“May I help you?”
Once it was a simple question delivered in person at local stores or offices. We often knew the salesperson or clerk. Today we seek help much more frequently from many different vendors. And we do so mostly through interactions over the phone or digital media. While the question remains the same, it now covers all sorts of things and only part of the time are we shopping.
But one thing does remain the same. The in-store experience is a sales opportunity and it’s true of the remote or virtual customer support experience as well.
So if you aren’t looking at customer support as an inbound marketing channel, it’s time to open your eyes to the opportunity. Here are some tips on how to use customer service data to enhance service across channels and generate revenue.
Establish a Feedback Loop
First, make sure that you have a customer feedback loop in place.
Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company has studied customer service in companies around the world. One of their key findings presented in a series of podcasts and blogs is that a measurement system that asks customers to rate their interactions with your company is incredibly valuable. Best practice is to gather this data from all channels and then disseminate it to all departments so everyone can see what your organization is doing right and what needs improvement.
Customers want to know that you are listening to them and paying attention to their feedback. If your company demonstrates that it is listening to customer concerns and shows that it is taking tangible actions to address those concerns, customer loyalty is enhanced. But the opposite is also true; unchecked problems that impact customers erode loyalty.
Create Individual Customer Profiles
Beyond gathering metrics and feedback from customer service experiences, create individual customer profiles that capture every interaction. Did a customer return a product? Respond to a sale? Require an alteration? Praise a particular sales agent? Express disappointment when a product didn’t arrive when promised? Ask a question and get different answers online and on the phone?
The individual customer profile is a living record of a customer’s experience with your company. You can see buying history, preferences, good or bad interactions, anonymous interactions versus those when the customer is logged in, along with geographic and demographic information. Armed with this data, you can:
- Understand and predict what customers might want to purchase, when, and send personalized offers based on that data
- Identify the behaviors of customers likely to call support with a particular problem and preempt those calls by anticipating the problem and solving it proactively
Customers like to feel as if their needs are understood by the companies they do business with. Just ask Amazon. According to one Forrester analyst quoted in Fortune Magazine, Amazon’s on-site recommendations feature results in sales nearly 60% of the time, in some cases.
As for anticipating customer support issues before they become problems, an added benefit is fewer calls or online inquiries. That means less stressed customer service reps and fewer disgruntled customers.
Next, get even more granular with your customer profiles.
See your customers as individuals, not segments. The better you can understand your customer as an individual, the greater your ability to know which sales messages and offers―delivered at the optimal time and place―will be most effective.
To individualize your customers requires keen analytical reasoning when looking at customer profile data. Look at how each customer ranks based on:
- Loyalty scores
- Churn propensities
- Digital and interactive activity
- In-store activity or phone activity
- Product and subscription purchases
- And other data points from personal interactions
Capturing this data within customer profiles will make doing database queries and customized reporting a thing of the past. You’ll have actionable data at the ready for individuals that can then be grouped based on similar characteristics for larger-scale efforts or used for individual offers.
Make it Omnichannel
To keep customer profiles up-to-date, make sure that all inbound channels maintain them together. So if a customer is near one of your stores, you could push out a coupon via email or text with a discount on items that he or she might need. When the customer arrives in the store, a sales agent would be able to identify the customer using a mobile device, greet them by name, and be ready to show them relevant products.
Another example of tailored inbound marketing is to get to know what each customer wants to see in ads and Web or catalog content. If you have a wide array of products for women, men, children, and different ages, this information would be extremely relevant.
Seize the Inbound Channel
So along with providing customer support and processing orders, seize the inbound channel for marketing your products and services. According to Gartner, inbound marketing tactics are 10 times more effective for lead conversion than outbound methods. It makes sense. Customers and prospects are already making an effort to reach out to your company. Each interaction is a golden opportunity to answer their questions, solve their problems, and sell.