Remember the last time you researched about a product online before buying it? Were you only reading reviews about the product or were you also finding out about the customer service from the company?
Recently, I read an article on how product reviews are broken because they do not inform consumers about the quality of customer service provided by the company. If you think about it, that’s pretty true. For most of the products we buy today, we tend to expect a certain level of customer support from the company.
However, if we do not know how well the company treats its customers, especially when something goes wrong, how do we make an informed decision?
Dave Sargent from a market research firm that provides product ratings, gave an interesting view. He said that product ratings and reviews on service should not be put together.
Dave Sargent, a J. D. Power executive who oversees automotive research, said that if people want to read about products, they can look up product ratings; if they want information on service, they can also look up reports on service.
“We try not to muddy the waters by bundling them together,” Mr. Sargent said.
When I read this, I was surprised! Personally, I see service as a crucial part of what I’m paying for in a product. When I purchase products from Apple, I think of the customer service that I’m entitled to. When I shop online such as on Amazon, I look at how long the delivery would be and whether return would be easy.
To me, service is part of the product and hence should be rated together.
Your customers don’t assess your products and service separately
Customers see your service as part of your product offering. They evaluate both the quality and features of your products and the support they would receive when they need it.
When I first came to the United Kingdom and was choosing a bank to use, I deliberately excluded a particular bank from my list of choices because I’d been warned against them by a friend who had previously had a negative experience. A study by American Express found that 60% of consumers have not made a purchase of a particular product because of a poor customer service experience.
The fact that customers consider both product and service together is more obvious in the hospitality sector such as hotels and restaurants. In these areas, customers are already expecting a reasonable level of customer service for what they are paying. However, it is also becoming increasingly relevant in other sectors such as retail and technology.
When Hiten Shah, founder of many successful startups such as Kissmetrics, started his first SaaS business, Crazy Egg, he provided very responsive and helpful customer service. People then described his customer service as one of the benefits of his product.
Hence, from a customer’s point-of-view, it makes sense that a rating should include the review of both the product and the service provided.
Benefits to businesses for combining ratings
By having combined ratings, consumers will not only know how great your product is, but also how well you would treat them. This can help you grow your business.
If a prospective customer could learn about your great customer service while researching about your product, they would be more likely to buy from you. The American Express study found that three in five consumers are willing to try a new brand or company in order to get better customer service. Provided that you offer better customer service experience than your competitors, you could gain a larger market share.
Here’s another piece of great news for you – information about your customer service can not only get you more customers, but also induce them spend more with you! Two out of three people are willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service. And on average, they are willing to spend 14% more.
The single-minded, short-term approach doesn’t work
Focusing only on product reviews or customer service ratings could be taking a very short term approach that would hinder your sales and growth.
Customers might have purchased from you because of the good product reviews they have read, but not know about the quality of your service. Sadly, most customers will eventually stop buying from you if they receive horrible service post-purchase. 89% of consumers stopped buying from a business after a poor customer experience (Customer Experience Impact Report 2011)!
By combining product and service ratings, businesses are forced to focus on the long term and to place similar emphasis on both product development and customer service.
However, combining ratings for product and service can be tricky.
Product reviews rarely include comments on the service that the company provides. Peter Leppik, President and CEO of Vocalabs, explained that, for technology journalists, “it’s much harder to review the company’s service levels and response to customer problems” than to use and evaluate the product.
That is understandable as few products break during the review period for the journalists to experience the support process. And even then, journalists tend to get special customer service treatment.
In the customer service world, most of us measure Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores and share them internally. But these are hardly ever published externally and transparently for your customers to peruse.
Furthermore, CSAT score is not infallible. Everyone who works in customer support has experienced this: they provided impeccable customer service, but received a bad satisfaction survey because the product could not do what the customer wanted. This can leave the agent pretty upset. Customer satisfaction surveys are meant to assess the quality of service provided but customers sometimes tend to take it as a channel for product feedback too.
Nevertheless, in the long run, knowing what your customers are dissatisfied with and being able to act on it appropriately will only help you build a better and stronger business.
Customer service is an extension of your product
When it comes down to it, your customer doesn’t buy your product. They buy into the experience your brand offers – and that includes both your product AND your service. It doesn’t make sense to separate them.
It’s time to look from your customers’ perspective and answer the doubts they have when evaluating a product. Let them know how awesome your products AND service are!