By B. Miller Creating a successful business depends less on products and more on the sales approach. Marketing strategies are important, but even more crucial is the customer’s journey, from start to finish, as they work with a company. Regardless of product quality, a business will struggle if they provide poor customer experiences. The business world today can be a battlefield. Successful companies arm their employees with the necessary customer service skills to deliver on key marketing points, repeatedly bringing customers back to their products. In this article, we’ll look at four of those marketing points. Plus we’ll give you some areas to focus on to increase the quality of your customer service support staff. 1. Value: Price is often the go-to competitive point for many companies, but many times price is only a small factor in a customer’s decision-making process. Customers are happy to spend more if they perceive they’re getting more for their money than they would somewhere else. The quality of customer service that customers receive is a key marketing point in a company’s retention strategy. According to the 2014 American Express Global Service Barometer, 68 percent of consumers are willing to spend more with companies they feel provide excellent customer service. On average, they’re willing to spend 14 percent more, a figure which has increased yearly since 2010. This proves companies have an opportunity to increase their profits by strengthening their service levels, rather than focusing solely on their pricing strategies. How can a company increase the perceived value of their business? Three ways to add to a company’s perceived value are improving response times, focusing on individually tailored experiences, and making the customer’s experience as streamlined and convenient as possible. We’ll touch on each of these topics below. 2. Response: Customers have a high expectation of customer service response times, and research shows that business-to-business staff, as well as retail service teams, fail to meet those goals on a regular basis. According to Eptica, UK brands answer just 38 percent of questions emailed to them, with an average response time of 34 hours. The same study found that response times on Twitter have halved since 2014. Statistics compiled by HelpScout show that 75 percent of people believe it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone, and 67 percent have hung up out of frustration. Failure to respond in a timely manner to customer service requests stops the customer’s journey. While they are stalled, they have an opportunity to look for a more functional solution to their issue. Many times, this opportunity leads to them to a different company. How can a company improve response rates with their customers? Assign tasks to individual agents, supervised by a team lead to ensure completion of all duties each day. This creates a personal sense of responsibility for each customer’s issue on multiple service levels within a company. Set goals for response times and reward agents and supervisors who meet or exceed those goals on a regular basis. 3. Personalization: While seeking value and a responsive customer service team, customers also look for an individually rewarding experience with companies, especially in retail customer service. Businesses focused on this marketing point treat each customer’s needs, concerns, and issues as unique. By handling each customer as an individual, the customer service team shows them they are valued, and those customers are more likely to return. “Technology has made it easier than ever to track customer preferences and history,” says Shep Hyken, writing for Forbes. “Big data gives us trends and insights with uncanny accuracy. There is no reason to not create a more personalized experience that caters to a customer’s individual needs.” How can a company personalize their customer’s experience? Customer service support staff can take some simple steps to make a customer feel valued—such as calling customers by name throughout their contact with the business, referencing past purchases when appropriate, and anticipating future needs the customer may have, while offering suggestions for similar products or services that could be helpful. 4. Convenience: In the rapidly changing business world today, any customer’s service journey with a business must be as streamlined and convenient as possible. Customers should be able to complete their journey with a minimum of assistance from support staff. Whether they order in person, over the phone, or through a website, instructions must be clear, and payment should be simple. Any method a customer could use to place their order or make contact should be monitored by a team with honed customer service skills specific to the customer’s needs, to make things easy and fix potential problems before they arise. Customers want excellent products and services, but they won’t go through unnecessary hassle to get them. Each step a customer must take to get what they need from a company drives them farther away from the goal of their service journey: a product in the satisfied customer’s hands. How can a company make their customer’s journey more convenient? Professional CRM management, integrated with company databases and reporting structures, can make it easy for customer service support staff to assist the customer. Incorporating several interchangeable methods of customer contact—chat, email, and phone support—can make a seamless, simple interaction that solves the customer’s issue while continually reminding them their business is important to the company, and especially its staff. Summary: The customer’s service journey is one of the most important parts of their relationship with a company. By focusing on these four marketing points, managers should be able to increase productivity as well as profit in their business. Keeping in mind each step of the customer’s journey and proactively guiding them through their contact request will ensure customers repeatedly return—not just for the products offered, but for the services rendered, and the enjoyable interaction they experience. B. Miller is a customer care consultant for Call Center Sales Pro, a premier consultancy for corporate call centers. She has twenty years of experience in the customer service industry, beginning as an outbound agent and working up to call center manager. She has managed a multi-vertical call center for four years. B strives to provide excellent customer care not only to her clients, but also to the co-workers she relates with daily. Contact Call Center Sales Pro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706.