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Customer service can define a brand. It can make a brand, and it can break one. People pay attention to how they’re treated when they purchase your products, and with the power of social media commentary, customers are very much enjoying the increased level of control they have over a company’s reputation.

A company that isn’t always trying to actively improve its customer service probably doesn’t care enough. It’s a 24/7, 365 day task because customers want tailored personalized service, and they’re not very patient with company excuses.

Managing customer service teams is a demanding, stressful job, and if it’s what you do for a living, you’re probably wondering:

Is there a “magic” secret to making customer service outstanding?

It turns out, there is indeed some magic to it, and we’ll let you in on some of the secrets.

Who are your actual customers? Do you know? Like really know?

It’s pretty fascinating to see when companies complain about poor customer retention. They say things like:

“We really go above and beyond in our customer service. We offer them the moon and the stars, yet they don’t buy it.”

“Our call center is open from 8-6, yet they still complain that they can’t reach us when they want to.”

“We cross-sell like crazy. Our CRM gives us a full profile of their past buying history, so we actually know what they want, yet the still leave.”

These are all legitimate complaints. The majority of companies rely on tried-and true sales practices, statistics, and their advanced technology, so they do indeed have a right to feel miffed that their customers don’t respond in kind.

But therein lies the problem, my friends. If you, like these companies, are relying on technology and pure statistics to drive your customer engagement, well, good luck.

See, customers are real people. They’re individuals, with unique problems. All of the Big Data in the world won’t give you nuanced reasons for why they choose the competition over you. They want a voice in the process. They bought from you originally, for a reason, but something about your retention plan couldn’t keep them. You CRM isn’t going to tell you why, but there is a tool that will – and it will tell you what they want from a company like you.

Ready for it?

The Interview.

Yes, the humble interview. Actually, to be formal, it’s qualitative research, but it involves in-depth interviews with your target audience, and it drills down deep into the how’s and why’s. It asks things like “What do you want a company such as X to offer you?” “How can they improve this process?” “What would compel you to buy from them?” “What is your preferred method for contacting the company, and at what hours?”

Pretty salient questions, don’t you agree?

Customer service boils down to truly knowing your customers and what they want. Once you’ve done that, the selling is easy. The customer service is easy. It’s not a throw-spaghetti against the wall guessing game. You know al dente. And when you know, you can give your customers what they want, in the manner they want it.

Pretty simple, yet elegantly precise. To know your customers in this manner requires a process whereby you look to outside counsel to provide an objective view, conduct interviews, look at your numbers, analyze your data, and then come up with a blueprint for how to move forward. It requires leadership to put a process in place that will help you understand who your customers truly are so that you can move forward without feeling like you’re just following protocol.

Fortunately, those who do are rewarded. Handsomely. When companies hone in and do the due diligence of customer research, their buyers reward them. And recommend them. Sales and customer retention suddenly becomes a lot easier.

Are you ready to take that leap?