Is Customer Service the New Marketing?

In this new era, cleverly dubbed the age of the customer, companies in highly competitive industries are increasingly redefining customer experience by putting the customer at the forefront of the decision-making process. More companies are realizing that there's more to gaining customers' trust than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on clever marketing campaigns. Customers today want a good experience while interacting with a company. Whether it is a pair of jeans or an airline ticket, customers know what they want and are not afraid to demand it of every company with which they engage.

Companies today are being compared to any and every other company with which the customer has ever engaged. This is great news for companies that are customer-centric because they already have the basics right. Given the competitive nature of today's market, companies cannot afford to be lax with the customer experience. An unhappy customer could go on social media to vent, and, if the post goes viral, it could lead to a messy situation for the company unless it is handled strategically and with compassion.

This is where a pro-customer approach gives a company an advantage. A company committed to ensuring a great customer experience keeps the customers' best interest at the core of its business policies. As a result, the product features are more refined and the user experience is smooth, resulting in a positive customer experience.

A happy customer is your best marketer. With a high percentage of potential customers spending significant time online, it is almost routine to read as many reviews as possible before making a purchase. According to reports, a good customer service experience heavily impacts recommendations: 38 percent more, to be precise. Whether on your social media page or a third-party website, encourage customers who have had positive experiences with your company to talk about it candidly. This engagement is the best form of organic marketing you will ever achieve.

Even if some of those reviews are on the negative side, it is important to make sure that you engage with those customers with compassion and empathy. Especially with negative feedback, what works well is to put yourself in the customers' shoes and to handle the issue in a way that you as a customer would have liked. While company policies might conflict with what customers want, it is important to thoughtfully convey this to them. Data reveals that 90 percent of customers say how a company acts during a crisis reveals its trustworthiness. A whopping 78 percent of customers are more likely to do repeat business with a company even after a mistake, if the customer service is excellent. With so much riding on a positive customer experience, it is imperative that companies adopt a more proactive approach to customer service, involve them in product discussions, and recognize the team's contribution to the company's success. Such a proactive approach results in a seamless product experience for customers and higher lead conversions.

The cost of customer acquisition has been steadily rising, especially in competitive markets, while customer lifetime value has been on the decline. This spells trouble for most organizations that use traditional marketing to acquire customers but do little to retain them. It is cheaper to retain existing customers than acquire new ones. And the best bet to retain your customer is to offer a personalized customer service experience that makes them a brand loyalist. When you convert a customer to a brand loyalist, you earn a brand marketer.

Positive feedback and recommendations from loyal customers are significantly more effective than a clever marketing campaign that talks about the company's special offers. Each and every customer service interaction is a marketing opportunity. It is the best form of marketing a business can employ at no extra cost. Simply put, adopting a marketing mindset in your customer service and a customer service mindset in your marketing can help you create great customer experiences. It does not depend on the size of your company or the tightness of your purse strings. All it requires is putting the customer first.

To put the customer at the forefront of product decisions and policies, it is important to understand customer behavior and needs. Data plays an important role here. Companies employ CRM software that gives them regular reports and analysis on how the user is interacting with the product. This data greatly improves the user journey by identifying the stages where the maximum drop happens and allows you to streamline the experience by skipping redundant steps. Great customer experience is more than problem solving. It is about anticipating problems and being proactive about it. Data, along with input from the customer service team, comes in real handy in anticipating such challenges and resolving them.

Ultimately, a good customer experience is more than just how a customer is treated by customer service agents. It is a promise that the company makes to its customers. From fair policies, to seamless user experience and thoughtful after-sales service, every aspect of your business has an important role to play in building brand loyalty. Making customer service part of your marketing strategy is a win-win for you and your customers.

Harjot Singh Saluja is CEO of Reach Mobile.