If you consider outstanding customer service to be your business differentiator, then it better truly be exceptional. Because customer surveys have repeatedly found that outstanding customer service is not what keeps people coming back. Instead, customers say that what differentiates businesses are price, convenience and product features.
But that doesn’t mean that customer service isn’t important, it’s just not a differentiator.
Where customer service most comes into play is when it’s treated as customer retention. You’re more likely to retain customers if your customer service is proactive rather than reactive. In other words, you control a situation by making things happen before problems arise, not simply reacting to problems after they occur (as many businesses tend to do).
Think about the auto industry, for example. When your car is overdue for service, you often get a flyer in the mail or a phone call from your mechanic reminding you to make an appointment. This is proactive customer service – the business knows your car needs a tune up – rather than that same business simply reacting to your car trouble that is a result of you forgetting to change your oil frequently. Most customers appreciate the reminder call because it means their mechanic is taking charge of their car repair schedule; which means they don’t have to. And because of that, satisfied customers aren’t likely to take their business to another mechanic.
It’s important to note though that this kind of customer retention shouldn’t be confused with outbound marketing, which is a whole other way of capturing, engaging and retaining customers.
Proactive customer service is also about how you react to a problem. Because in every business, things sometimes go wrong and it’s how you make it right that people care about.
Look at Apple. They’re a world leader in customer service because when something goes wrong, they fix it. Say an iPhone breaks while under warranty; they’ll send a new one, no questions asked. They’re being proactive about the problem and they’re retaining customers with their outstanding customer service.
So while customer service is not the differentiator many businesses think it is, it doesn’t mean that providing outstanding customer service is any less important.