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Latest 12 Mar 2020 | Customer Service

How do Customers Perceive Your Brand?

You own your brand. But your brand perception? That’s entirely in the hands of your customers. What customers share about your brand—online or offline—shapes how people view your organization. Happy customers write positive reviews, share your name on social media, and rave about you to their friends. A great customer experience is its own sales and marketing.

But what really matters to your customers? Everyone likes to cite mass surveys and, while there’s a lot of value in looking at the data, we think it’s equally important to speak to individuals and find out what matters to them personally. That’s why the Conversocial team set out to talk to customers about their service experiences—we wanted to find out what brands did to make them feel valued as customers. We spoke one-on-one with 10 consumers from the US, UK, and Canada about their experiences. While their individual stories varied, we noticed some common themes. Here’s what came up in our conversations again and again. 

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It’s the little things

“I really appreciate the small interactions,” one British customer told The Conversation. A friendly demeanor and genuine interest in helping the person you’re serving goes a long way. It may be cliché, but having a positive attitude came up in nearly every discussion we had. 

An American doctoral student studying abroad talked about a good experience she had at her local bank. Navigating taxes in another country is never easy, but the teller was quick to assist her and help her fill out the relevant forms. “It’s the attitude of ‘we can do this,’” she said. 

On the other side, the customers we spoke with almost universally characterized poor customer service as a bad attitude—representatives who made them feel like a burden or who were simply unwilling to help. A Canadian recalled an encounter with a particularly sour coffee barista. When she asked to have her drink in a mug instead of a paper takeaway cup, the server said nothing and fulfilled her request with a scowl on his face. She doesn’t visit that coffee shop anymore. “I shouldn’t feel guilty for getting a coffee,” she said. “It comes down to feeling like the person on the other side is happy to serve you.”

 

Timing is important—but it’s not the only thing

Unsurprisingly, the customers we spoke with wanted to be able to get help quickly. “Clients really appreciate when their time is respected,” one customer commented. 

But many didn’t mind waiting—as long as brands kept them in the loop. One Canadian talked about how relieved she felt to see a brand’s estimated response times for various channels listed on their website. “Knowing the response time is huge,” she said. Just having that information took so much anxiety out of the process. 

Another Canadian talked about taking her mother to a doctor’s appointment and having to wait hours past the set appointment time. She noted that if she had been given an explanation—maybe an emergency had pushed appointments back—she would have been a lot more patient. “Being left in the unknown is a really frustrating thing for a lot of people,” she said. “Being honest is really important.”

“It comes down to feeling like the person on the other side is happy to serve you.”

People want to feel like they matter

Your customers might forget what you said or what you did, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. One of the most powerful conversations we had while researching this article was with a recently qualified veterinarian. Working out of a university clinic known for its exceptional care, she regularly treats animals whose owners have driven out of their way to get there. “I’ll get patients coming from far away and I ask, ‘you drove past 500 clinics to come here—why?’” she said. “People are willing to travel out of their way to receive services where they feel valued.”

She’s also seen incredible customer service during very difficult times. “During pet euthanasias, I’ve seen veterinarians give up their lunch break or stay late—just to show the client that they are their main priority. They’re so good at showing love and empathy and showing how much someone’s pet’s life meant to everybody.” That’s the kind of service that gets recognized. “We don’t get cards when we fix your dog’s broken leg,” she says. “All the cards and gifts we get from clients are from people whose pets we’ve euthanized.”

Your customer service is a direct reflection of your brand—and your customers are taking note. While you may not deal in life or death situations, your small habits and behaviors speak volumes. How are you working to cultivate a brand culture where positivity, open communication, and exceptional service can thrive? Let us know @conversocial

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