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This article was published on December 14, 2010

How to Personalize Customer Service: “It’s Personal, It’s Business”

How to Personalize Customer Service: “It’s Personal, It’s Business”
Amalia Agathou
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Amalia Agathou

Amalia Agathou is the Community Director for The Next Web. She's studied Information and Communication Systems Engineering and has shared he Amalia Agathou is the Community Director for The Next Web. She's studied Information and Communication Systems Engineering and has shared her time between the startup and fashion scene. She has worked as an editor for The Next Web, House& Garden and Glamour magazine. Follow her on Twitter

According to research, 78% of consumers say their most satisfying experience occurred because of a capable and competent customer service representative. Zappos has set the bar high in customer service, even for luxury brands, proving that when it comes to doing business, integrity, understanding, reputation, and helpfulness make for the greatest innovation.

A brands’s service values mirror its identity, so it’s high time you asked yourself: “What does my customer service say about my brand?”. Customer service in person or on the phone may in fact be easier to provide than online. A warm smile, a friendly voice, an easy, pleasant in-store experience or short wait time on the phone, can not be duplicated when you serve a customer online. Additionally, the Internet has spoiled us, we want everything fast, free and the way we like it. Social media has turned all the clients into VIPs, serve them or get served. An unfortunate moment in service or an unanswered complaint won’t go unnoticed anymore. In the 80s the saying was: “It’s not personal, it’s business”, today it’s: “It’s personal, it’s business”. The question is how do you personalize customer service?

Personalize communications: People feel more comfortable when they talk to a human being and not to an automated machine. Make sure your clients know who they are talking to, give your representatives their own social media ID, like Comcast . Your representatives’ voice is your company’s voice. For this reason hire people that are not just tech savvy, but more importantly people savvy. Fill your company with people that share the same values as your brand. Many social media backlashes didn’t root in bad use of technology, but bad manners, like the Cooks Source case.

Don’t over-serve: Nothing is more annoying while shopping in-store than the stalker-shopping assistant that hovers around until you buy something. Online the annoying shopping assistant corresponds to spam, whether that’s promotional tweets or unwanted newsletters. Give the customers the choice to easily “opt out” of your help, like your shopping recommendations and new offers e-mails.

Provide shopping assistance on your e-shop: One of the best things about shopping online is getting rid off the pushy shopping assistants we mentioned above and one of the worst is not having someone to help you decide on the right purchase. Some brands have solved the part of product recommendations, for instance wine.com has implemented a wine finder that takes into account different parameters, like price range, professional ratings, etc. Amazon also provides personalized recommendations, and Levi’s provides recommendations from your online social circle through the Friends Store. But what about providing answers about your product and brand history while shopping? Fabergé has solved this by providing its clients the option to have a sales advisor call them or contact them by live conversation text or video consultation. The Fabergé representative can also guide them though the collections on the site via their own screen.

Provide convenient communication channels: Don’t interrupt the communication process, try to keep a smooth flow in the interaction with the customer. Provide your customer with different options to get served but don’t make him/her feel like a ping pong ball. If you were tweeting and need to move your conversation to the phone provide them with a specific phone number or a chat option that will help you pick up the conversation from where you left off. Don’t force the customer to call a central help line and start again from square one. Forrester and ATG research measured the impact of adding Click-to-Call and Online Chat features to a website and found out that 88% of customers using these methods would have given up on their orders without help from an agent.

Customer service with mobile devices: It’s no secret that people use their mobile phones while shopping to look up product info and check reviews, so why not make mobile part of your customer service? Brands like Burberry have begun efforts to spice up the in-store shopping experience with the use of mobile devices like iPads and iPhones. Location-based social networks can revolutionize customer service as, by checking-in, your clients basically give you their social ID and taste. Just be discreet and don’t let this extra piece of information turn their shopping experience into a minority report nightmare.

Let your customers help themselves: Remember when in school you’d prefer to have a classmate explain something to you rather than your teacher? Same goes for customer service, sometimes you prefer communicating your issues to other customers you connect with socially. This is one of the reasons online communities pay off, take a look at Hewlett Packard, Intel or Blackberry.

What defines quality customer service for you, and how do you prefer to receive help?

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