I’m still shocked when I hear small companies outsource customer support. I get angry when I learn that customer service teams make a fraction of the salary of other team members. It’s an archaic mentality that no longer works for e-commerce brands looking to create a customer service oriented business.
More than two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete mostly on the basis of customer service. We widely acknowledge the importance of customer service orientation, but rarely give it the attention it deserves.
Today, we’ll explore what it means to be customer service oriented and why it’s important to your business.
What does it mean to be customer service oriented?
Customer service oriented businesses revolve everything around the customer—and customer service. From new products and features to user experience and design, every aspect of the business involves customers and includes the insight and participation of customer service.
From the top, customer service needs to be prioritized alongside marketing, product development, and design. Literally, this can look like “all-hands” customer service, which Zapier explains as, “every person on the team—no matter the job title—spends some portion of their day, week, or month talking directly to customers and solving problems for them.”
Teams like Stripe, Statuspage, Slack, and Wistia have tried the all-hands approach to customer support. It’s a worthwhile endeavor for early-stage companies.
But, you can still be customer service oriented without asking everyone in your company to handle customer support. The most effective way to prioritize customer service in your organization is to simply respect and trust your customer support team.
Give your customer support agents the authority and freedom to make decisions and solve problems. By eliminating much of the red tape that prohibits reps from quickly resolving customer issues, you can increase customer satisfaction. In fact, speed of response (89%) ranks as one of the most important aspects of the customer service experience, regardless of channel.
Automations and customer support software like Groove can increase speed exponentially. Supplying your team with the best tools and technology ensures they can do their job to the best of their ability as well.
Why is it important to be customer service oriented?
The importance of customer service orientation in business can be summed up by your customers’ insistence upon it. They demand attention. To ignore them would be foolish, not to mention bad for business. The importance seems obvious, but there’s actually proof to back it up.
Harvard Business Review published a study of more than 75,000 people by the Customer Contact Council to examine the links between customer service and loyalty. The study found that, “reducing effort can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.”
Those are some pretty valuable metrics. Orienting your business to reduce customer effort directly impacts revenue and churn.
E-commerce businesses know the struggle of balancing tight margins. Cut costs where you can and look for sustainable ways to increase revenue. It adds up in both directions. By simply positioning yourself to cater to the customer, online stores can see huge gains overtime with relatively low effort.
5 benefits of being customer service oriented
We know being customer service oriented is generally “good,” but getting specific about the exact benefits will help us measure and track performance into the future. This list gathers the top five benefits of creating a customer service oriented brand and the outcomes you can expect to see at your company.
1. Higher customer retention rates
Your unique product or marketing may reel them in, but good customer service keeps them. Orienting your business to prioritize customer service ensures customer retention and sustainable growth.
When you master not just attracting customers, but retaining them, it sets a solid foundation for your entire organization. Keeping current customers happy results in more stable revenue and more accurate predictions.
The data proves it: 75% of people would return to a company with excellent service.
Consumers consistently mention good customer service as a reason for sticking with a company. Beyond product satisfaction or value, customer service orientation reigns supreme in today’s e-commerce landscape.
2. Increased sales
Plain and simple—customer service correlates to revenue. Even just prioritizing good customer service in an organization has been shown to increase revenue.
Take a look at this statistic: 84% of organizations working to improve customer service report an increase in revenue.
When you track customer service oriented metrics—like CSAT, NPS, or average response time—you’ll see the correlation. Each metric moves in the same direction as revenue.
3. Positive word of mouth referrals
Viral social media campaigns and paid ads have their place, but nothing beats the oldest trick in the book: word-of-mouth. Great customer service leads to happy customers who talk about your product with future customers.
A study found that, after a positive customer experience, 69% would recommend the company to others.
For consumers overwhelmed with options, a recommendation from a friend often tips the scales. When seeking to improve referral rate, start by creating a customer service oriented workplace.
4. Better reviews
Positive customer experiences play a huge role in brand awareness. One of the best times to ask for a review is immediately after a positive customer service experience.
In this example from a real customer review for Parabo Press, they explicitly call out customer service as a reason for providing five stars. One review even mentions a customer service rep by name.
When you build a customer service oriented brand, your strategies for growth and marketing will naturally align with your customers’ desires. Not to mention, by fully understanding your customer, you can create assets and advertising methods that resonate with their lived experience.
5. Product-customer alignment
By valuing customers, and tirelessly working to serve them, you simultaneously create product-customer alignment. This propels an infinite loop of customer feedback, enabling leadership to create new products that they already know customers will love.
By using customer service orientation as a North Star, you can inspire every department to work with the customer in mind. Work gets done faster, productivity rises, and both employee and customer sentiment thrive in a more collaborative, customer service centered environment.
5 risks of neglecting customer service at your company
I’m not sure why customer service became the red-headed stepchild of industry years ago. But the most successful brands of late have proven that prioritizing customer service leads to better business outcomes.
Even if you think you can get away with putting customer service on the backburner in the early stages of your business, this list presents the risks. There’s too much at stake that could cause real long-term harm to your online store by neglecting customer service.
1. Social media backlash
Angry customers don’t just live in your inbox anymore. With social media platforms, third-party review sites, and forums, unhappy customers can vocalize their concerns to millions of people in an instant.
Just take a look at United Airlines’ Twitter page:
The airline’s customer service team did the right thing by responding and moving it to a private channel. But the damage is already done to their brand image. Anyone could publicly view all these complaints and make their own assumption about the quality of this airline.
Prevent these public complaints from ever happening by creating a customer service oriented business that empathizes with your clients first and foremost.
2. Building the wrong product
Innovation can be exhilarating for new companies. You want to keep building more products and optimizing the ones you already sell. But if you’re not listening to your customers, you risk losing everything.
Case in point: Hewlett Packard’s TouchPad. They wanted to compete with Apple’s iPad. But they never stopped to ask if their customers actually had any interest in buying HP’s version of an iPad. The product was immediately discontinued and they lost a few hundred million dollars in the process.
3. Unsuccessful marketing
When you neglect your customers, you lose the ability to get into their heads. Your customer service inbox is the best place to get marketing ideas. Learn how your customers talk about your products. Find out what they love and what they hate.
Ask your team to pull out a few quotes from customers each day. Present this valuable qualitative data at team meetings to make sure everyone is aware of customer sentiment. Marketing folks and customer service people should be best friends.
4. Unhappy employees
If your employees aren’t serving the customer, who are they serving? More often than not, employees simply do what their boss tells them to do. That’s a recipe for unhappy employment.
Here’s an example of the reverse having a major bottom-line impact:
Ameriprise Financial gave their customer service reps freedom to focus on reducing customer effort. They were asked to capture every instance in which they are forced to tell a customer no. While auditing the “no’s,” the company found many legacy policies that had been outmoded by regulatory changes or system or process improvements. During its first year of “capturing the no’s,” Ameriprise modified or eliminated 26 policies. It has since expanded the program by asking frontline reps to come up with other process efficiencies, generating $1.2 million in savings as a result.From HBR’s “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”
Focusing every team member on customer service orientation leads to happier employees and customers alike. Beyond that, efficiency and productivity soar, creating savings and more profit for your business as a whole.
5. No customer loyalty
The Harvard Business Review found that, “customer service can do little to increase loyalty.” There’s a big “but” after that finding though… “It can (and typically does) do a great deal to undermine it.” This is where neglecting customer service really does more harm than netting out neutral for online merchants.
They revealed that customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal.
Essentially, bad customer service is really bad. Ignoring the customer or providing subpar resolutions will undoubtedly cause churn and low CSAT.
What kind of person would thrive in a customer service oriented career?
Outgoing, social butterflies may come to mind when you think of a customer service oriented person. But more often than not, customers are looking for someone to solve their problems rather than be their friend.
A blend of social awareness and analytical reasoning makes for a top customer service professional. These fifteen skills in particular highlight the importance of a variety of personality traits.
The top 15 customer service oriented skills:
- Active listening
- Communication skills
- Acting skills
- Product genius
One of my favorite examples of a customer service oriented person comes from Netflix. A customer service representative at the company decided to have some fun and show off his personality on a routine bug report. He got into character, using lingo from Star Trek, and the customer responded in turn.
We all know Netflix as the hub for TV and film buffs. Building off this shared knowledge of a popular TV show, the support agent was able to connect with the customer and get to the core of the bug report.
Customer service can be a grueling job. If you can remember to have some fun and build relationships with your customers, you’ll be able to thrive in the industry for years to come.