Entering the Age of the Customer

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As a discipline customer service has been around for a long time, with plenty of companies promising to deliver an outstanding experience, but few actually doing so.

In many cases this was due to a fundamental imbalance in the customer/supplier relationship. The customer essentially had no choice but to put up with poor service, as either they couldn’t buy what they wanted elsewhere or every other company in the sector offered an equally bad customer experience. So there was no real incentive for companies to modify their behaviour.

However, as analyst Forrester has pointed out, this picture is radically changing as we enter the Age of the Customer. The combination of commoditisation, lower barriers to entry in all markets, and the power of social media have swung the balance of power back in favour of the customer.

 

In her blog and in a free report, Forrester analyst Kerry Bodine lists some of the key benefits that companies can gain from investing in customer service in this changing business world:

  • Done well, customer service boosts brand equity at least as much as advertising campaigns
  • Good customer service builds loyalty and repeat business
  • Increasing loyalty also boosts incremental revenues
  • Customer service identifies processes for improvement, lowering costs

All of these benefits are true, and from Eptica’s experience helping 350+ companies with customer service I’d add four more:

  1. Good customer service saves money. The more calls/emails that a customer has to make the higher the cost to the company – not counting the chances of the angry customer moving to a rival.
  2. Knowledge management. Centralising your knowledge for customer service not only helps consumers but captures vital information that can be used to drive your business forward.
  3. Differentiation. As Forrester says, many companies offer the same or similar products and services. Delivering customer service is the only real way, apart from low prices, to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  4. Employee retention. No-one wants to work for poorly regarded companies – if you’re respected as a leader in customer service it will be easier to employ and retain key staff across the business.

The key message is, whatever sector you are in and wherever you are based, now is the time to listen to consumers and act accordingly if you want to flourish in the Age of the Customer.

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