Clients often ask me, “What is the number one most effective marketing tool?” My answer is, “Delivering consistent customer service at or above the level that is consistent with your image.”
The truth is that no matter how good your product or service is, your customer service will play a huge part in whether your business will generate repeat sales and word-of-mouth referrals (unless you’ve got a monopoly and you are the only one selling a must-have item.). Without repeat sales and customer referrals, you will be spending all your time, money, and effort replenishing your customer base rather than growing it.
Jeff Toister, President of Toister Performance Solutions, Inc. says that the strongest form of marketing is having “enthusiastic, highly engaged customers who refer you to friends and colleagues.” He adds, “People are more likely to trust recommendations from their friends, and a word of mouth referral doesn’t cost you a dime.”
How do you get these highly engaged customers? By providing customer service that goes a step above average for your type of business.
For example, you can purchase a pair of jeans anywhere, from Wal-Mart to Neiman Marcus, so why would people choose to pay tens or even hundreds of dollars more for a pair of jeans at a high-end department store? There are several possible reasons, designer brand names being one, but customer service levels certainly play a part.
Look at Nordstrom. The high-end department store’s customer service staffers are not only available to answer your questions about products on the sales floor, they will also set up a dressing room for you, bring items into the dressing room that will work with what you have already chosen, switch out sizes if an item doesn’t fit properly, and even walk with you through other departments to help you match accessories to the clothes you’ve decided to purchase. Few other chain stores offer that level of service. Devoted Nordstrom clients choose Nordstrom specifically for that reason and are willing to pay the higher price for a pair of jeans (name brand or not).
If Nordstrom ever started offering Wal-Mart, or even Macy’s level of customer service, would the department store be able to command higher prices for its clothing? Possibly for a while, but many devoted clients would ultimately seek a better price for that same designer brand.
Without a doubt, customer service delivery–or lack thereof– has the power to make or break a company. What are you doing to ensure that service your customers are receiving meet or exceed their expectations, so that they will return and refer their friends and colleagues to your company?
Over the next several articles, we’ll explore the important roles of both internal and external customer service in your marketing efforts and business growth. Not sure what internal or external customers are? Stay tuned!