This time the question about the meaning is not philosophical. I’m here to present you the simple definition of the customer service oriented approach.
Look at it – every successful company has two things in common:
First, they offer a great product.
Second, they take care of their customers.
But you might be wondering:
“How do I know if my company actually takes care of customers?”
“How do I make sure what we do actually works?”
And while I can’t help you with the first – building a product – I can surely help you with turning your company into a customer service oriented one.
But first, we should get to know what does it mean exactly to be customer service oriented. This article is a knowledge base about this term and its details.
With such an approach there will be no doubt whether your company takes care of the customers or not. Customer care will be in your blood.
Let’s start with the actual meaning of a customer service oriented company. There are some sub-topics under this definition.
For example, you’ll get to know all the benefits of introducing it. There will also be actionable steps that you’ll be able to take right away to make this approach work in your company.
Ready to go?
Table of Contents:
- What customer service oriented means
- Why you should shift your focus to being customer service oriented
- How to adopt the customer service oriented approach
- Traits of a customer service oriented professional
What customer service oriented means
The customer service oriented approach means that a company focuses on its customers and prioritizes customer service out of all its efforts.
It means that a company puts the needs, wants, and requirements of its customers first and responds to all their asks in a way customers expect them to.
Of course, every company would say that they put their customers first. While this phrase is as old as time, for many it remains just an empty phrase.
The difference between a customer service oriented company and one that only claims to be such remains in how they invest in their efforts.
That’s because a usual approach to businesses requires a company to maximize its benefits first. This means more leads, more upsells, more labor, etc.
On the other hand, customer service driven companies will care about their customers first and only then focus on their internal needs.
While taking care of your profit is nothing wrong and rather necessary, a customer service driven approach requires you to be second. Counterintuitively, putting all the internal stuff second can help you maximize it, opposing the situation when it is your only priority.
Oftentimes, business owners get stuck with all the success-driven metrics and, in the end, get lost trying to hit a certain revenue goal. But, when a company focuses on its customers, it naturally creates an environment that people want to join.
Combining that with a great product that people want to buy creates a cohesive cycle that creates profits.
This, to many, will seem to be heresy as it stands in complete opposition to what is usually taught. And that is to maximize the profits, focus on revenue-based goals, grow the product. And while such an approach can yield positive results, the customer service oriented approach can do it as well.
But, there is a slight difference:
Only the second approach will help you create a customer-oriented environment.
Why you should shift to a customer service oriented approach
Now that we know what we’re talking about, it’s time to explore the benefits of a customer service oriented approach.
And let me tell you beforehand… There are many!
As I’ve mentioned above, the customer service oriented approach might sound counterintuitive to many but it tends to be more beneficial than a first thought might suggest.
More loyal customers
One of the benefits of a customer service oriented approach is that it creates more loyal customers. And nowadays, this is more crucial than ever before.
That’s because, in the past, companies were expected to deliver a properly working product and not really take care of it afterward.
But now, with the subscription model all over the place, customer retention is one of the most important metrics out there. Thus, companies strive to make their customers stay for as long as possible and they do their best to increase CLV.
One of the aspects of how long a customer will stay with a company is his loyalty. I’d even risk saying that there is no other way to make a customer stay besides creating a loyal relationship between both entities. (Of course, not taking into account the monopoly. Then you can do whatever you want…)
It seems like James Bond is not a fan of monopoly either…
Here’s why it’s true:
Most things are easy to copy.
You can have a low price. Just take a few dollars of a competitors’ price.
You can have a great product. Put more resources into development.
You can have a very pretty-looking website. Hire great copywriters and web designers.
But you can’t copy the customer first approach just like that. Your company is either customer service oriented or not.
Creating an environment where your customers feel welcomed and taken care of is not a tangible metric. It has to be created over time and spread through a word of mouth.
Speaking about word of mouth…
It creates natural word of mouth
A customer-oriented approach creates a natural word of mouth. This aspect, just like the one we’ve talked about before, is very important due to the current market situation.
People are moving away from ads and influencers and tend to trust their closest circle which is friends and families.
In general, there was a lot of mistrust created by fake ad campaigns and a huge number of paid influencers. This led to kind of a backward shift that brought people to taking recommendations from people who they actually know and trust. After all, even though your cousin might not be right recommending you the newest smartphone from Apple he sure has no profits from you buying the phone.
According to Oracle’s ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’ report, 88% of consumers trust shopping recommendations from people they know.
The same report indicated that 52% of all consumers are skeptical of shopping recommendations (or ads) delivered on evolving digital platforms, and that distrust increases with age. And when they say that distrust increases with the age… 80% of Baby Boomers say they wouldn’t trust shopping recommendations from digital platforms. And don’t forget, this group is the wealthiest one in the US.
Customers genuinely appreciate proper customer service. Even better when you walk another mile and provide more than a customer has asked for.
While you won’t get a word of mouth after each and every time you answer customer’s queries but taking into account your company operates as a customer service oriented one, sooner or later you’ll see the benefits of providing additional value to your customers.
And remember that oftentimes when a customer asks for help, he or she is in a stressful situation. And people will do all they can to relieve stress. Therefore, whenever you help them get from angry to contented, you can count on a good recommendation on their side.
It works as a differentiator
Here, we come back to what I’ve mentioned regarding the first benefit of a customer service oriented approach:
You can have a great product, a great price, and a great design. But every each of them can be copy-pasted by whatever big brand in the world.
On the other hand, there’s no way to copy a customer service oriented approach.
Of course, everyone can train their employees but it will take time. It’s a process. Therefore, we get to the point at which customer service can work as your main differentiator.
Nowadays every industry is saturated with similar solutions that differ by small details. This creates an environment in which a customer can switch to another brand in a flash. Just one poor experience can make him switch and because it won’t take long to make it nor it will be hard to execute, the decision is simple.
Every product is faulty or will be faulty at some point. (unless you sell chewing gum)
That’s why what really matters is not if your product doesn’t ever break but rather how well you handle the times when it breaks.
This is the moment when you can stand out from the crowd and show that you don’t hide (as many companies do) and do your best to resolve every issue there is.
Customer service impacts your bottom line
While there is a weird claim that states your customer support can be your profit center…
HINT: It’s not true.
…it can actually impact how well does your business prosper.
This is how:
When you go a few paragraphs back, you’ll read that right now it’s easier than ever to switch between various brands in any given sector.
Now, let’s combine that with another fact:
On average, one-third of the customers will walk away from the brand after one negative interaction! Source
Luckily (for companies) this trend lowers with the age. Meaning that Gen Zers are much more likely to give you another chance compared to Baby Boomers. (twice as much to be exact)
Thus, when we combine both of these facts, it becomes clear that not being 100% customer service oriented can impact whether your customers will stay or go.
Imagine that such negative experiences are not one-off occurrences. Supposing that a company consistently provides poor customer service it will keep losing around 33% of its customers.
33% a day, 33% a month, 33% a year…
Erasing one-third of your customer base would surely impact your bottom line, wouldn’t it?
It becomes customers’ priority
Let’s go back to the roots of the customer service oriented approach.
To put your customers first and your company’s benefits second.
Customer Experience becomes more and more crucial to customers. In fact, customers, especially Gen Zers, are willing to pay more just for the service and experience around the product.
As Oracle reports 79% of GenZ shares impressive brand experiences with friends, family, and colleagues.
That’s another point that supports the thesis that the customer support and service you provide can, in fact, impact your bottom line.
You have to take into account that your customers are well-educated. Brands that do exceptionally well in terms of service have raised the bar so high it’s hard for many to compete.
As a customer service expert, Shep Hyken says “Your customers no longer compare you to your competitor. They compare you to the best service they ever had… from anyone.”
What’s also interesting, almost half of the customers (no matter which age group) are willing to pay even 20% more just for the experiences around the product.
Because of the abundance of literally everything, getting a product is not as important as how you get it. Think of Apple and how it paved the way for mastering every detail regarding their product. The packaging, the design, the experience a customer has the first time he interacts with whatever Apple made.
That moment when you peel off the plastic cover…
And, after all, it’s a win-win situation.
Your customers are contented and you get paid more!
How to adopt the customer service oriented approach
At this point, you know exactly why you’d like to switch to the customer service oriented approach.
Thus, below you’ll find 5 crucial aspects that make a huge difference when it comes to how a company treats its customers.
By adopting each of these 5 principles you’ll be able to create a customer service driven environment that will favor the growth of your customer base and its retention.
Introduce a customer service oriented philosophy
Whenever you introduce words like philosophy or mantra in a business context, there’s no way not to feel like it’s all a little woo-woo.
What I mean by the philosophy is basically that all your employees should be on the same page regarding your approach and goal.
If your company – and by the company I mean every employee – isn’t aligned regarding what you want to achieve, you’re very likely not to hit your goal.
I remember vividly one of the episodes of Noah Kagan Presents Podcast. Exactly this one: Business Case Study: Growing Museum Hack Past $3 Million.
In the above episode, Noah talks to Michael Alexis, Business Development of Museum Hack, on how to get the company to the revenue goal they set for this year.
During the episode, Noah asked Alexis whether all of their employees are on track with monthly and quarterly goals towards the final 3-million goal. Noah said that at his company, that is Sumo Group, they check each week (week!) whether everyone is on the same page regarding the goals.
And the same has to be preached regarding the customer service oriented philosophy.
Each and every employee has to know that the customer comes first and that the priority is put towards customer service.
With such a philosophy in place, your:
- devs will know that it’s more important to fix a bug or introduce a requested feature
- agents will strive to provide help fast and always provide more value than asked for
- salespeople will do their best to present the best offer tailored to a particular customer
Set the values and goals that you want your employees to stick to and this way the whole company will adopt the customer service oriented approach.
Focus on customer empathy
I, myself, am still working on my empathy skills but luckily we have the whole guide on customer empathy that includes useful tips and techniques that you and your agents can adopt to provide better customer service.
Nevertheless, empathy is the key ingredient of a customer service oriented approach.
Customer Empathy is what makes the service an actual genuine action and makes it different from the usual ‘here you go’ approach.
Not so long ago, customer service was about how fast you can get a customer off the company’s head.
Now, it’s more about trying to make the whole experience (including the service) so immersive that the customer wants to come back.
Customer empathy not only shows that you care about the customer but it also comes with many benefits both on your and your customers’ side.
For example, customer empathy helps you better understand your customers which may result in faster issues resolution and better customer experience.
What’s more, customer empathy helps you prevent conflicts that oftentimes can be damaging to the whole company.
Remember that customer empathy is something that everyone can learn. To do that you have to stick to certain principles, like:
- Cutting out the negative speak
- Reading body language
- Using empathy maps
Also, using the 3Fs Technique, that is feel, felt, found technique, will drastically help you in introducing customer empathy amongst all of your customer service reps.
Stick to the most important customer service principles
Being customer service oriented requires you to follow the principles of excellent customer service.
As I’ve mentioned before, customers are pickier than ever and they expect top-notch service. Adjusting your customer service to these principles will let you provide help in a way that best suits your customers.
Just like with empathy, we’ve already put out the whole piece on 15 customer service principles. In there, you’ll find the keys to excellent customer service.
And let me tell you right away.
These principles are not some breakthrough formulas. Contrary, this is exactly what your customers expect from you.
To get an idea of how your service should look like, think about your expectations whenever you contact some other company. What should such a service be like?
Surely, you’ll answer that proper customer service would be fast and probably accurate. Even more, as you’d like to get an answer that is accurate but also easy to understand.
There you go. We’ve just mentioned three of the fifteen principles:
Some of the other principles are:
- and even earlier mentioned, empathy
Nevertheless, adopting all of these principles will help your customer service excel and become fully customer service oriented.
Empower your agents
Another key aspect of becoming customer service oriented is empowering your agents.
It means no more, no less than providing your agents with appropriate tools and training that will help them serve your customers.
For a long time, the problem was that customer service was thought about as a ‘must’. A must that is required to have but no one really wants to have.
Nowadays, business owners see the clear benefits that come with customer service and tend to invest in this department just as much as in development or marketing. Therefore, no business should go short when it comes to equipping your customer service agents with what they need.
This can be understood on my levels.
The first and most obvious one would be to provide your agents with tools. Both physical, think: headsets, laptop and less tangible such as software, think ticketing software and cloud-based phone system.
The second level would be training. While it wasn’t so common to train your agents nor train your other employees, nowadays business owners are eager to enroll their employees in all sorts of boot camps, workshops, and conferences that would help them improve their skills.
By doing so, you silently build loyal employees that will not only provide great service but will be keen to stay with you.
You see, this win-win principle works in every direction.
You invest in your customers, they’ll invest in you.
You invest in your employees, they’ll invest in you.
Venture capitalists invest in you, you’ll invest in them.
If you would like to check some exemplary customer service training, here’s one offered by the earlier mentioned customer service guru, Shep Hyken. You’ll find there both an on-site and online option.
Lastly, the third level is a bit more complicated as it’s not about tangible things.
That’s because the last aspect of empowering your agents would be to give them more responsibility.
Business owners often mistakenly think that money is the main driver of employees’ motivation. And while it is one of the most important variables, it’s not the most crucial thing that makes them wake up each morning and go to work.
Counterintuitively (at least for some), responsibility or rather being aware of the responsibility of your job makes you move forward. If you know that your job doesn’t matter and that you could be easily replaced, there’s no real motivation to become a better worker.
On the other hand, if your boss trusts you and shows you that your job matters, you’ll be much more eager to give your best during work time.
Summing it up:
1.) You should equip your customer service agents with proper tools both in terms of physical tools and software.
2.) You should provide your customer service agents with training that will help them improve their skills.
3.) You should give your customer service agents more responsibility and put trust in their expertise.
Being proactive is about thinking ahead.
It is about walking in your customers’ shoes and trying to understand when and where they’ll stumble upon some problem to resolve it even before it happens.
Being proactive is as important in terms of approach as it is in terms of creating certain resources.
The proactive approach indicates that you look for an issue even when it’s not there. You try to predict that it will happen based on experience and data.
This is easier to do in the age of data-driven software that can help you analyze your customers’ journey and find pain points to, later on, prevent them from taking place.
When it comes to resources, the most common one is knowledge bases.
They allow you to gather all the information regarding common problems in one, easy-to-search-through place. This way your customers can get all their issues resolved by themselves using just one directory.
It works great especially for people who are either industry-savvy enough to do it on their own or don’t like to contact another human.
A company that is customer service oriented has to have a way to proactively target its customers’ issues and to already be there when there’s fire to be quenched.
Traits of a customer service oriented professional
We’re irrevocably heading towards the end of our journey…
But, before we say goodbye, let’s get through how every customer service oriented professional (no matter if it’s an agent or a manager) should go about his job.
To get a good idea of ‘who you should be to be considered a customer service oriented pro, I’ll list the four most important traits that you should adopt and embody with your person.
So, customer service oriented professionals should be…
Proper customer service must be accurate.
There’s nothing more irritating than a customer service rep that can’t help you because he simply doesn’t know.
Therefore, customer service oriented professionals should know every in and out of your product or software.
I wouldn’t mind if he was my customer service rep…
There’s a weird misconception that unfortunately is accurate in regards to many companies. Namely, the marketer knows the offer, the dev team knows the inside of the product/software, business development knows the distribution, etc….
To make sure your customer service professionals are knowledgeable they have to be aware of every process in the company.
Why it’s so important?
1 – They have to be aware of every software/product change that takes place. After all, if a customer comes with an issue regarding the newly added feature your agents must be able to respond.
2 – If a lead contacts your customer service agent because he found some promo shared by your marketing team, he should be aware of such promotion and react accordingly to it.
3 – Let’s say there was a change regarding your pricing introduced by the business department. A customer service rep has to know that not to mislead a newly met prospect.
All in all, make sure your customer service reps are up-to-date with everything that’s going on in your company so they can provide proper customer service.
We’ve touched on that topic deeply before so let’s only recall why it matters in regards to every customer service oriented professional.
Empathy and more precisely customer empathy allow one to walk in another person’s shoes.
That’s the same as the premise of being proactive.
Understanding your customer is the first step to successfully resolving his or her issues. Otherwise, you treat them as an intruder who interrupts your routine.
Adopting customer empathy into your workflow will help you see each interaction with a customer as a new opportunity to help them, benefit your company, and improve yourself as a successful customer service oriented professional.
A customer service oriented professional is like a lighthouse.
Okay… maybe not a lighthouse itself but the guy monitoring the area from the lighthouse…
Anyway, you get it.
It’s your job to monitor what’s going on with your customers and connect the dots when it’s needed.
A few customers (one after another) contact you with a very similar issue. You have two choices regarding how to react.
The first would be to help each customer by explaining how to get it fixed and call it a day.
The second would be to help each customer and realize that there might be a bigger underlying issue. Assuming that something can be wrong, you notify your devs and/or business team who check whether it’s actually some bigger case.
Now, even if a few similar issues reported within a short period were just a coincidence, one day you might actually be onto something and, as result, help solve (or better, prevent!) a bigger issue.
All in all, being observable and always on the lookout is certainly one of the traits of customer service oriented professionals.
While this trait is rather expected from every customer service agent, it’s still one of the key components in a customer service oriented professional’s stack.
It’s perfect when a person is naturally communicative as it creates a feeling of natural connection whenever a customer contacts such a rep.
And, whenever the connection seems natural, a talk, no matter if it’s done via chat or a call, will be much more pleasant. Both for the customer and the rep.
Of course, I’m not trying to convey the idea that a customer service rep should act like every customers’ friend. No.
Service including the language an agent uses should be tailored to your type of business and your customers’ expectations.
Nevertheless, a naturally communicative person will find it easier to communicate no matter how businessy he must sound or how casual his talks should be.
Is your company customer service oriented?
Now that you are equipped with all the data on how to be customer service oriented, you’re ready to make a switch no matter if it’s about your company, your customer service team, or even yourself.
Remember that the core premise of customer service has not changed throughout time. After all, it’s still about helping your customers.
What has changed, on the other hand, is how you should provide that help and how you should perceive it.
Forget about thinking that customer service is an obsolete part of your business and keep in mind that it actually impacts your bottom line.
With all that in mind, you’ll find it much easier to switch to the customer service oriented approach which will help you get more customers and make more customers stay with you.