Prices are flattening thanks to increased competition through the global, online store front. The homogenisation of the high street has all but done away with personalisation. “Out of town” shopping centres have damaged the local independents. Your local isn’t looking like it’s bouncing back any time soon.
As products became commoditised, service became a key differentiator. Now that service is increasingly becoming commoditised through automation and self-serve tools, authenticity is what will set your customer service apart.
So let’s take a trip down memory lane, to learn some lessons from the old corner shop.
Thanks to globalisation and commoditisation, the personalisation of service has been eroded. De-commoditise your offerings, and with it your brand, by getting to know your customers again. Customer intimacy is an essential component of the customer service.
Ironically, although levels of personalisation are eroding, there are also so many more opportunities to get to know your customers these days. They are intrinsic to the channels you communicate through – they are built into your customers’ social profiles, purchasing history and feedback: you have a better view than ever of the many faces of your customer. The trick is bringing all this insight together and contextualising it to serve them exactly as they want to be served.
Care about what they have to say. Appreciate it. Take it personally. And interrogate it. As your front line, your CSRs have unique access to customers – en masse. Taking the extra time to delve a bit deeper into their problems – or indeed what they’re pleased about – and escalating this feedback, should inform your strategy going forward.
The critical component to asking for feedback: act on it. The old corner shop keeper would know what his customers wanted, bring in new things for them to try, inform them of the changes, gather feedback and adjust his stock accordingly.
Even if it’s not going to be immediately profitable to you. The old corner shop owner had to be committed to his customers to survive – apply the same logic and make customers remember you by going that extra mile. Embed in your CSRs the principle of going further – even if it’s the customers’ fault something’s gone awry, providing a solution is what will make your brand stand out. Small gestures count big when coming from the enterprise.
Giving your CSRs a discretionary sum each month that they can use to repair tricky situations is one option that will enable them to organically rebuild customer trust and brand reputation when they know they need to. Waiving a postage charge here or there will create that warm feeling you want your customers to associate with your brand.
One thing the corner shop keeper would be at the centre of, and rely upon, is his community. For the modern enterprise, this translates to social customer service. Much has been made of the challenges that social channels bring about and the evolution they’ve forced upon the customer service team, with new sources to monitor and more interactions to manage. But what if social networking could actually relieve the burden?
As well as listening and engaging across traditional social platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, there’s a huge opportunity for the organisation that goes a step further and establishes social communities: here lies the chance to crowdsource customer service through peer-to-peer support.
Social media is a vast, and constantly growing, resource and it’s waiting to be tapped by establishing a common location for customers and prospects to talk about your product and services. They’ll be talking about it anyway: you might as well bring it into your domain, and transform the talk in to useful business insight with the potential to improve and diversify offerings, catch problems early on and foster close customer collaboration.