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Today I am pleased to share with you a guest post by Julian de Sevilla with PATlive.

An effective customer service solution has always been a tool that helps businesses stand out. However, customers recently have come to expect more from businesses in terms of service, forming a landscape that’s saturated with options, and thus hyper-competitive.

Many businesses now compete solely on the strength of their customer experience. Creating an experience that’s memorable and as effortless as possible for customers will likely be what makes them choose you from the dizzying amount of options available. This means making yourself available where your audience is comfortable, whether that’s the phone, a certain form of social media, or face-to-face.

Once you’re there, it’s essential to develop a voice for how your business communicates that’s unique and memorable. Equally important, however, is delivering that tone consistently across every point of contact with customers. This makes for a strong brand image that’ll remain on their minds.       

Customers Expect More
Consider these statistics from the National Federation of Independent Business regarding what customers have come to expect in terms of service across channels:

  • When communicating via social media, 57% of customers expect a response within thirty minutes, regardless of the time of day.
  • 73% of customers prefer to solve a problem with a real person, but there’s another side to that coin: 32% of customers think the phone is the most frustrating way to connect with a business. Successfully bridging that gap – using human communication to help solve problems in an effortless way that doesn’t leave customers pulling their hair out – is precisely the goal in curating a customer experience.
  • Twitter-based customer service increased 250% from 2015 to 2017. Customers expect the convenience of having their voices heard and issues resolved with a few taps on a screen, and failing to deliver this will set you back.

What does this mean for how you communicate with customers? Primarily, that you must be prepared to play on their court. Your brand should exist everywhere your audience does and engage them wherever they’re comfortable. The less steps required of them, the better.

All Together, Now
Does your business have a voice? For example, well-known companies like Zappos and Amazon have a unique voice through which they deliver their brand message. While Zappos has a friendly and passionate customer communication style, Amazon is more known for their precision and timeliness. Though very different, each is consistent, which makes the process of dealing with a company a more organic experience.

The concept of developing a voice and a personality that embodies your brand might seem contrived or inauthentic, but the effect it has is just the opposite. If executed correctly, this creates a positive association in a customer’s mind that is reinforced with every interaction. It’s crucial, however, to ensure your voice is delivered consistently across touchpoints.

The Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey found that 58% of customers are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel. This is a mistake that’s easily avoided with just a little attention to detail. If your razor-sharp customer service team responds to every phone call in seconds, the experience should be mirrored on Twitter, Facebook, and in person. If you respond to customers on Twitter in a fun and casual voice, training your phone support team to respond formally using strict scripts doesn’t make for a very cohesive experience.

Ensuring every touchpoint is covered and delivering the same level of service may seem daunting, but customers will take notice. Instilling confidence that they’re in for a pleasant experience no matter how they choose to connect with you eases a level of dissonance which will make the experience stand out – might even tell a friend.

Put Yourself Out There
You’re savvy to what’s expected; your brand’s voice is well thought-out, tailored to your audience, and second nature to your team. All that’s left is to carry it out. Here are some tips for where and how to do just that:

Your website
No matter how small your business, you need to be accessible online if you want to reach any sizable audience. Putting together an effective website is essential, and it’s easier than ever with tools like Squarespace and Weebly which are largely affordable or, in some cases, free.

Your website should be simple, easily navigated, and able to answer any question someone could have about your business. Additionally, a live chat service is quickly becoming requisite for any business online, as research shows that customers are most satisfied with a business when using live chat.

Social media
Think of your social media presence as an extension of your website. Rather than making them come to you, establish a presence on social media so that you’re easily reached.

Do your best to provide as much service directly on these channels as possible, to minimize the amount that customers have to switch between them to resolve their issue. 

The humble telephone. If your phone experience isn’t fine-tuned to perfection by now, you’re already behind. Did you know 75% of customers think it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone? Important as it is, there frequently aren’t enough resources – or hours in the day – to manage phone calls in the midst of an already-packed schedule.

Using a live answering service to field your calls eases that burden. Your calls are handled by real live humans who are specially trained in your brand’s voice and the details of your business. This l
eaves you free to steer your ship, confident that your phone experience is the best it can be.

The Takeaway
Customers expect more in terms of service than ever before, so delivering a stress-free experience is your key to standing out from competitors. Developing a voice for your brand and making sure it’s present everywhere your audience is will make your excellent service impossible to forget.  

Julian de Sevilla is a Marketing Specialist at PATLive, a Florida-based 24/7 live answering service for small businesses. He manages the company’s social media accounts and writes about a range of topics regarding communication and the customer experience on PATLive’s blog.