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The Importance Of Evolving Customer Service And Communication Strategies

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Customer service and its importance is nothing new. For as long as businesses have been around, customer service has always been at the forefront of their success and failure.

What has evolved is what customer service looks like and exactly how we interact and engage with customers. Previous generations grew up understanding the importance of the face-to-face handshake mentality. Customer interaction came from a visit to your store, or perhaps a phone call.

Fast forward to the present day, and customers learn all about your business without ever picking up the phone or visiting your establishment. Nowadays we have Google reviews, websites and, of course, social media. Businesses now have to look at customer service in an entirely different light.

All of these mediums have created new challenges. First on that list is instant customer feedback. I’ve found that most customers expect near-immediate responses to their questions and concerns. They also have the power to brag about your business or bash your business with the click of a button.

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You must also consider how you can be present on all these platforms — or if you need to be. How will you manage them? What will you look for regarding return on investment?

Here are five of the biggest lessons I think brands need to learn to succeed in customer service in today’s age:

1. Right Platform, Right Message

Chasing all the various platforms can be more damaging than being on none at all. Companies must first look at staffing and create a game plan for each platform they plan to interact with. When considering what platform(s) to use, you must ask yourself: Are my customers there? If so, how do those customers consume content?

A simple blanket approach does not apply here. Each platform has different demographics, some with crossover demographics. And the messaging consumed by customers is relative to that platform.

You must also ensure you will have the time to dedicate to interacting with customers and potential customers on the platforms you choose. Unanswered questions and comments are like not answering the phone.

2. Analytics And Agility Are Key

One of the great things about social media, in particular, is the fact that it’s instant. You can quickly and easily measure the success of a campaign or promotion with little effort. Utilizing that data/feedback and being agile enough to make adjustments on the fly is the key to successfully navigating social media.

It’s important to learn who your audience is and how they interact with your business. It’s equally as important to consistently measure and adjust your messaging based on analytics.

3. Don’t Ignore Feedback (Positive Or Negative)

Just as important, if not more so, is to not ignore customer feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. As I stated above, social media has created the opportunity for real-time feedback from your customers and potential customers. It’s important to treat every one of these interactions as though the customer is standing in front of you.

Individuals are utilizing these mediums to learn about you, and how you interact with them can make or break that relationship. Current customers apply here as well. They can be some of your best influencers and brand loyalists online, or they can quite easily turn off a great number of future customers.

Consider this: Before the advent of social media, a person who was unhappy with your company may have told a few of their friends about their experience. Those friends could have potentially shared with their friends. Now, with a simple click of a button, they make it easy for all their friends to see the negative feedback, but also make it quite sharable. Now it’s reaching friends of friends of friends, and that’s hard to undo!

4. Be Authentic

Hand in hand with “don’t ignore feedback” is being authentic. Point No. 1 talked about the right messaging, right platform. That’s ensuring you are on-brand and providing the correct content. Being authentic is sticking to your brand, your company mantra.

We all make mistakes. How we handle those mistakes is often what sets truly successful companies apart. It’s difficult to hide from mistakes, and customers are not looking for the perfect company. They’re seeking a business that treats them fairly and is always honest and authentic.

5. Have Fun, And Let Your Personalities Show

Much like the days of a face-to-face meeting and handshake, it is important to connect with the customer. Creating auto-replies and scripts does not allow your company’s personality to shine through.

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You want customers to feel connected to you and your brand. Your content should align with this as well. Allow things like videos to show your staff’s personality. Give potential customers the chance to identify with someone, and then carry that over to your online customer service.

With all that being said, yes, the way we interact with people has changed dramatically over the years, but the principals of good customer service have not.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

CMO at Walnut Ridge and Primeaux RV. He lives with his wife, son and two corgis in Indiana. www.walnutridgerv.com. Read Daniel Plumlee’s full executive profile here..

Source: The Importance Of Evolving Customer Service And Communication Strategies

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Store Wars: The Rise Of Floorwalkers

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A long time ago in a galaxy that seems very far away retailers used to provide something that has gotten lost over the century-long history of modern retailing.

Call it service, call it customer care, call it knowledgeable sales help, even call it guest services if you must, but whatever you call it, it all falls under one heading: people on the selling floor to help customers buy things.

From the days of the first general stores and the local merchant who stocked pretty much whatever you needed, the most basic part of retailing has always been about someone behind the counter who could help.

In the rush to dumb down modern retailing, that concept got lost in the spreadsheets, replaced by ever decreasing numbers of salespeople, self-checkout lines and minimum-wage workers whose main function was to stock shelves, not help customers.

With the online onslaught and the need to compete, that process is being reversed—not that it’s by any means a universal turnaround for retailing in general. Far too many physical stores are void of any human life forms there to assist. But some retailers are starting to get it.

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• Say what you want about the Story concept at Macy’s—and I still have my doubts they are ever going to make this work—but one of the pleasant surprises one finds when shopping these ever-changing pop-up shops is that there are living, breathing salespeople there to help you. They are for the most part cheerful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the products for sale in the area. It’s a stark contrast with the rest of the store.

• Showfields, the experiential retailer in downtown Manhattan that features small shops leased to mostly online brands, has a person in each of these areas ready to tell you all about what’s for sale. They’ve even tested a reality shopping experience where salespeople play-act roles revolving around the products being sold. It could go horribly wrong if the salespeople-cum-actors lay it on too thick but it works nicely in the best traditions of a Disney-Broadway mash-up.

• Whenever anybody pines for the good old days of department stores, they usually end up referencing Nordstrom as the only present-day player in the space that still adheres to the concept of professional salesperson. Even with some of its recent struggles, Nordstrom remains probably the most successful department store in the country and it’s largely due to the quality of their people. They are the poster child for customer service in today’s legacy retailing world.

There are many other examples but let’s not forget the reverse: the poster child for getting customer service wrong was the late, little-lamented Circuit City. During one of its iterations, the consumer electronics big-box chain systematically got rid of all of its best, most knowledgeable salespeople in the pursuit of lower costs. The move was a disaster as evidenced by the fact that the company went out of business a few short years later.

Contrast that with Best Buy, which has gone the opposite route, emphasizing customer service through its Geek Squad and other initiatives that thrive on salespeople helping customers through the often-frightening world of buying a big expensive electronics purchase. This strategy has made Best Buy the envy of most comparable physical retailers that are trying to come up with anti-Amazon strategies.

This Rise of the Floorwalker movement is catching on across many parts of retailing, though some stores remain oblivious. Those that get it right are likely to have long runs. Those that don’t probably won’t have any sequels in the Store Wars.

The business of retailing is my specialty…and boy is it special. Plenty of good, bad and ugly to go around and my job, as it has been for most of my career as a business journalist, is to try to sort it all out. I do so as a regular contributor to Forbes.com, as well as The Robin Report, Progressive Business Media and other media, plus my own blog, stupidbusiness.com. My regular commentaries have elicited both praise and scorn and I welcome them both equally. I expect to be doing this for the duration.

Source: Store Wars: The Rise Of Floorwalkers

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How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps

Many factors will determine how good a story is. Some variables are beyond your control, such as how forthcoming your subject will be, or what (maybe dumb) headline your editor will write. But the factor you can control is how much research you conduct, the questions you ask, and the follow-ups that help you find the information that really matters.

Related: What Work Should You Outsource?

I used to joke that writing was a two-part job. First, you have to be a miner, doing the grunt work. If you want gold or diamonds, you’d better be willing to dig deep in your reporting. The second part — writing — gets all the glory, but it’s really just polishing. If you’ve already found a beautiful diamond, it’s hard to mess it up.

Growing an audience is no different. You want to tell your brand story, but before you start polishing your marketing campaigns, you need to go mining: Ask your audience so many questions that you know them inside and out.

Connecting with an audience is harder than ever because of all the noise on social media and other platforms. In order to thrive in today’s digital environment, you need to have a deep understanding of what “job” your potential customers will pay you to do. In order to get that, you must speak to people directly.

Surveys and form questions are not enough; in-person conversations allow you to gather insights by reacting to people’s responses, hearing their tone of voice, and recognizing when there is more information hiding within a shallow answer.

But most people skip this part of the marketing process because it’s time-consuming. Even if they do it, they’re not always productive. The majority of market-research interviews consist of asking customers why they bought your product or service.

But this is a mistake. People will unknowingly tell you what they think you want to hear, oftentimes repeating your marketing back to you. Moreover, they won’t be able to articulate why they feel this way — so they’ll simply invent a reason.

Related: How Much Should You Spend on Social Media Marketing?

To work around these human habits, there’s a technique called jobs to be done (JTBD), which requires you to interview potential customers in order to truly understand their needs and wants. Not everyone can do JTBD; it takes someone who is skilled in both the process of leading the interview and in drawing conclusions and providing direction for your business.

Years ago, at my consulting company, I hired the best JTBD expert I knew, and I’ve never looked back. (You can also pay for courses and learn the method yourself.) Instead of just considering the functions that people want from a product or service, JTBD digs into the multifaceted nature of decision-making.

That’s what makes it more powerful than data — it helps you understand consumers’ social and emotional drivers and paints a complete picture of what “job” people want from you.

Related: How to Make Smart Hires on a Tight Budget

Once you understand your job — and your core customers — the path forward gets easier. You’re finally in a position to polish: create effective ads, engage with platforms where you’re most likely to find additional consumers, and present them with incentives and pricing that will appeal and convert.

Growth is no longer about wondering if you know what you should do. It’s simply about how well you can execute on your plan.

Related:

How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps.

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Source: How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps.

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Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Focus on attracting your customers and spending time holding on to them. Watch this video for specific examples. Remember, there is nothing more important than a happy customer. What is the one thing you can do immediately to make your customers happier than anyone else? Download my free leadership questionnaire to get clarity on every area of your business here: http://ow.ly/LUIww

How I Stopped Mindlessly Buying Things

I was only just beginning to think about fast fashion and how strange it was that clothes appeared to be getting cheaper while the rest of life grew more expensive.

I learned from my year of no shopping and refined my ways. But in 2012, I noticed I’d replaced my ambling flaneuse shopper persona with she who magically buys crap on the internet. I would meander from my design work to a blog featuring something cute, and before I knew it, I’d have wasted an hour looking at (and occasionally purchasing) things I absolutely didn’t need. So I stopped shopping again. This time, instead of buying the things I wanted, I painted them.

It was a revelatory experience in that I realized there is absolutely nothing wrong with appreciating beautiful things. In fact, it’s hard not to appreciate beautiful things in a world saturated with them. In a world that’s increasingly good at showing you just the kind of beautiful thing you most want to acquire. In a world where people toil expertly to make you want things. Why did I feel guilty for feeling desire?

At the same time I was beginning to learn of fast fashion’s implications beyond my pocketbook, of the gross toll on people and planet the ubiquity of cheap pretty things was taking. Just by admiring a pretty dress in a window, I somehow felt complicit in the system that brings such cruelly wasteful stuff to said window.

Drawing my covets freed up the guilt I felt and often absolved me of desire. But you don’t have to draw the things you want to help stop the impulse buy. Anything that creates some time to pause and reflect about why you want that shiny new thingamajig can do the trick.

Sarah Lazarovic wrote this article for 50 Solutions, the Winter 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is an artist and creative director. As a journalist, she’s worked for almost every publication in Canada, covering news and cultural events in comic form. In 2015, her live sketching of a Rob Ford speech won gold at the Online News Association awards. As a Massey Fellow at the University of Toronto in 2014, she studied behavioral economics and environmental sustainability. Her book, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy (Penguin 2014), is available at fine libraries everywhere.

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