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In the Age of the Customer, Service and Engagement Will Define the Brand

Brands are no longer defined by what they make or do, but rather by what their customers think. Perhaps Forrester Principal Analyst Kate Leggett says it best: "In the age of the customer, executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are—customers do." Customer service is quickly becoming the next big brand differentiator.

In the past, strong products and services or low prices offset poor service, but today's customers are demanding more. With social media, consumers now have more power, and brands are defined and measured by what customers say. Last year, 62 percent of global consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences, a continuing trend in recent years. Companies are losing customers to their competition because they're losing ground when it comes to engagement.

According to a new Customers 2020 report, produced by Walker Information, by the year 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. If this isn't a wake-up call, nothing is. In the age of the customer, utilizing your CRM technology to its fullest potential, and then some, will be essential to keeping your customers loyal to your brand. Whereas in the past, loyalty was obtained from tenure, discounts, or expensive marketing promotions, it's now achieved—or lost—by the ability to provide proactive, personalized, and consistent customer service across any channel the customer wishes to interact on. Now each and every touchpoint is imperative to the future of your company.

The Cost of Poor Customer Service

In person and online, customer expectations of timely and effective support are only continuing to increase. According to Forrester Research, 45 percent of U.S. consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not answered quickly. The minute they leave your site, they are taking their business—and their dollars—to your competitors. Online abandonment and poor customer service cost U.S. businesses roughly $83 million a year. On the other and brighter side of the coin, the revenue impact from a 10 percentage point improvement in a company's customer experience score can translate into more than $1 billion.

Fortunately, the costly ramifications of poor customer service can be reduced if a brand uses its omnichannel customer service solution to its fullest. Some basic starting points:

Be where your customers are. To give your customers a positive experience, be available on the channels of their convenience. Beyond phone, email, and support portal, these include mobile, social media, and live chat, to name just a few.

Respond quickly. The younger generation of today's consumers and businesspeople has grown up with the Internet, instant messaging, and real-time texts. Providing a response within 24 hours may now be considered too slow for many. A uSamp survey recently commissioned by Parature 

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