Marketing Bootcamp

Rotten Customer Service? 5 Things Marketers Can Learn From Consumers.

As a consumer, can you recall a recent bad customer-service experience? Most of us can. In fact, we can rattle off several without a moment’s hesitation.

Related: 4 Steps to Ensuring Customer Experience Comes First

Bad customer service is a universal frustration, but at the same time, according to new research from our company Aspect, people's customer service expectations have increased in the past three years and they’re likely to continue increasing.

Indeed, customer experience can make or break a brand, yet today most companies continue to put more money into getting customer attention than giving customers sufficient attention. This is remarkable, considering that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than keep a current one. So, with this in mind, here are some important issues marketers need to know, to plan for an improved customer experience.

1. Really bad customer service is memorable, and not in a good way.

Thanks to the rise of social media and the always-on experience, consumers today are empowered to be brand evangelists or antagonists to their legions of family members, friends and professional contacts. Our survey found that 55 percent of consumers stopped doing business with at least one company during the past year because of poor customer experience.

Indeed, bad experience can instantaneously ignite like wildfire via a social network and potentially spread to mainstream media -- creating a new negative hurdle for marketers to overcome. Good customer service, on the other hand, not only minimizes the existence of brand antagonists, it creates advocates that make marketers’ jobs a helluva lot easier.

2. Exceptional customer service has financial and marketing impact.

Consumers overwhelmingly show appreciation for great customer service with their wallets. In fact, consumers say they would pay more just to ensure a superior customer experience. Our study found that 76 percent of consumers surveyed said that customer service is a "true test" of how much a company values its customers.

This runs counter to the perception five to six years ago, when customer service was seen as an expense, not an investment in growing the business. Customer service is critical touch point 1 for facilitating engagement with customers; and the result is increased loyalty and customer spend.

In many ways exceptional customer experiences can be exceptional marketing. The service touch point provides another opportunity to reinforce the brand message. A great experience can become an organic and viral response in which the customer evangelizes on behalf of the brand. 

Related: Customers Will Be Loyal If Delight Is Built Into Your Product or Service

3. Personalization and customization will attract and sustain attention.

Consumers want to engage with the companies they do business with, but on their own terms. No longer are customers reaching out directly to agents via phone -- they are looking to contact companies via websites, live-chat social media and text. In fact, four out of every 10 millennials (born 1980 to 2000) prefer purely online customer service versus talking to a live agent.

Marketers who recognize this can take advantage of the opportunity to build customer loyalty by giving customers personalized care, including the channels of communications they prefer. Our pet-insurer partners at Trupanion, for example, are taking the meaning of “spirit animal” to a new level with the way they pair service agents who own pets with consumers who own the same pet companions. We’ve found that personalization is so important to consumers that they are willing to provide more data in exchange for enhanced personalization.

4. Customer interactions provide invaluable insights and fuel new feature development.

Through personalization of the customer experience, marketers are provided critical data for developing new insights. Whenever customers contact customer service, companies are hearing what the brand perception is and what challenges those customers are facing. 

Marketers can use this knowledge to draft new insights for future marketing efforts and tailor existing offers to better meet customers’ needs. Seven in 10 people say that they feel more loyal to a company when that company shows them that they know them. People today, especially millennials, value customer experience more than the functions and features in a product, and as a result that experience can engender brand loyalty.

5. The customer journey is a marketing goldmine.

It is time for marketers to recognize the insight that the customer journey can provide. If you follow your customers’ experiences across all touch points, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information you’ll acquire. Do they have a satisfactory experience on each channel, and are they able to move effortlessly among them?

Understanding consumers' journey can give insight into how their experience affects their loyalty to you and their future business with you. So, pick up the phone and call, tweet or text your customer service professionals. You’ll be surprised what you learn.

Related: 13 Ways to Show Customers You Love Them