At Salon Cyan in London, Ont., a big moment for customers is when the hairdresser reveals the finished hairstyle at the end.
But Jagoda Hall, owner of Salon Cyan, realized that there’s another pivotal point, and it comes days after the customer has left. That’s when she tries to style her hair and realizes she can’t quite mimic what the professional did.
This is what Nick Hall, Jagoda’s husband, calls the moment of truth, the point when customers really get their money’s worth. Mr. Hall is a brand strategist at the Human Brand Experience Group in London, a consultancy that helps businesses improve their customer service.
Together, the Halls came up with the simple idea of using the customer’s smartphone to make a video showing how the hairdresser styled the hair.
“There are a lot of videos you can watch on how to do your hair on social media, but it’s their hair that we’re videotaping, not somebody else’s,” said Ms. Hall. The personalized touch makes a difference to her customers, yet costs the business nothing. “The reaction has been fantastic. Clients have been really happy about it.”
The videos are highly shareable, and they can benefit the business on social media, too.
Creating a memorable experience might be the most important part of delivering good customer service, Mr. Hall says.
That experience starts when the customer finds your business’s website, for instance, with its design, colours and messaging.
The experience can be physical, too. For a pizza restaurant, it might be when a customer smells fresh pizza while passing by, Mr. Hall says. At a bar, it’s the music they play and how a server greets you.
"There’s a lot of opportunity when you think like that, for innovation that goes beyond just technology,” he says.
Businesses can create a customer experience in many ways. Domino’s Pizza has its pizza tracker; when you order online, it shows the stage of your pie from cooking to delivery. Mr. Hall says that Moo Cards, a business card company, packages its product in a thoughtful way, in a flashy card holder, that makes it seem the company is as excited about the cards as you are.
He also points out that it’s easy for a small business to be personable. He tells about an experience he had recently at a Farm Boy grocery. He asked a produce worker what a certain kind of apple tasted like. The employee didn’t know, so he brought out a knife, cut up the apple and they both had a try.
How customer comments and queries are handled on social media can also set a tone.
Social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook have given businesses a new way to talk to their clients, says Michel Bergeron, senior vice-president for marketing and public affairs at the Business Development Bank of Canada. But an important thing to consider is that social media media exchanges can be seen by everyone.
Video from Salon Cyan for a customer:
One of the easiest ways to reap the benefits is to be authentic in whatever you write, he says. Use the same tone on social media that you would in person at your business, for instance; if you’re a craft brewery with an off-the-cuff style at your business, you should probably sound different on social media than a fine-dining restaurant would.
And while social media is a low-cost channel, businesses must put resources toward constantly monitoring it. “It’s an extension of your customer service,” he says.
If a company receives a specific complaint, they should ask the customer to make contact personally. “That way you’ve shown you’ve been proactive.”
More than anything, though, business owners can avoid complaints on social media altogether if they can identify problematic issues and provide good customer service in person.
“Whenever a client starts to use social media to complain about particular issues, that’s oftentimes their last resort,” said Mr. Bergeron. “If you properly manage the experience upfront and throughout the entire process and manage the problems as they arise, this will minimize the potential impact on your reputation.”
Joanne McNeish, an associate professor of marketing at Ryerson University, says businesses should remember that it’s not just customers who can see your posts – suppliers and competitors can, too.
“You have to have a strategy as to what you say publicly in response to a complaint, and what you’re going to offer someone,” she said.
Social media also empowers businesses by showing them more clearly what consumers think about them, Ms. McNeish says, and it allows them to measure how many people have similar problems or good experiences.
The good news for smaller businesses, according to Mr. Hall, is that they can be among the quickest to innovate and adapt to change.
“They’re agile enough to think differently,” said Mr. Hall. “They’re the types of companies that are most likely to benefit from any from any sort of enriching of their customer service.”