Why customer service still remains the most valuable weapon in your digital strategy

Chris McClellan, CEO at RAM Tracking 

As a CEO of a growing technology company I’ve had my fair share of LinkedIn messages, emails and conference presentations. Every year it’s always the same declaration that a tactic is now dead or the latest buzzword is the “next big thing”. In the last 5 years we’ve had content marketing, big data, SoLoMo, gamification, blockchain etc. Each one has been heralded by the gurus, ninjas and “experts” as something that I absolutely must be doing in my business to survive online. Every year I hear this I always eagerly wait for someone to actually hit the nail on the head, but I’m always left disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these tactics and approaches have their place and some are wildly exciting and innovative, but too many companies from SME to PLC get caught up in trying to “find the next big thing”. Ironically, the latest next big thing is one of the oldest lessons in the book – customer service.

When I started RAM Tracking in 2004 I made a conscious decision to position the company as an online-first vehicle tracking provider. We invested in our website, social media, email marketing, PPC and SEO. Before I spent a single penny on any of these though I made sure that the culture right throughout my team was that customer service was the most important element of everything we do online.

Now in 2018, it’s interesting to see that the value of a positive customer service is becoming more important again. Gartner recently revealed that more than 50% of businesses plan to reinvest in improving their customer service experience. Another study recently showed that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. Getting your customer service right not only improves retention and brand reputation, but it reduces the reliance on new business through upselling to an already captive audience as well as gaining positive customer referrals is highly likely to help bring in conversions and leads.

With this in mind, I’ve written down some of the core activities I believe every small business should be doing in 2018 to improve their customer service experience online.

CRM

  • A Customer Relationship Management system like Salesforce (which RAM Tracking use throughout every aspect of the business) is vital for maintaining a positive customer service. Not only does it allow your business to track and view the entire sales journey from initial first click through to repeat orders, but it gives your entire team (from telesales through to social media) access to a customer’s history in seconds. Having all of that information at your fingertips instantly means that representatives of your company appear knowledgeable, up to speed and can help understand the customer’s business and relationship with you in a matter of seconds.

Segmentation for all activity

  • Blanketing your customers with the same messaging and content is likely to see your engagement rates drop, bounce rates increase and annoy your customer base. One of the benefits of using a CRM is that you can begin to categorise your customers based on their location, revenue and what product/services are applicable to them. We learnt early on that sending sales content to customers who in fact already utilise all our services would only have a negative effect. Instead, we segment all of our communications as to not upset or bombard customers but instead send them a personalised experience.

Value-added content

  • In a competitive marketplace creating content can be a difficult task. In many instances it’s hard to differentiate from what has been said already before. There is a temptation to create content that is off-brand or even irrelevant in a bid to be more creative. Alternatively, if you’re trying to improve your Organic Search performance a poor but common approach is to create content solely for search engines. Instead, look to create value for your customers. Have your content and customer services team sit down, discuss what the most frequently asked questions are on the phone and then go away and create this content to help answer it. Not only will this help your site rank for intent-based questions for SEO but it’ll give your customer service team an asset to be able to direct customers to.

Make referral rewarding

  • As previously mentioned, the power of referral or word of mouth is enormous, yet many businesses do little to tap into it. Set up a simple referral scheme that rewards loyal customers for recommending you. Rewarding them with a £25 or £50 Amazon voucher is a great way of incentivising and encouraging this behaviour. In many industries a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of £25 is likely to be substantially less compared to PPC.

Constant customer feedback

  • The most important of all my tips is to be never scared of seeking out feedback. Without it, it’s hard to know where to start (or even identify if there is a problem). We regularly work with the IIC (Investor In Customers) to have our customer service independently assessed. From some of the feedback we received, we made changes quickly to improve upon these areas and saw our rating go from two star to the top standard of a three star rating. This isn’t something we do every few years to get a nice accreditation, but something we aim to do this every 6 months. It allows us to adapt and evolve our offering with customers’ expectations, new technology and gives my management team benchmarks to measure against.

All in all, investing in customer service doesn’t need to be tasking. By making a few steps you can improve the way your brand is perceived, how many customers you retain for repeat business and improve internal operation efficiencies.

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