4 Ways to Extend Customer Service Beyond Your 1-800-Number

To fine-tune your customer service, cultivate loyalty with a relationship-building approach that transcends single interactions.

learn more about Seth Bailey

By Seth Bailey • May 5, 2015 Originally published Jun 6, 2015

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to data from KISSmetrics, 71 percent of consumers have ended a business relationship due to a poor customer service experience so having a quality customer-service team is critical to your company's longevity.

To fine-tune your customer service, cultivate loyalty with a relationship-building approach that transcends single interactions. Here are four ways to extend customer service beyond your 1-800-number and strengthen loyalty in the long term.

1. Follow up with a brief satisfaction survey via email.

You may have solved her problem, but how satisfying was the interaction to the customer? Conducting a brief survey goes a long way toward deeper engagement. It gives customers the chance to provide immediate feedback while the experience is fresh in their minds. Asking questions such as "How satisfied are you with our service today?" and "Is there anything we can do better?" also provides an opportunity to gain insight into unmet needs.

Related: How a Transparent Team Culture Can Improve Customer Service

If a customer shares comments or questions as a result of survey participation, be sure to respond within 24 to 48 hours. If you implement changes based on a customer's feedback, acknowledge her input to show your appreciation. These gestures show -- not just tell -- your audience that their voices are being heard.

2. Create a chat system on your website.

When potential customers visit your website, a chat system pop-up is a great way to encourage questions and provide immediate feedback -- increasing the chance to overcome objections and convert interested browsers into satisfied customers. Chat systems can work hand-in-hand with phone calls to create a better service experience. For example, customers can send screen captures of their computer problems straight to a technician.

Evaluate whether a chat system can enhance your customer service, considering your audience's comfort and familiarity with the technology. If your customers need more accessibility, provide assistive features such as larger font sizes or chat transcripts.

3. Respond to customer reviews and feedback outside of business-owned channels.

Social-media channels, review sites and article comments may not be primary channels for customer service, but they are still highly valuable touch points. More often than not, prospective customers research your business by reading third-party reviews and references, so it pays to have an active presence in the discussion.

Related: 4 Reasons You're Lucky That Angry Customer Is Yelling at You

If your business has received a positive review on a review site or via social media, express gratitude in response. For negative reviews, express thoughtfulness and willingness to address their concerns in a prompt and professional manner; consider offering a phone number or email address where they can contact you directly. Do not simply redirect commenters to your customer service page or number. Instead, personally respond and stay connected until the problem has been resolved.

4. Create a customer advisory group so customers can provide feedback.

Customer advisory groups can provide regular feedback, illuminating unmet needs as well as common opinions on your products or services. Identify a group that represents a cross-section of your customer base, inviting participants who have previously been involved or vocal. To engage participants, consider an email invitation to opt-in following a service call and provide incentives such as discounts or complimentary services. Rotating participants on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis cultivates fresh insights and feedback. Elevating the voice of your customers shows that you value their input.

The route to providing great customer service can take different directions and forms. Consumers engage multiple touch points during their journey and interactions may be different for each business. However, extending customer service beyond the basics can help to build brand loyalty and a strong company image in any marketplace.

Related: 5 Ways to Put Your Customers First

Seth Bailey

Chief Strategy Officer of iTOK

Seth Bailey is iTOK’s Chief Strategy Officer and has more than 18 years of entrepreneurial and leadership experience.

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