February 2008 - Channel Crossing: Customer Care

Use Customer Service to Your Long-Term Advantage

By Shari Altman

As each new year comes around, every one of us has a burst of optimism. Why not take advantage of that optimism to make a new start with customers as well?

One caveat-I’m a marketer, so my take on customer service comes with a marketing sensibility-how to use customer service for an eventual profitability benefit. With that disclaimer, let’s look at ways to make a fresh start with our customers as the new year begins.

How about thanking customers for their business? Sending a thank you e-mail or mailing a thank-you postcard with no strings attached-no offers or promotions-will be a very well-received gesture of goodwill. Customers are not accustomed to receiving a true and simple “thank you.” Promoting goodwill with customers without them feeling like you are “reaching in their pocket with the other hand” will go a long way toward them feeling respected and appreciated.

What about starting a new customer appreciation program? Establish a simple loyalty program without numerous rules, points, etc. Offer customers in good standing the opportunity to save money on every order. A flat discount, upgraded or free shipping, or a sliding “the more you buy the more you save” approach all can be effective in helping you get more of the customer’s purchases-more “share of wallet,” in relationship marketing terms. Have customer service make outbound calls to your top-tier customers to advise them of the new program and its benefits, as well as advising those who call in about the new program.

If your product line has an appeal as a holiday gift, the new year is a great time to get in touch with those gift recipients at the “ship to” addresses (assuming you shipped to the recipient’s address) and welcome them. Have customer service contact them by phone or send an e-mail encouraging customers to call in. Start building relationships with those gift recipients-give them tips on using your product and how to make the most of it. Make a special offer on add-ons or accessories that they can use to make even better use of their gift item (your product).

Finally, consider a new incentive program for your customer service department. While you certainly don’t want customer service to give short shrift to the service aspect of their jobs, provide them with incentives for making sales to new customers or selling add-ons to existing customers. Your customer service agents are in a perfect position to understand existing customer needs and tailor a solution for them from your product line. Encourage them by making incentives available to them when they succeed at these efforts.

As the page turns to 2008, make a resolution you can keep. Use customer service to help solidify your relationships with customers, and in so doing make your entire customer service team an integral part of your long-term success.

Shari Altman is president of Altman Dedicated Direct, a direct response marketing consultancy specializing in continuity and auto-replenishment, retention and loyalty marketing. She can be reached at (336) 969-9538, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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