Congratulations: your inbound marketing strategy is working. You’re leveraging social media tools to share meaningful content with a relevant audience, you’re engaging prospects in the way they want to be engaged through their preferred platforms, and you’re delighting prospects individually with memorable content that delivers valuable information at the right time. You’re gaining new customers, so just “rinse and repeat” because you’ve won, right? …Not quite.
It’s important to remember that inbound marketing isn’t a linear model; it’s cyclical. Marketing to prospects is just one component of the inbound methodology, which is defined as “attracting, engaging, and delighting people to grow a business that provides value and builds trust.” Inbound does not end once a lead becomes a paying customer. Rather, the real endgame is for customers to not only trust your brand but to show their loyalty by becoming advocates of your business. That also marks the beginning for attracting more customers.
Achieving that level of loyalty requires a shift in mindset from regular “customer service,” which tends to be business-centric, to “inbound customer service,” which is customer-centric. A customer service strategy that’s actually responsive to the needs of the customer may not seem like a novel idea, but companies have struggled to achieve this in recent years. There’s good reason why.
The Disconnect in the Data
Source: HubSpot data on file
Defining the Problem
The Internet is not the problem, but it has become the great equalizer of customer service, enabling customers and brands to interact in a way that wasn’t previously possible.
As Michael Redbord, general manager at HubSpot Service Hub, explains, the Internet has also ended the era of companies being in full control of their reputations. In the past, customers would choose the company with the loudest voice, and perhaps the biggest marketing budget, but today’s customers have a clearer view of how businesses treat customers. The Internet provides customers a platform to influence other people, through social media, review sites like Google and Yelp, and other customer forums. As a result, customers now feel empowered while also increasing their expectations of companies. Meanwhile, their trust in companies has dropped precipitously in recent years, according to a study by research firm Forrester.
Redbord says, “This shift is a crisis for companies that take customers for granted, and who think of them as an output of their sales and marketing funnels. …Companies that don’t get it prioritize the wrong things, and as a result, their customers don’t help them grow their business. These companies put their internal process over their customer wants.”
Here are some hallmarks of internal process-oriented customer service:
- Prioritizes value and cost-savings, and staffs the service team as cheaply as possible
- Maximizes capacity while lowering quality and speed to a point where customers don’t complain
- “Programs” the service team with predefined responses and processes for problem resolution
- Focuses on using the easiest possible channel of customer communication, such as email
- Keeps customer conversations short for perceived time/value savings
Here are other key differences with this model:
- Encourages timely engagement between customer-facing employees and customers
- Encourages employees to be knowledgeable with conversational tools and customer context, providing real value and timely solutions
- Aims to repeatedly develop strong and trusting relationships with customers
- Guides customers to good outcomes
- Enables the team to grow from customer feedback
The Forrester study revealed that the way to build customer trust is to listen to them more, offer higher-quality products and services, and treat employees better. You can see how the inbound service model is in tune with these objectives.
Striving to Improve
The important thing to remember about inbound customer service is that it’s actively changing and improving for the future. As technology evolves, so will conversational user interfaces on websites. Phone calls and emails will give way to bots and live chat, promoting self-service and enabling customers to get answers faster.
Expect more customer to invest in customer service as a competitive differentiator. Don’t forget the enormous rift between what companies think and what customers feel when it comes to customer service, and start thinking about ways you can close the gap in your own business.
At Adventii Media, we strive to help customers raise the bar on customer service, while recognizing the challenges and barriers. We start by understanding your current customer service workflow, and consider leaks and identify opportunities for increased efficiency. We then recommend applications that can increase service productivity and help you create automated channels to reduce customer friction in the service process. Finally, we institute analytics and reports to put numbers behind actual customer service interactions.
Want to learn more? Contact us today and let’s get started on a path to improved customer service.
I help small- and medium-size businesses effectively leverage their online presence in order to increase brand awareness, target ideal clients and increase leads and revenue.