Services Marketing In The Internet Age

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Back in 2007, I took an optional class of “Services Marketing”, taught by Prof. Leonard Berry at Texas A&M, Mays Business School. Before attending the MBA programme, we (MBA students) received a copy of “Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success”.  The book was wise and an eye-opener to services marketing.  Dr. Berry studied labour-intensive  companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Saint Paul Saints (Baseball team), Charles Schwab Corporation (and 11 more) and  made an astonishing revelation – “The single most important factor in building a lasting service business is not a matter of savvy business practice, but of humane values. In a world where customers regard flawless products as a given, service is the key differentiator between competitors in any field.”

Now it’s 2013. I am in India. The internet has exploded here, giving rise to e-commerce businesses by the dozen. VC’s have pumped in millions. We have seen mergers and closures at the same time. Urbantouch.com was acquired by FashionAndYou.com. Zovi.com bought Inkfruit.com in February. Retail giants like Coca Cola are dabbling with ecommerce. A recently launched coke2home.com delivers happiness to your home, same day if you place an order before 12 noon.

So what keeps e-commerce companies in India alive? What differentiates a Flipkart.com from rest of the pack? It is not the millions poured in by VC’s, nor is it the affinity of Indians to shop online. Neither is it shouting out loud on Television with quirky commercials. Marketing to some extent can act as a differentiator, but the real deal is service.  There are a handful e-commerce companies in India that are providing exceptional service (beyond marketing) – Flipkart.com, Dominos.co.in, and Makemytrip.com to name a few.

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What tips can we get from these businesses? How can you improve service and differentiate your business? Look no further.

 

  1. Setup channels of feedback

You are not a faceless business, even if you are an online ecommerce store or a SaaS company. Consumers like to talk to real people when it comes to solving problems. Make sure you give your customer service a face across all your channels of communication. A good example would be using real names on your social media customer service channels. Take a look at @DellCares, Dell’s social media outreach team for listening, providing help and proactive information to their customers.

dell-cares

Recommended:

  • Use on-site surveys to collect insights from visitors and feedback forms to gather additional information. Try WebEngage.com, KissInsights or 4Q to close the feedback loop.
  • Setup a phone number for your company that is easy to remember and is a go to destination for customer service requests. 1-800-FLOWERS or 1-800-MATTRES (Leave the last S for Savings) are great examples! Try Exotel.in or Knowlarity.com for setting up a cloud based telephony system (If you are in India).
  • Respond to consumer complaints over email as quickly as possible.
  • Setup web chat for services / products that require significant hand holding.

 

  1. Make yourself available 24×7

The internet does not have a Sabbath, so why should your business? Most of the shopping happens over a weekend, when consumers have a little bit more spare time. Moreover, the internet makes shopping a 24×7 activity. A consumer may place an order at 3 in the morning and if he/she is facing difficulties in fulfilling an order and has no help on offer, you have one less customer. Make sure that you have setup proper channels of communications 24×7. You can have your customer service staff works shifts or setup self-help in the form of FAQ articles, demo videos and guides.

E.g. For the search query “domain redirect godaddy”, I see 3 links to the support centre and a video that explains the same. May be I will not have to wait to talk to a customer representative if I am searching at 3 am.

godaddy-customer-support-faqs

Recommended:

  • For managing consumer complaints and queries, try Radian6 or Sysomos. If you are a big business that can afford a few extra hires, look at remote customer service personnel who would be ready to take on the night.
  • Categorize every consumer complaint / query and treat it as a bug in your system. Make sure that you create FAQs / videos / walkthroughs for such interactions.

 

  1. Deliver on your promise

Most businesses lose customers because they suck at customer service and do not fulfil promises.

If you are a well-established brand, people are going to trust you. Make sure that you live up to your promises. One of the best examples of great customer promise fulfilment is the Dominos Pizza Tracker that helps you track your order at every step. On most occasions, Dominos delivers a pizza at your doorstep within 30 minutes. A result of a robust CRM that knows a customer based on their order history and an interconnected web and store system that manages the supply chain seamlessly.

dominos-pizza-tracker

Recommended:

  • Fix your backend before you make promises. Take a look at your broken CRM or your sales call centre. Look deep into every process and identify consumer touch points that can be simplified via technology interventions.
  • If you have delivered on your promise, then get feedback from your customer. It is most likely to be positive. See the dominos example above. It includes a customer feedback form at the end of the order process!

 

  1. Apologize, if you’ve messed up

Pick up the phone or send an email. An apology solves for negative feedback from a customer.

This is what GoDaddy did on September 14, 2012. Sent me and all their customers an apology letter for a service outage on September 10,2012.

go-daddy-apology

 

Recommended:

  • Train your customer service staff to be apologetic for errors / inconvenience caused to customers.
  • Make sure that you have well-drafted policies and communication for emergency situations. Response mechanisms should include policies for Social media management and how customer service personnel should respond via phone.

Now your turn to work on customer service and create customer delightion!

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