When you think of the Ritz-Carlton, what sentiments come to mind?
Happiness? Comfort? Unforgettable experiences?
According to a recent survey, the company’s hotels and resorts are revered for all these enviable qualities — and more. Among all luxury properties in North America, it ranks at the very top for customer satisfaction.
There’s a reason the Ritz-Carlton is so synonymous with service. After all, employees are permitted to spend up to $2,000 to fix or improve a customer’s experience before calling on a manager.
Not the customer service team. Any frontline employee.
This famous $2,000 rule has played out in countless scenarios over the years. It’s how the company has leaned on customer service to build the brand, and why its employees have become so enviably amazing at anticipating needs.
Guess what? You can do the same. And you don’t need to have a Ritz-Carlton budget to do it.
From Customer Service Cost Center to Customer Experience Profit Machine
Traditionally, customer service has been viewed as a cost center. Even though support staff frequently serves as the face of the company, it’s often perceived as a department that doesn’t directly add profit or contribute to the bottom line.
Well, it’s time to rethink this view.
In fact, I would go so far as to say this outdated model has no place in the modern work world. The way a business chooses to approach customer service has a big impact on the bottom line — whether or not executives are aware of it. But we live in an experience economy. It is no longer sufficient just to have the best product; customers now demand the right experiences and are even willing to pay more.
Need proof? Consider this:
- 73% of customers fall in love with a brand because of friendly customer service reps
- 90% of customers use customer service as a factor when deciding whether or not to do business with a company
- 80% of people will pay more for better service
Fail to deliver on these expectations, and consequences can get costly:
- 71% of customers will end a relationship after one negative customer service experience, and 61% will take their business to a competitor
- US businesses lose an estimated $1.6 trillion to customers who switch to competitors because of poor service
And remember: It’s a lot more affordable to earn the loyalty of existing customers than it is to build relationships with new ones. Investing in new customers is five to 25 times more expensive than improving customer service to retain existing ones.
Is your customer service model evolving fast enough to meet the latest expectations?
Let’s take a look at three proven strategies for using service to build your brand.
Three Surefire Ways to Excel at Customer Service in 2019
1. Get everyone involved
Providing outstanding experiences is no longer in the hands of Customer Service alone. Nor is it contained within a single job role.
To understand what I mean, take a look at what happened when a Southwest Airlines passenger complained about weak in-flight WiFi on social media. The customer’s favorite sports team was in the midst of a big game, and she wasn’t happy to be missing it.
Did Southwest’s service team respond to the post? Nope. Did the customer get a canned apology for her troubles? Again, no. Instead, a social media marketer named Mike took it upon himself to live tweet the second half of the game.
These are the kinds of experiences your customers are looking for. Personal, impactful and delivered right when they need it most.
If you want to excel in this area, it’s important to “bake” customer service into everything you do. Exceptional service should be the primary ingredient for all of your interactions and offerings — across marketing, sales, service and product design — and not an afterthought.
2. Be proactive
It’s important to recognize that true customer service involves far more than responding to support requests and resolving issues. You need to anticipate and fulfill needs before customers even realize they have them.
Successful companies have a structured process in place — one that empowers employees across the entire organization to provide outstanding service at any stage of the customer journey. It’s the kind of service that separates beloved brands from struggling companies.
3. Focus on cultivating customers for life
It goes without saying that customer service plays a big role in reducing churn. However, it can be easy to forget that the state of your service also has an enormous impact on sales and recurring revenue.
For example, did you know there’s a direct correlation between customer experience and repeat business or renewals?
Studies show that 93% of customers are likely to buy from a brand again after experiencing excellent customer service. And that’s not all. People who report the highest levels of customer service satisfaction spend 140% more than those who report the lowest. Among subscription-based businesses, happy customers were 74% more likely to renew than their dissatisfied counterparts.
The better you are at servicing customers, the easier it will be to build trust, earn loyalty and, most importantly, increase profits. For this reason, the focus should always be on cultivating customers for life.
Don’t just respond to requests when a new customer is onboarding or you’re trying to close sales. You should approach every interaction as an experience, and each experience as an opportunity to build a lasting, long-term relationship.
These aren’t the only ways to use customer service to build your brand, but they’re three of the most effective. With a proactive, company-wide process in place, any organization can take a Ritz-Carlton approach to cultivating customers for life.
Looking for a solution you can use to put these three steps into practice? Before you can really rely on customer service to build your brand, you’ll need to have the right tools and technology in place. Check out our eBook, The 2019 Customer Experience Buyer’s Guide, for tips to find the best technology for your business needs.