Tough times can fall on companies and consumers alike. Whether it’s a global pandemic or the possibility of a recession, major changes impact the world. They also impact which brands get buyers’ business.
During difficult periods, people become a little more discerning with their dollars. They’re fine with spending, but they want value for their money. This makes existing and potential customers more selective when it comes to where they shop and what items they choose. They also tend to become less loyal. In 2021, about half of consumers told McKinsey they had switched brands at least once.
For businesses, this presents a huge opportunity to win customers from competitors while reassessing how to gain customer loyalty. One certain way to appeal to more conscientious consumers is through above-and-beyond customer service and support.
The Power of Service Beyond the Ordinary
What makes exceptional service so defining, especially during difficult economies? For one, it can set a brand apart. Brands often compete for space in crowded markets where it can be hard to offer much differentiation. Consider two diners operating in the same community. Both have relatively similar menus. Both are open at roughly the same timeframe. But one is known for its consistently friendly, welcoming servers. Which diner is the obvious choice?
Another benefit to providing customers with unexpectedly outstanding service is the 5 Ways to Boost Customer Service Performance. People like to talk when they’ve been wowed—and these days, they frequently talk on social media. This gives brands the chance to get some extra PR traction online organically. That’s powerful, particularly for companies forced to shave their marketing and advertising budgets.
Let’s not forget that terrific customer service can also help keep employees in their seats. Employees who have been empowered feel greater ownership over their roles. They’re engaged in their responsibilities. They’re also less likely to wish they worked somewhere else. Consequently, they’re less likely to become part of the Great Resignation experiment that gained traction in early 2021.
Real-World Examples of Extraordinary Service in Action
Whether you’re the CEO or a team leader, you may find it useful to study other companies’ top-notch service strategies. Below are three examples of wise customer service choices during challenging times.
1. Help Buyers Work Around Supply Chain Woes
The Covid pandemic didn’t just bring about shortages of consumer goods like paper products and baby formula. Medical necessities like home health equipment items were also nowhere to be found. As a result, countless individuals faced the possibility that their lives might be put at risk.
One type of medical equipment that disappeared from the Internet were CPAP machines, which are used to help individuals diagnosed with sleep apnea. Left unmanaged, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems, including excessive fatigue, memory loss, and debilitating headaches.
Online since the early 2000s, CPAP.com has been a trusted supplier of affordable CPAP equipment. Rather than just telling customers they had to wait, CPAP.com worked to secure machines from other manufacturers, offered advice for navigating the shortage, and provided information about affordable CPAP alternatives.
The big takeaway from this customer service story is simple: Leverage your expert-level position. Share what you know. Show that you’re truly the go-to leader in your field. This will keep your brand top of mind, giving you an edge when customers are ready to buy.
2. Reduce Barriers to Communication and Education
Schools, businesses, and even cities shut down in 2020 to stop the spread of coronavirus. However, people still wanted to learn, work, and socialize. The obvious answer was to lean heavily on video platforms.
Zoom was a favorite from the outset, but it wasn’t perfect. Its major obstacle was a 40-minute time limit on all basic plans. This made it difficult for teachers to connect with students and families to enjoy long chats with loved ones.
It wasn’t long before Zoom lifted this restriction. The result was that Zoom surged ahead and became so commonplace that its name turned into an adjective and verb. Soon, “Zooming” became a popular activity. And meetings turned into “Zoom meetings.”
The secret customer service ingredient here was to listen and respond to feedback. When considering customer service improvements at your company, don’t be afraid to make a change. A consumer-centric pivot could push your organization into the spotlight.
3. Lend an Ear in Addition to Offering Terrific Service
Becoming a leader in the customer service field comes with years of experience and finding ways to stand out from others. In 2020, Zappos once again proved its customer support genius. For a time, the company opened up a hotline — for anyone. Anybody who wanted to call could. And they’d get the chance to vent or talk as long as they wanted.
This wasn’t just an unbelievable move. It was a truly revolutionary one. Zappos showed its deep, sincere empathy for buyers and non-buyers. Ironically, the “service” wasn’t exactly new. According to reports from the company, customers often like to discuss non-business topics.
Interestingly, Zappos won attention from other businesses, not just consumers. Businesses wanted to know how to improve their service, too. As a consequence, a positive ripple effect was created for other companies, too.
What’s the takeaway here? Even if your company doesn’t have deep pockets, you can still challenge your team to think outside of what everyone regularly does. For instance, is there a way for you to use the resources you already have to brighten others’ experiences? That’s essentially what we’re talking about here — looking for ways you can tap into your existing people resources to help your customers.
It’s a natural reflex to want to scale back on your company’s costs when tough times are on the horizon. But you should think twice before you deplete your customer service budget. The interactions your customers have with your brand can have long-term consequences. What may seem like simple interactions could be the difference between you hitting or missing your goals.
Image credit: Liza Summer; Pexles