emerging trend with modern retailers is equipping in-store staff with technology such as iPads, etc., so they are able to perform inventory searches in real time and access on-file customer information to make educated purchasing recommendations. Retailers must also train staff so they are aware of how to appropriately deal with both showrooming and customers who actively access reviews via mobile devices while in store. It's a matter of properly integrating the physical and digital experience in a manner that benefits both the customer and the company.

In a highly commoditized market, the customer experience is one of the few ways retailers can differentiate themselves from the competition. Done right, creating memorable, personalized, and shareable experiences can create sustainable growth. Done wrong? Well, just visit YouTube and search "customer service nightmare" and see for yourself.