Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft; all on the Fortune 500 list of most profitable companies in the US. Household names. But what do these companies have in common? The answer lies in the way they interact with their customers, putting an enormous emphasis on customer experience, and the results speak for themselves.
The outcome of a good customer service strategy is demonstrated in the loyalty shown by customers.
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn't need to call you, doesn't need to talk to you. It just works.” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.
Amazon’s approach to customer service means there are no questions asked and no assumption that the customer could ever be wrong. Named as The Everything Store, this retail giant knows that fixing problems early and without putting any blame on customers instills a sense of trust and loyalty - customers keep coming back.
Not only do they demonstrate excellent customer service through their delivery of packages to almost any location (even within a matter of hours in some cases), but Amazon also have a strong digital strategy for social customer care.
Today, as well as a Facebook page and Twitter account for customers to get in touch, Amazon also has an Instagram account that is regularly being tagged and mentioned. Being available on multiple channels instils a sense of accessibility and confidence that questions and queries are being answered.
I can't say enough good things about AmazonFresh and their customer service. Today, they were running several hours behind and when my 7 am delivery did not get there at 9:30, I called them. They refunded me the entire order, still delivered it (a few hours later) and gave me another $20 as a way to say sorry. That's great customer service! #amazonfresh #lovethem #amazoncustomerservice
A photo posted by Shivani (@shivshivani) on
@Julytony6 Are you Pikachu? Because we choose you.— Amazon (@amazon) September 28, 2016
Adopting this kind of customer service strategy instils a sense of trust and encourages loyalty to the brand. It makes consumers feel special. Finding the right tone and creating conversations with customers allows for a much more human relationship and interaction between customers and the company’s customer service agents.
In addition to social media channels, the company website changed their ‘contact us’ page experience, allowing customers to leave their phone number so that they can be called back, thus spending less time waiting on the phone and as a result, reducing stress.
These factors that make up their customer service strategy might explain why this Fortune 500 company was named earth’s most customer-centric company.
“In the long arc of time, you are only relevant if customers love you”. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
Apple have managed to establish a feat many other companies would only ever dream of achieving. That is, an almost cult-like fan base, that arose from customers being made to feel they are being taken care of.
As well as happy customers, happy employees who represent the products and brand as a whole, consistently show a passion for Apple products. In-store customer service gives consumers the feeling they are speaking to a tech enthusiast rather than a salesperson.
The company’s strategy for hiring and training customer service agents ensures customers are receiving an outstanding, high quality service from somebody who really knows about the brand’s products. Everything a customer experiences in-store has been thoroughly thought out. In fact Apple have even developed an acronym for the way it teaches their staff how to interact with customers.
A - Approach customers with a personalized, warm welcome.
P - Probe politely to understand all the customer's needs.
P - Present a solution for the customer to take home today.
L - Listen for and resolve any issues or concerns.
E - End with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
Needless to say, customers’ needs, whether online or in-store, come in a variety of forms - some are more difficult and demanding than others. Apple have managed to successfully demonstrate an approach that makes it easier to deal with this variety; by instilling a sense of empathy towards customers.
In-store customer service for this Fortune 500 company, comes in the form of the Genius bar; a place to meet and receive help for any technical problems from ‘geniuses’ who have extensive technical knowledge about the Apple products.
Additionally, the company has a customer service page on their website where customers can get information on topics such as managing photos, using messages or keeping up to date with iTunes gift cards. Customers also have the option to view repair options, check warranty status and look up repair status.
There is a wealth of options on the website, and this also applies to making contact with the company; start a chat in real time, send an email, or arrange a phone call. Giving customers options empowers them and gives a sense of control - they choose how to seek help or get in touch.
This highlights an underlying approach to customer service strategy that can be seen in all 3 companies; that is a focus on customer experience at every point.
On social media, Apple recently opened a tech support channel on Twitter dedicated to customer care, acquiring more than 100,000 followers in just the first day.
Answering questions and tackling issues in-channel allows Apple to quickly and efficiently deal with customers’ needs. Their handle however, appears to not only be handling complaints and technical questions, but also offer tips.
Invisible ink lets you have more fun writing your friends. Your photo or text will remain hidden until swiped. pic.twitter.com/Z820DN4ard— Apple Support (@AppleSupport) October 16, 2016
Most of the responses from the company ask for customers to send a DM, which suggests their approach is to resolve issues on private channels. However, there are exceptions, and attempts to resolve issues in-channel are becoming more noticeable:
@1mchall Thanks for reaching out. We’re happy to help. Which Mac are you using? And how long has this been happening?— Apple Support (@AppleSupport) October 18, 2016
This change in approach suggest that Apple are realizing the benefits of tackling issues and questions in a public forum. Namely, that others with similar issues can solve similar problems using the answer from a different user’s Tweet.
Interestingly, the @Apple Twitter account lies dormant and has never posted a single tweet, even with its 615,000 followers. This move to a separate and dedicated customer care channel shows that the company recognizes the need to be more available for their customers. It confirms the importance of listening to your customers and putting their experience at the center of your business.
Even the CEO of Twitter expressed his delight at Apple’s move to join the digital age of customer service:
“At the core of the products we build, I want to think about productivity centered around people.” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Microsoft has a particularly strong presence on Twitter, with a dedicated account to almost every imaginable theme; security, development, news, events, careers, and of course a customer service account as well.
This thorough covering of all bases means Microsoft customers can engage and interact with every part of the brand. It means that any customer service related questions or queries can not only be answered by the right teams, but can also be asked in the right place.
The brand’s various Twitter channels each serve a different purpose. Whilst most of the main Microsoft Twitter channel includes news and related articles for example, the Microsoft Office channel sees the brand interact with customers in a more natural and casual way, both answering questions and proactively offering help.
Additionally, with a new focus on bots, Microsoft are playing an important role in the way we interact with and experience customer service. As well as not having to wait in line whether in a physical setting or on the phone, chat bots will be able to interact with and answer any queries from customers.
With the ability to retain a vast amount of information, exceeding what our average human brain can hold, bots’ ability to instantly scan and retrieve past information and conversations means customer service will see a huge improvement in both quality and quantity of queries it is able to handle at a time.
If a company has got it right, social can be an incredible tool for more sales, more clients and increased loyalty from those already behind your brand. A strong customer service strategy on multiple channels is essential since it can take years to build a successful brand just to tarnish a reputation with a couple of negative reviews or feedback.
What we can learn from all three companies is to apply a customer service strategy that makes people feel valued. After all, the customer is always right.