While the way business is done has drastically changed over the past 10, 15, 20 years, some elements feel more steadfast. Customer service, for example, is not a new concept, nor is its importance in effectively running any business. Because every business has customers – be it consumers, suppliers, or stakeholders – and those customers will inevitably need to engage with you in some way or another.
Like other facets of business, service is not immune to evolution. Our shifting focus on the Experience Economy – a market dictated by customer experience – makes service more important than ever. So how has this vital business role changed over time? Let’s take a step back and explore the new definition of customer service.
What is customer service?
Customer service, at its core, is any guidance or assistance you provide to your customers throughout their buying journey. Whether it’s before, during, or after a purchase, or on an ongoing basis throughout your relationship.
As a direct line of contact between your customer and your brand, good service has the ability to set your entire customer experience apart.
Why is customer service important?
It’s a customer’s market. And when customers have the power, delivering great service experiences can make or break business success. How quickly, easily, and effectively you can answer customer questions or resolve issues not only impacts your relationship with that customer, but your brand reputation as a whole.
With good customer service you can:
Improve customer loyalty
More than pricing, and even the product itself, service is the biggest driver of customer loyalty. When you get it right, customers will keep coming back. And with existing customers more likely to purchase than new ones, customer retention is a huge business driver.
Close more deals
When a new customer is shopping for a product or service, your CX and service may be the thing that tips the scales in your favor versus your competitors. When product offerings are similar, differentiate yourself with five-star service.
Identify internal blind-spots
Service is sought when customers run into broken or fragmented processes with your product, service, or company. It’s a prime opportunity to take in feedback and identify patterns or potential issues that need to be fixed internally.
Increase good will
Customers will spread the word about exceptional service interactions. Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising, and when you deliver, your customers will become brand ambassadors.
How has service changed?
The Experience Economy is all about the customer – knowing them, understanding their needs, and creating experiences that meet those needs better than anyone else on the market. In service, where you’re often engaging directly with customers 1:1, answering questions and resolving issues, the pressure is on to deliver.
In many ways, delivering exceptional service today means being available 24/7, in any and every way a customer may want to engage. It means providing how-to guides and FAQs for those who want to help themselves.
It means offering both chatbots and phone numbers that take them to a real person who can pull up their account from anywhere and see a single, full, wholistic profile with service history and interactions with other departments.
It means empowering field service agents with tech they can bring on-site to troubleshoot, or order parts on-the-spot.
It also means that every employee, whether they work in the customer service department or not, is a potential service agent. When a customer walks into a store, they expect the same level of service and courtesy from the checkout clerk as they would receive from the #1 service employee. Modern service solutions provide access to customer insights in the cloud – making it accessible to anyone who may need it, regardless of where they are.
Advances in conversational AI and machine learning have helped automate and streamline many of the day-to-day, administrative tasks so service agents can more readily and fully assist customers when needed. So the focus is now on making those interactions as helpful and meaningful as possible.
The more things change…
…the more they stay the same.
Yes, the business landscape has changed and customers are calling the shots now more than ever. Yes, technology has changed how we do certain day-to-day tasks. But good service, regardless of product, service or industry, is about listening to your customer and truly hearing them and treating them like a person – not a sale.
Those are the service experiences people remember and that keep people coming back.