There’s a seemingly endless volume of articles, how-tos and guidebooks on customer service “best practices.” These can be helpful, to be sure, but if you really want to grow beyond your competitors, you have to do more than replicate well-known best practices. You have to innovate .
According to a 2017 Forbes article, “We are at a point where companies need to aggressively innovate their customer experience.” The customer service industry is primed and ready for innovation. If your company wants to stand out from the crowd, then you need to take risks and try something few others have.
Here are three examples of how companies have innovated their customer service offerings and how you can, too.
1. Leverage the power of video.
Videos are one of the more powerful, yet untapped, areas of the customer service experience. While phone calls and live chats are incredibly valuable tools, why stop with those? If you want to surprise your customers with new and innovative customer support strategies, then try following Wistia’s example of creating personalized how-to videos to demonstrate different aspects of their software. One of Wistia’s customer happiness team members says: “Realistically, eyes will gloss over a wall of text. Video is a much better way to communicate a technical answer in a clear and engaging way.”
Videos are particularly useful for any kind of tech support. Sharing a video that shows, for example, how a customer can reset their password can be much more helpful than sending text-based instructions.
If you can make the investment, a personalized version custom-made for a specific request will show customers you're willing to go above and beyond to satisfy their needs. If you can’t, you can still use videos to answer common questions. Instead of simply assembling an online knowledge base, Warby Parker is answering its most frequently asked questions and concerns through fun and informative videos on its YouTube channel, Warby Parker Help.
2. Use snail mail.
Joybird, an online furniture brand from which I have purchased, has had to innovate to counter customer wariness about buying furniture without trying it first. For example, the company offers a 365-day in-home trial — almost unheard of for furniture retailers. But I was still shocked when I bought a couch and received a personalized, handwritten thank-you note in the mail. It’s a great way to welcome a new customer with a personal touch, particularly if your products are all sold online.
Any company can use snail mail to connect with their customers. It could be as simple as sending a handwritten note. Or, you could be more creative. At Peak Support, we’ve launched a direct mail fulfillment business because we spotted opportunities to extend the customer relationship through printed mail. For example, we send stickers or badges to customers who achieve certain goals.
3. Make it your mission.
Ultimately, one of the most innovative things you can do for your customers is to make it your mission — literally or figuratively — to exceed their expectations. There’s a reason customer service has had a less-than-stellar reputation in the past, so if you can surprise your customers with a delightful experience, they’re going to take notice.
Zappos is one of the most famous examples; the company’s first core value is to “Deliver WOW Through Service.” The company encourages its agents to answer any customer question, whether or not it relates to the business. And Ritz-Carlton empowers all its employees “to fix any guest problem, without asking for permission -- even if it costs up to $2000 to do so.”
You may not have the funds to mimic the Ritz-Carlton. But you can use the assets you have: your agents’ time and energy. At one of our e-commerce clothing clients, for example, a customer commented that an agent “made it her mission” to find him a pair of pants. The agent genuinely cared about his order and followed up proactively to ensure he got what he wanted.
But be warned -- this can’t be faked. You have to make sure your agents truly care about your customers and your brand. This agent “made it her mission” because solving customer problems actually is her mission.
Don’t be afraid to buckle-down on your customer service offerings and go above-and-beyond what your customers expect. Not only will they be pleasantly surprised, but the better their customer service experience is, the more likely they’ll be to convert into a long-term customer and advocate.