When someone mentions ‘customer service’ it usually refers to the time between when a customer enters a store or service front, to the time they leave it, with or without a purchase. In other cases, it’s the time between the customer commissioning your services, and when your service is complete. Therefore customer service training and improvements focus on that time frame – increasing conversion rates, increasing $ spend per customer etc. However, a customer’s perception of the period of ‘customer service’ is very different. What about the before, and the after?
What do I mean by the ‘before’? Customers drive to your premises, park in carparks, walk to your premises, open the door, and walk in. Sometimes they might queue at the entrance. Sometimes they might buy a ticket or book their visit to your premises months or weeks before actually visiting. My point is, there are multiple points of contact with a customer before they actually enter your premises to make their sale.
What about the ‘after’? After customers leave your premises or the service is completed what do they have to remember you by? Sometimes it’s a plastic bag with a receipt. Sometimes it’s a delivery docket. Sometimes it’s a installation crew. Sometimes it’s nothing but the product itself. Often, it’s just memories or some photos. In the consumer’s mind the service experience does not end when they leave your premises. It stays in their mind, or at least in their subconscious. The longer you can extend your presence in their mind, you only increase the likelihood of them re-purchasing.
If you can extend your influence into these points of contact, you are extending your connection with the customer, increasing your brand awareness, building top of mind awareness, and decreasing the likelihood of a customer feeling dissonance about their purchase, or intention to purchase, (i.e. make them feel like they have made the right decision). This all leads to referral and word of mouth, which is still the singular most effective form of marketing.
The best way to identify the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ is to think of every possible point of contact you have with a customer (and consider points of contact you can create).
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Hotel/Resort – create a podcast downloadable from your website with information about local attractions and things to do. It might also read out the menu from your restaurant, introduce the listener to hotel staff etc. The customer then listens to it whilst travelling to your premises.
Furniture store – send a thankyou card and a furniture cleaning product 2-3 weeks after the product has been collected/delivered.
Are your customers living happily ever before and after?