How great customer service can be an effective marketing tool

Editor’s note: This post comes from our Constant Contact UK team. You can view all the posts from our UK team here. Or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Be honest. Is your small business really wowing your customers and clients? Every professional knows that customer service is important. So why is it that the small businesses getting it right are in the minority?

Forgive us for stating the obvious, but customer service is kind of a big deal. You know it. Your competitors know it. Almost every small business knows it. The thing is, knowing that customer service is important only takes you so far. There comes a point when good intentions must turn into action; when knowing is replaced by doing.

Lots of small businesses fall short, without even realising it. The need to provide great customer service is so obvious that you can fall into the trap of taking it for granted. Yet without explicit focus on how — specifically — you are going to wow your customers, customer service falls through the cracks. The challenge is keeping customer service front and centre. Day in, day out.

Reputation is everything

People talk. Not only does great service turn one-off customers into repeat purchasers, it improves the chances of your customers recommending your business to friends, family and colleagues. Or to put it another way, provide dynamite service and your customers do your marketing for you. How do you get people talking? Well in the truest sense of the word, your customer service should be remarkable.

It works the other way too. Remarkably bad customer service will also get people talking — about how terrible you are. It might be a stretch to say that your public reputation can make or break your small business. But it’s not too far wide of the mark — especially in the age of online reviews and social media slurs.

You don’t need us to tell you how to provide great customer service. But here are some tips for making sure your offline customer service is reflected in the digital world.

Mirror your offline communication style

Your communication style can be a real differentiator. So it pays to keep things consistent. The way you speak to customers and clients online should be broadly similar to the way you speak to them on the telephone.

Don’t leave customers in limbo

Ten years ago some customers might have expected to wait a few days for you to reply to their email. That’s not the case anymore. 24 hours is about the limit, but the sooner you can reply the better. You should strongly consider designing at automated email that is triggered whenever someone emails your contact@ email address, informing them that their email has been received and specifying when they can expect a reply.

As for social media interactions, aim to respond as soon as possible to both good and bad comments.

You need to monitor your online reputation

88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In short: it matters what people are saying about you online. Websites such as TripAdvisor, Checkatrade and Trustpilot are influential when consumers are choosing where to spend their cash. Responding to customer reviews — both good and bad — shows you take customer welfare seriously and allows you to offer the mitigating circumstances against any unduly snarky reviews.

Of course, working at the sharp end of a small business, you don’t have time to sit and refresh the various review websites in the hope of catching every message that’s written about your business. That’s where services like Talkwalker come in, scanning the www and sending you an alert every time you are mentioned.

Use social proof

If you have a great reputation, make sure your customers know about it. As we have noted, people are influenced by people. If you can show your network how much your existing customers trust you, you increase the chances of nudging your prospects down the sales funnel. One way of adding social proof to your online persona is by including testimonials on your website. You could also share things like your Trustpilot score or TripAdvisor rating in your emails.

Over to you!

With customer service, it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. Think about the finer points of your customer’s relationship with your business. You can’t go far wrong if you aim to be genuinely helpful at every customer touchpoint. And when you get it right, your customers are more likely to recommend your business. Great customer service could become your most potent marketing tool.

To review:

  • Be remarkable: great customer service gets people talking
  • Be consistent: use the same communication style across your offline and online channels
  • Be timely: respond to emails and social media interactions as soon as is practical
  • Be alert: use services like Talkwalker to monitor what’s being said about your business online
  • Be social: if you have a great customer reputation, make sure you share it with your prospects

How does your business use customer service to stand out from the competition and build relationships? Leave us a comment with your advice!

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