I recently lunched with some long-time friends and sales and marketing professionals. The topic of discussion turned to the importance of Customer Service in the face of the plethora of CRM and Marketing Automation software available today. The conversation raised more questions than it answered.
We agreed on the following definitions for the purpose of the discussion:
Customer Service – The interaction with a customer or prospect that traditionally revolves around resolving a problem and producing a positive outcome. This could be in person or via phone or email.
CRM – It’s not software but a strategic process designed to cultivate and enhance the relationship with customers. The goal is to maximize retention rates and capitalize on the life-time value of the customer.
Something else we were able to agree upon was that companies seem to be racing to dramatically reduce their costs of engaging customers. Those costs are typically associated with people on payroll, and management too often views automated systems as a means of delivering customer engagement AND customer service at reduced cost. We also agreed that Customer Service is all about NOW and all other engagements are about future opportunities.
We’ve all experienced agonizingly long waits in Customer Service phone ques that assure us our “call is important” only to get transferred to a voicemail box that is full and not taking messages. Programs like Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and Exact Target can help deliver content that may be of value to customers they already know. What about new customer and prospects? Web sites without phone numbers that force the customer to do all of the work to find solutions to their own needs do not make it easy for customers to buy or remain customers. How many take their business elsewhere because Customer Service is self-serve or non-existent…and the vendor neither knows nor cares?
62% of B2B customers purchase more after a good Customer Service experience.
66% of B2B customers stopped buying after a BAD Customer Service experience.
88% of B2B customers were influenced by online customer service reviews when making purchasing decisions.
Customer Service clearly can be the difference between winning, keeping and losing business, and that can mean significant lifetime value won or lost. As for me, we experienced business service from AT&T that has been nothing but a nightmare. I’ll spare you the details, but we will never do business with them again. Does AT&T care? They don’t appear to. We have other vendors who do stellar jobs that we couldn’t live without. I’ll bet you do too.
In the end, we were all able to agree that people have relationships people, that customers have “experiences” with companies, and that people do business with people they know, like and trust. It begged the question, do your customers have a relationship with you, or just have an “experience” with your company? It makes a difference.