Much research has been produced on customer service over the past decade. Studies examine a plethora of issues and propose a comparable number of recommendations. The aggregate business outcome is an improved bottom line—from better operational efficiencies, to higher revenue, to reduced costs.

Happy customers can be the “best friend” of a business. Disappointed or unhappy customers can quickly become the “worst enemy” of a business. Eighty-six percent of customers indicate they will pay more for great customer service. Forty percent will buy more when they have a great experience. And customer experience is something that happens over an extended timeframe. The same studies show loyal customers are worth up to 10x the amount they spend initially. 

This is all great news. But flip the glass half full upside down, and the glass half empty includes some disconcerting data. Customers who have poor service experiences have a bigger negative impact on companies than the positive business outcomes resulting from happy customers. Upwards of two-thirds of customers stopped making purchases after a bad experience. In addition, dissatisfied customers are more likely than satisfied customers to tell others about their bad experience—whether to friends or family, or over their social channels. A study by Zendesk shows that dissatisfied customers are 50 percent more likely to share it on social media than those with good experiences, and 52 percent more likely to share it on an online review site like Yelp. 

Convinced customer service is a critical issue for your organization—and particularly your ability to grow sale revenue? The following are some things businesses can do to ensure customer service is a revenue enabler and not a revenue inhibitor for their organizations.

1. Start with Self-Service

Customers prefer to self-serve when they can do so. This means that organizations need to build ways that enable customers to find answers to questions and solve problems on their own without engaging you directly. This might mean developing a FAQ or knowledgebase on your website. It might mean short how-to videos that walk them through features in your product or give them directions on how to solve issues they may encounter. 

2. Offer Omnichannel

Customers want to engage with vendors at any time, on any device, and on any channel. Omnichannel customer service means that companies must offer and engage with customers on any number of channels—phone, email, live web chat, text, and social media. It’s not simply something that is nice to have, but rather it is something customers expect from their vendors.

3. Make It Personal

Brands offering personal service outperform those that don’t by 15 percent. Getting personal can mean different things. For your website, you want to offer personalized content and live web chat invitations based on the behavior or even the identity of the visitor. When you do engage with customers, you must ensure that they have a seamless flow across each of the channels they use for the engagement. We’re not talking simply about ensuring your information gets transferred between customer service agents during one service phone call (which surprisingly happens too frequently). For example, the information a customer supplies over live web chat should be logged and visible to the customer service phone agent (in the event the live web chat needs to be transferred to the phone channel). Remember personalization doesn’t always need to be done digitally. Hand-written thank you notes or messages can go a long way in forging deeper loyalty and engagement.

4. Go Social

Your customers are on social. If you’re not there, get there. But you need to be doing more than blasting out posts and tweets about your brand, products, and services. Rather, use a social listening tool to pinpoint customers who are upset and institute a process to proactively engage with them. Think this isn’t important? Think again. Twenty percent of customers turn to their social channels first to air their grievances. And this is only going to get worse. Forty-six percent of those 24 and under start with their social accounts.

5. Analyze the Data

Listening to your customers may not be enough in today’s digital age. And there is simply too much data out there from your customers—even if you’re a small business—to get your arms around. Look to leverage natural language processing tools and services that enable you to analyze what your customers are saying across each of the different engagement channels. This will enable you to pinpoint top topics and measure the polarity—positive and negative—across each one. You can also gain a better understanding of your customers’ personality types and preferences when it comes to content, communication modes, and much more.

6. Upsell and Cross-sell Your Products and Services

You must know when and when not to upsell to customers. Sometimes, customer service engagements are the best opportunities for you to grow your revenue streams with individual customers. Building these scenarios into each of the workflows and equipping and training your customer service agents with the tools and information are important steps.

7. Reduce Customer Friction

Nothing can frustrate a customer more than systems and processes that require them to go through extra efforts to solve problems and answer questions. Make it too difficult to do business with your company, and your customers will go elsewhere. This is one reason organizations must provide customers with multiple engagement options; they want to engage with their vendors at the own time, on the device that is readily available, and via the channel they want. Further, integrating the transitions points between each of these channels is just as important.

8. Kindle and Facilitate Advocacy 

Customer advocacy programs aren’t simply for enterprises that have the dollars to roll out elaborate loyalty programs. Small businesses can tap into these opportunities using inexpensive cloud-based tools. These programs build engagement while offering customers a channel through which they can advocate on your behalf. 

The list could continue, but the above are a great starting point. And for organizations that are constrained by resources, solutions like Davinci Live Receptionists, Live Web Chat, and Auto Receptionist give you the ability to leverage the expertise and infrastructure of a third party with a proven track record of helping other small businesses develop stellar customer service programs.