Immediate response times, knowledgeable help, access across channels – customer service expectations are higher than ever, and companies are paying attention. There’s a reason 61% of organizations are increasing their investment in support.
But that investment isn’t only in customer happiness. Successful companies also are training their customer service teams to be brand ambassadors, making these employees powerful marketing collaborators throughout the customer lifecycle.
Frontline service employees are often a consumer’s first human interaction with a company. They can even be someone’s first real impression, eclipsing marketing materials. After all, customers make buying decisions based on their experiences, so no matter what originally attracted them, their customer service interactions can dictate loyalty or loss.
As all brands need ambassadors, customer service teams are a good place to start.
The importance of ambassadorship in service
Over the course of the pandemic, customers have lost patience with wasting any time. They want what they want (or need) exactly when they want (or need) it. They want the first person they contact to be the right person. They want their problems understood and solved. And they want it all to be predictable and consistent with the brand the company projects.
For customer service representatives, brand ambassadorship means acting as the human embodiment of the brand. Customer service teams need to know, understand and be on board with a company’s mission, vision and offering (that is, the components of the brand) to connect all business functions back to how they serve the customer. In other words, in addition to representing the brand, these teams bring it to life.
When service teams know the ins and outs of the business – customer journey, service or product offerings, experience touchpoints, why someone might leave, what encourages them to stay – they can anticipate and answer questions to help customers in a holistic way. This alleviates a customer’s concerns about whether they’re speaking to the right person. Instead, they can be confident that no matter who they speak with, that person understands. That means making every customer service team member the right person.
Just as their expectations are higher than ever, customers are savvier than ever. Many can immediately suss out whether the person they’re speaking to will be able to solve their problem, or if the effort will be wasted time. This is why, like marketers, customer service teams need to know the brand (and product or service) so intimately that they become the only expert a customer needs to reach.
Training customer service teams to be brand ambassadors
Many companies are struggling with short-staffed and overworked service teams. But approaching training with a brand ambassadorship mindset can be transformative. By knowing the brand – and better yet, believing in it – customer service teams help earn customer trust and loyalty.
The most important part of training is ensuring team members know what they can and can’t do (both logistically and literally).
Practice different scenarios to prepare for this. Is what the customer wants achievable? Service reps should know. If not, then what are the other ways the company can meet the customer’s needs? Service reps should know – without having to go ask in the middle of a conversation.
There is a certain level of autonomy that needs to be baked into any customer service training. It flows from a foundation of brand knowledge. The more fully frontline staff understand and buy into the brand, the more readily and effectively they can propose solutions in line with it, no matter the original question or concern.
The other crucial element to train for when it comes to brand ambassadorship in customer service is how to express humanity and authenticity.
Frontline staff should feel empowered to lean into their individual personalities, especially when it means empathizing with a customer and skipping canned responses. This is even more important during conversations where the customer is unhappy, stressed or wants something the company may not be able to deliver.
Think of it as getting out of a customer service professional’s way. The best representatives – and the best brand ambassadors – have values that align with the company’s, so by letting them be themselves, organizations naturally allow these representatives to embody the brand. It’s no surprise that this is exactly what many customers want.
The benefits for marketing teams
Customer service can have a dramatic effect on customer acquisition and retention – the very things marketers work toward.
Remember: customer service teams are the ones who actually speak to customers. Sure, they may not be direct lead generators, but these reps have a constant pulse on how a company is being perceived, how its products are being used, where the problems are, and where the potential is.
Marketers can partner with customer service teams much as they would with other brand ambassadors by using the service teams’ knowledge to inspire their own marketing efforts.
Launching a new product or service? Customer service teams can test the desire among existing customers.
Looking for new feature ideas? Service teams know the pain points.
Need to communicate a change to your customer base? Service teams engage with customers directly for invaluable one-on-one conversations that email newsletters and push notifications can’t replicate.
Given the direct line of communication between service reps and customers, marketing teams can greatly benefit from these two-way conversations. Strategies are made more specific. Efforts are made more relevant. Results are made more impactful.
As service has only proven to be more effective for a business’s growth and more important to customers, how it’s approached – and leveraged by marketing – matters a great deal. Customer service teams are already perfectly primed to be a brand’s best ambassadors. And they can be a marketer’s greatest ally.
Patti Crume is the director of Customer Happiness at Ruby, a virtual receptionist and live chat company serving more than 14,000 small businesses. Across her 10 years at the company, Patti has built necessary process flows between customer marketing and service to tightly align their efforts and better reach and serve customers. She’s become a cultural icon and ambassador for everything Ruby stands for.
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