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Customer Service, Not Price, Offers Key Differentiation

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Customer Service, Not Price, Offers Key Differentiation

May 11, 2015
By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

When questing after differentiation, price can only take a business so far—and competing on dollars can quickly turn into a race to zero. Instead, customer service should be the calling card, whenever possible.

That’s the word from analyst Gerry Moran of MarketingThink, who points out that 80 percent of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure superior customer experience, while 44 percent of consumers consider customer loyalty to be a relic of the past.

It’s no wonder that 68 percent of businesses plan to increase their spending on customer experience, particularly considering that Google (News - Alert) stats show that shoppers use an average of 10.4 sources of information to make a purchase decision; and, referred customers deliver 16 percent higher lifetime value.

“Customer experience is your customer’s perceptions of his or her relationship with your brand,” he explained. “These perceptions result from the collection of their interactions with your brand’s touch points during the customer lifecycle. The rules change daily. Customer expectations of experience are set and improved by the best in class in an industry – Google, IKEA, Subway and many others. So, with every new improvement or introduction of a new way of doing things, your customer raises the bar and increases your pressure to deliver.”

That said, for companies looking to delight their customers with a standout experience, there are definite best practices to follow.

For one, keep the experience simple and easy. The easier it is for customers to engage, the more the brand and content offered will be made a part of their day. And for customer service support, convenience is a sought-after commodity in today’s digital, always-on age. Those that can deliver it can win customers’ hearts.

To that end, Moran points out that what a company is selling should be positioned from a concierge standpoint—how can your products or services help the end user do their job better or live their life better.

“They want to be educated on how your stuff can help them – then they will buy,” said Moran. “The Home Depot builds a great customer experience by giving away their expertise during their Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Herself and Kids Workshops And, Stitch-Fix, the woman’s subscription clothes service, presents possibilities by providing custom combinations printed on in-box instructions.”

Savvy brands will also integrate education and relevant content into the self-service experience to further this goal. A majority (82 percent) of U.S. digital buyers prefer to research products from multichannel retailers on the Internet, according to a study from UPS, comScore (News - Alert) and the e-tailing group.

Hand-in-hand with this last point is a focus on time-to-resolution—and across multiple channels. “Your customers expect resolution – from an under 60-minute response on Twitter (News - Alert) to reading a blog post to help self-resolve an issue,” said Moran. “Respond to social media outreach and make it easy for customers to easily find content at 2 a.m. to resolve their issue, and you will quickly become a part of their ‘family.’”

Being more social is a must as well. Brands who strategically integrate a video, pictures and hashtag strategy into the customer experience score the most points – and social referrals. And, social plays into trust. A full 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, reports Bright Local. Brands should also consider using social, mobile, analytics and cloud technology to engage with consumers over services like Yelp (News - Alert), Trip Advisor and Amazon Reviews, and their social media networks. This also offers a path to differentiation, whether it’s a Tweet chat with customers to personalized, always-on cross-channel access to your brand on Instagram and Snapchat

And finally, boosting security and privacy, and embracing mobile are simply requirements.

“Each customer journey includes touch points – dots you need to connect to draw a holistic experience,” Moran said. “You need to increase the value of your relationship currency with at every section of the sales funnel – using social media, content marketing and traditional interactions to connect these dots. The question is, do you have the resources and know-how to connect the dots to draw a winning solution or a scary picture?”

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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