Wikipedia defines customer service as the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase. What makes one a customer? Buying a product or service from a business, whether it’s from a globally recognised brand or a small start up. Building a good relationship with a customer — which can come in the form of support, assistance, incentives, enquiries or whatever is ethically deemed necessary — is important for the brand’s marketing and sales.
Imagine this scenario: you buy an appliance from an electronic brand and a week later, the appliance stops working optimally. Calling the brand’s customer care line, while it’s the first thing you can do in the meantime, puts you through an unsavoury process that leaves you feeling dissatisfied. Since the objective of starting businesses is to make profits, customer service can’t be severed from marketing strategies.
By creating an experience that is easy and enjoyable for customers — and even prospective customers — brands ensure that they are satisfied which makes it more likely for them to make repeat purchases. While customer service brings to mind phone support agents, it has become much broader in scope in today’s world. Customer service representatives answer questions through phone, email, webchat, text message, social media messaging, and even in person.
These days, automated self-service systems are becoming increasingly common, allowing customers to resolve simple issues that they may experience independently. This comes with the added benefit of being available 24 hours a day without waiting for a customer service agent. However, most businesses still provide the option for customers to speak with a personnel for more advanced problems.
Customer service is more than just providing solutions to customer issues. Many businesses create personalized definitions to customer service that align with their philosophy and values. It is important to determine what type of customer support you want to provide and develop an action plan to make it successful.
Considering the competitive nature of the marketplace, modern brands are putting a focus on customer retention more than ever before. This is because it is easier and cost-effective to keep existing customers than attract new ones to purchase a product or service.
Nonetheless, customer service as it relates to brand reputation is a lot more complicated and nuanced. Many factors play into why people may forgo (terrible) customer service. For example, if a brand makes unrivalled, authentic, and quality products and it has garnered goodwill over the years, it may still continue to foster loyalty because customers have no other options in the market.
Brands are often aware of their market constitution, whether it is by age, size, occupation, education and so on. Those who push products in low-literacy or educationally disadvantaged areas may not see the need to install customer support into their services because of the barrier of literacy. This is why to integrate this segment of the consumer market on account of making accumulative revenue, brands navigate literacy issues by introducing local languages in their customer service.
What The Streets Are Saying
Engaging our national focus group, 85.7% of respondents said that customer service is important to them while 14.3% don’t see the need for it. This isn’t a surprising revelation as we have stated before how the provision of customer service by brands fosters a good relationship with customers.
Where the upset comes is the discovery that 66.7% of respondents would still buy a good product even if their customer service is ‘terrible’. The remaining 33.3% of respondents said they would discontinue their patronage. When asked about their definition of a good product, the responses varied:
“That it satisfies my need fully at the point of need.”
“It should be accessible and fit the price I can pay.”
“It should have a nice design, I should able to use it properly.’’
“When people like it.”
“A good product is just a good product. It fits everything the customer wants.”
“I’ll say when it’s cheap, but I still look good using the product.”
“I’m okay with it as long as I like it.’’
“It’s colourful, cheap, and has excellent marketing.”
While brands are trying to provide their customers with great support systems to enrich product experience, training employees to treat customers how they want to be treated and creating easy and convenient communication channels, which is all good in the long run, a set of interacting forces (as we have highlighted above) can still leave customers patronizing a brand despite unsatisfactory customer service.