Brand Alignment Starts with Customer Service

Photo credit: Transmedia Storyteller Ltf

Brand alignment involves more than a thorough brand strategy, a consistent identity, and a clear message. It also involves customer service.

Sadly and too often, companies undo their branding efforts with mismatched customer service.

In all the hubbub involved with a business owner’s never-ending to-do list, it’s easy to fall into a trap. Simply put, without stellar customer service, you won’t attract what Peter Shankman calls “Zombie Loyalists” who swear by your brand.

Before I dive into the tips on how to ensure your customer service is top-notch, let me share a story.

Recently, I moved into a new home. I was not happy that the only Internet provider available to me was Time Warner Cable. I’d never used them before—why would I, after the horror stories I’d heard, I sucked it up and signed up.

I’m the first to admit, I was pleasantly surprised—the technician actually came out when he said he would. The company sent me a series of emails letting me know all the cool features and things I could do to enhance my experience with them.

Then one day, my Internet signal started fading in and out. I let it go on for a few days before I went to my customer portal. Time Warner Cable provides you 5 million ways to get in touch with them (something as a customer I appreciate), so I opted for the chat feature.

The woman on the other end was courteous. She asked me for my number in case we were disconnected. I gave it to her.

She was very helpful until she told me that everything was “fine” with the connection and I should “just deal with it.”

I kid you not.

She said, “just deal with it,” as if my Internet connection is something I use to watch Netflix and cat videos.

I begged her to test again, which she did. She then found out that I had the wrong modem type. She said she would mail me one, and I would have to install it, and I could expect it in a week or so.

Um, no.

I asked her to please send out a technician.

She refused.

Only now do I wish I had a screenshot of the conversation because what comes next is…well, shocking.

She ended the conversation with me. She actually quit the chat.

She had my call back number, and she never called me back.

This story gets worse, much worse (and 3 weeks later the issue still isn’t resolved), but I’ll spare you the gruesome details.

The point here is that this is a perfect example of where the branding and marketing message DOESN’T match the customer service experience.

Time Warner Cable doesn’t boast its world-renowned customer service.

But they do pride themselves on fast Internet–wherever and whenever you need it. And they seem to be quite proud of their ability to respond to customer issues—chat, phone, web, etc.

The issue here is simple: When you brand your business, you make a claim about your service offerings. In order to satisfy clients and over-deliver on promises, it’s imperative that service levels coincide with the message.

Without further ado, here are 4 tips to ensure your customer service is a positive experience.

Tip #1: Create reasonable turnaround times

It’s important that you make good on your promises to customers each and every time. If you fail to deliver, they’ll lose confidence and trust. Most often, they’ll go elsewhere.

One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to set reasonable turnaround times to start with. That way, you’re much more likely to honor your promises.

Let’s say you’re an IT firm that promises a 7-hour turnaround. Can you actually deliver in 7 hours on a really, really busy day? What about in the evenings, once everyone has gone home?

Tip #2: Follow through on expectations

You say you’re there for clients, but don’t answer complaints. Much as you should promise reasonable turnaround times, it’s imperative to follow through on the expectations you set.

If you own a pool maintenance company, I’m guessing your customers want to keep their pools clean and beautiful. Your website features crystal-clear pools, and you explain how regular maintenance is your #1 priority. The fastest way to anger your customers…fall through on their expectations and let their pools turn green.

Your marketing content sets the tone for your business, so you’d better believe that the message cultivates certain expectations from your customers. If your website copy, blogs, and downloadable articles highlight action-based solutions, your customers will expect you to deliver that level of service once they sign a contract with you.

For example, Sūmèr is a fun company to work with. As you can tell from our website and copywriter bios, we’re playful and a bit sassy. Clients like working with us because of that attitude. However, we give them honest feedback to improve their marketing strategy, even if our actionable advice isn’t a pat on the back and a sticker that says “great job.”

Tip #3: Create long-term clients with stellar service

Consistency is key to ensure customers want to spend their money with you.

Make your customers feel welcomed and valued. If customer service slips, everything you’ve done to cultivate your customer relationships goes down the toilet.

Thank them for their patronage, but more than that, solve their problems. Give them free goodies that will improve their lives, such as an ebook that helps them solve a particular problem.

Remember repeat, customers build long-term revenue structures, so keep them happy.

Tip #4: Respond to customer feedback, even if it’s bad

If your website promises incredible customer relations, make sure you respond to feedback on social media. Interacting with customers shows them that you care about them and remain invested in them as people.

Responses show you stand behind your product and your reputation. (After all, social media is very public.) If a customer’s product broke during shipping, and they call this out on social media, spread the word that you will send them a new one. It’s a matter of established professionalism, but it also shows that you’re willing to step in when an error occurs.

This is especially true for negative reviews. Your current and prospective customers look at how you respond when determining whether or not to buy from you.

There’s a caveat, though, for negative reviews. Don’t be defensive and don’t engage repeatedly with the haters. You can’t please everyone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

For example, definitely don’t follow SeaWorld’s lead when responding to haters on Twitter. I’m pretty sure this response during an open #askmeanything campaign probably caused some SeaWorld supporters to change their minds.

If someone is unhappy with their service, publicly or not, offer them a resolution. Once. That’s it. Do not argue with customers online—it’s petty at best.

At the same time, social media engagement increases your brand awareness in since it allows you to form deeper bonds with your customers.

See this example of communication that sets the bar for customer engagement that builds relationships.

Show your commitment to professional learning and relationships by sharing this on LinkedIn.

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