Written By Andrew Carlton, Vice President, World Service, American Express Canada
If there was a silver bullet for success, the world would be a much wealthier place.
But the truth is that the Canadian business landscape is now more competitive than ever, and while standing out in the crowd is tough, it’s crucial to your success. Building your brand – and the customer base that comes with it – is very different today than it was even 10 years ago.
“Choose me” is the goal of any marketing message in practically any medium. But as companies go to greater lengths than ever before to capture customers’ attention, they may be missing one simple reality. One of the most powerful opportunities businesses have to engage is also the most overlooked: customer service.
Think about it. When else do you have a customer’s complete, undivided attention? When else do you have a chance to make an impression and deepen engagement that can win you brand loyalty for life? Service matters, especially when you consider our current consumer landscape.
First, the habits of the average Canadian customer have changed after years of economic uncertainty. We’re now also more aware of the value of every dollar we spend – and few of us would say we’d settle for a second-rate product or service if there was a reasonable alternative.
Then there’s the emergence of the “social revolution” online. As technology brings us all closer together, it creates a great space for companies to reach customers that might otherwise pass them by, whether via email, the internet or through social media channels.
But customers today also have unprecedented power to broadcast their experiences – good or bad – to a virtually unlimited audience. This raises the stakes for the reputation of your brand, elevating the importance of every single service interaction a company has with its customers. If a customer has a bad experience, that story can spread like wildfire. But on the other hand, a great experience can deepen customer engagement and lead to repeat business.
Consider this: When American Express commissioned its annual Global Service Barometer, we found that 89 per cent of Canadians say that a customer service experience has an impact on their impression of a company or its brand. But more telling, perhaps, is that almost seven in 10 are willing to spend more with a company – up to 12 per cent on average – they believe provides excellent service. Canadians are also willing to go out of their way to get better customer service, such as by driving a longer distance (25%) or sacrificing convenience (20%).
This means we, as companies, have a major challenge – and a massive opportunity – to transform service into a real game-changer. And it starts by looking at service not as a cost, but as a long-term investment in customer relationships.
But how do you achieve that? For American Express Canada, it comes down to commitment and our very mindset. We don’t consider ourselves a credit-card company; we’re a service company. And after 158 years in the industry, we’ve learned some lessons that can be applied to nearly any business, no matter the size.
Based on this experience, we can offer three basic principles on how companies can capitalize on the overlooked customer engagement opportunity:
After all, great service shows your customer why they should choose you – and that’s the best strategy of all.