Corporate Eye

How Customer Services Affects a Brand

customer_service_agentHow do your company’s customer service tactics affect your brand?  Have you researched the relationship between customer service and brand image in your company and with your customers yet?  If not, you need to.  Customer service and brand image change in direct proportion to one another.

In other words, poor customer service (whether it actually is poor or is just perceived as poor doesn’t matter) leads to a negative brand image in consumers’ minds.  Great customer service, on the other hand, can have a significant impact in positive brand perceptions.  The power of social web conversations can boost these perceptions exponentially higher or lower.

How many times have you called a customer service line in need of help and found yourself spending 10 minutes navigating through automated services, desperately trying to connect with a human being.  However, when you finally can connect with a human being, that person provides you with inaccurate information or chooses not to be helpful at all.  Often there is a language barrier that makes it more frustrating for customers.

Sometimes, customer service agents are simply so unfriendly, bored or aloof, that the caller ends up feeling like he did something wrong by seeking help.  I understand that customer service is a thankless job (I’ve gotten on the phones in corporate customer service call centers more than once to get a better understanding of how the process works in order to better market it).  However, as a customer, you still deserve to be treated kindly and as if your call is important.  On more than one occasion, I’ve ended calls with customer service agents who have sounded particularly bored saying to the agent, “You’re getting paid to talk to me, right?”  The agent always answers in the affirmative to which I respond by saying, “Then you should really cheer up.  You are getting paid after all.”  I’m sure it doesn’t make a difference to the agent, but perhaps they’ll try to be a bit friendlier.  I can hope, right?

Of course, companies need to cut costs, and customer service is an easy place to do it.  However, the negative implications to your brand when customer service suffers are far-reaching and long-lasting. That’s damage that can be hard to erase or reverse.

Human nature makes it far more likely for disgruntled customers to tell people about their negative experiences with your company.  Happy customers are usually less likely to go out of their way to tell the world about how great your company is.  It’s important to go the extra mile to build loyal customers, but it’s also important to do the simple things that customers expect — such as giving them an easy way to get effective and friendly help when they need it.  After all, an essential part of brand-building is setting and meeting expectations for your brand.

Bottom-line, make a point to study how customer service affects your brand in the minds of consumers and how consumers react to those perceptions.  It’s more important than you might think.

Image: stock.xchng

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, TodayShow.com, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
 
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