The history of customer service is as old as the history of coins. Once people started to get coins in exchange for their goods, once traders turned into merchants, once a market competition was born, customer service became an essential part of making business.
How did it look like centuries ago?
Well, we have reasons to believe that it was very similar to what we have now. Even ancient Greeks or Romans knew that business was about customers, their needs, and their satisfaction.
Even they understood that at the core of fantastic customer service lies not only great experience during a purchase but also the experience before and after the purchase.
What customer service really is about
When I was speaking with Shep Hyken about the evolution of customer service, he told me a great story.
When Shep was a little kid, he started his first business: he was doing magic shows at birthday parties. He had a lot of fun and was earning some extra money at the same time.
But the best thing about it is that his parents have him the most valuable customer service lessons. They told him that he should show up early before the show, so the audience doesn’t worry about him. They also advised him to send “thank you” note after every performance, to show his audience that he appreciates them.
What’s more, they told him to follow up a week later: to call them, ask if they were happy with the show and to get some feedback.
All these pieces of advice helped him to avoid potential friction points, leave a good impression and satisfy a customer.
This simple story of the boy that tries to make some money is a great metaphor of how business works and what is the meaning of customer service.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 12 and you try to earn your first dollar or if you’re a CEO shipping your goods to all European countries. There is but one rule: you need to make your customers like the interactions with you before, during and after purchase.
5 stages of the customer buying cycle
Many entrepreneurs and business owners still underestimate the power of good customer experience. They don’t understand that good customer experience starts before a customer decides to purchase a product.
#1: Awareness. The customer realizes that they have a need and you might potentially fulfill it.
Customer experience starts from this very moment. They will come to your website looking for a solution of their problem and wanting to learn more about your product or services.
Show them that you treat their needs seriously!
Make sure that your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate. They should find all information about your brand and products easily; they need to see that you understand their problems and you’re able to fulfill their needs.
It can be “about” or “mission statement” section, it can be a product description, it also can be content marketing. You can write about how to solve customer’s problems and provide some actionable steps so your customers know that you understand their pain points and that they can feel emotionally attached to you.
#2: Consideration. The customer evaluates whether they should buy a product from you or your competitor.
That’s the moment when your potential customer is going to check how others have rated the experience that you provide.
They will check reviews of your product or services; they will check ratings, comments and opinions. They might also check your social media websites.
If your customers had a great experience buying from you, they would share it with the world. You should always make sure that all your customers who experienced an exceptional customer service, whether good or bad, will tell about their experience, as word-of-mouth.
#3: Preference. The customer starts to be emotionally attached to one product or service.
Once a customer starts to think about the purchase, they will go into the details. They will know what kind of benefits your product or service has and which features distinguish you from your competitors.
Explain your features and benefits, tell about product characteristic and aspect. You can draw the attention of your customer with free shipping, extended warranty or support available 24/7!
#4: Purchase. The customer chooses your product.
When your customer is ready to buy your product, you have to make the purchase process easy. They already think that you’re focused on your customers and ready to provide them with the solution that they need you cannot afford to waste it now.
Make sure that it’s simple to purchase a product and there are no mistakes or bugs on your website. Optimize your CTAs, update your pricing page, give your customers the ability to choose the payment method they like the most.
And remember to keep costs of shipment low, if possible, as it’s one of the reasons why customers abandon shopping carts. In fact, the typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, what means that, on average, 7 out of every 10 customers will abandon shopping cart!
#5: Repurchase. The customer gets back to you.
The most important lesson to remember is that, once your customers made their purchase, you cannot think that your job is done. You have gained your customer and keep it this way!
You can send them an email with a “thank you” note. You can send a promo code for the next purchase. You can send them a survey asking about their overall experience. In other words, stay in touch with them through email, social media, and personal outreach!
The meaning of customer service
Customer service is not only about “now.” It’s not only about answering calls, replying to chats, opening tickets and solving customer problems. Customer service starts from the moment your potential customer enters your website.
A good website grabs your attention and evokes emotions making you want to stay. It’s intuitive, easy to use and gives you a clear reason why you want to browse it. It has clear copy, clear CTAs and nice visuals.
Don’t forget that it is also about self-service. Your customers should be able to find answers for most of their questions, without the need to give you a call or email you. Describe your product and features, create FAQ section or knowledge base so your customers can self-service themselves.
And, last but not least, remember to stay in touch with your customers. Ask them to fill your surveys and learn what they liked or not, post interesting stuff on social media, schedule email campaigns. You cannot forget about your customers and let them forget about you!