Article

Leveraging customer service to impact customer acquisition

By Hannah Wren, Content marketing associate

Published March 5, 2020
Last modified June 29, 2020

Businesses tend to primarily associate customer acquisition with marketing and sales. They often leave customer service out of the equation because they forget that customer acquisition includes the ability to convert prospects that are already in contact with your business. Prospects often subscribe to email newsletters, follow your business on social media, or read your blog, demonstrating a level of interest and familiarity that hasn’t turned into monthly recurring revenue—yet.

Customer service is essential to turning those prospects into new customers as well as keeping existing ones happy. Excluding your agents from your acquisition efforts is not just bad training, it’s bad business. In fact, with the right strategy, your customer service team can help reduce customer acquisition costs while increasing lifetime value. Read on the learn how to build a customer acquisition strategy that leverages your customer service team.

What is customer acquisition?

Customer acquisition is the process of bringing new customers to your business to ensure that your company grows at a healthy and profitable rate. It involves generating leads and convincing them to consider your business with the hopes that they'll become loyal customers.

The customer acquisition process is typically broken down into three central stages:

  • Awareness:
  • At the beginning stage of the buyer’s journey, your goal is to generate a broad group of leads that fall within your target audience and align with your customer personas, even if they aren’t ready to purchase yet. For example, a health-food brand might hire fitness influencers to post Instagram content featuring its smoothies to gain exposure to new, relevant groups of consumers.

  • Consideration:
  • When potential customers move into the middle of the customer acquisition funnel, they start showing signs that they are more serious about making a purchase. This might include subscribing to your emails, filling out a demo request, or reaching out to your business with questions.

  • Conversion:
  • Prospects at the late stage of the acquisition process have already engaged with your brand and just need to take the final steps to become paying customers. For instance, for a music company, these customers might have added a song to their cart or signed up for a free first-month subscription.

Why is a customer acquisition strategy important to a successful business?

To grow a sustainable business, companies will need to be strategic and bring their marketing, sales, and customer service teams together for that task. An effective acquisition strategy is a measurable process that helps ensure your acquisition methods are customer-centric—doing what’s right for the customer and building trust—as well as cost-effective.

Some acquisition methods are free, such as when an existing customer tells a friend about your brand, and others come with a cost, such as Facebook ads, marketing campaigns, or influencer marketing. You can measure customer acquisition and ensure you’re getting a return on your investment by calculating your cost to acquire a new customer or customer acquisition cost (CAC), which refers to the costs of your customer acquisition methods divided by the number of new customers acquired.

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6 ways to leverage customer service in your customer acquisition strategy

89 percent of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. To drive differentiation, businesses must integrate service into every interaction point of the customer experience, including the buyer’s journey.

Customer service has become a critical function for any business to perform and grow, but the level of support and engagement that customers receive often falls short of expectations in the current marketplace. In fact, 74 percent of consumers say they will switch brands if the purchase experience is too difficult.

Implement these six tips to help keep service top of mind when building a customer acquisition strategy.

1. Turn existing customers into brand advocates

Customer acquisition cost is at an all-time high, increasing nearly 50 percent in the past five years. Reducing this metric starts by leveraging a resource you already have: your existing customers.

The data is clear: Customers trust their friends and family more than they do information that comes directly from businesses. And since word-of-mouth marketing ranks high on the trust scale, referral programs can be a great way to incentivize your customers to refer their network and extend your reach while improving customer retention. For example, Rothy’s “Refer-a-friend” program gives existing customers $20 off their next pair of shoes and $20 to a friend, for every friend that becomes a new customer.

Encouraging reviews is another way to acquire new customers with the help of your current ones. In fact, 90 percent of people claimed that positive online reviews influence their buying decisions in a survey by Dimensional Research. And reviews score you search engine optimization brownie points, too.

Since agents have a direct line to your customers, they can help find opportunities to turn your most passionate customers into brand advocates and an ad-hoc marketing department. For example, when a customer says something complimentary about your brand during a support interaction, an agent can thank them and, if it feels natural, let them know that writing a review would be greatly appreciated. Agents can also use positive service interactions as opportunities to encourage customers to participate in your referral program.

2. Connect conversations across touchpoints

The acquisition process spans a variety of marketing channels, and businesses should expect potential leads to reach out through all of those touchpoints. With 89 percent of customers reporting that a quick response to an initial inquiry is important when deciding which company to buy from, it's essential to close gaps between those channels.

For example, potential customers often subscribe to your emails to learn more about your brand. But campaigns and content marketing aren't the only teams who have to think about marketing emails. Potential customers will often respond, such as by following up on an abandoned cart email with a question, and customer service agents are likely the first to answer them.

Social media is another important acquisition touchpoint, particularly for brand awareness. In fact, 43 percent of internet users use social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, when researching things to buy, according to Hootsuite. And increasingly, consumers want to reach out to brands on social messaging channels.

Or, a website that is well optimized for search engines will likely lead potential customers to your website, meaning they might reach out for help from anywhere on the website.

It’s important to be prepared to have conversations with potential customers no matter what channel they used to reach out, whether they’re responding to an outbound email, sliding into your Twitter DMs, or live chatting you on your website—it’s not a great experience to be ghosted by a love interest or a brand.

But siloed systems and software often prevent conversations across channels from going to one place, making it difficult for agents to even respond, let alone in a way that is fast and personal. To do so, they’ll need a connective layer of tissue that connects conversations so they’re easy to track and manage. This arms agents with relevant context and conversation history for personalized responses, such as knowing that a potential customer asked a question before and what that question was, even if it was through a different channel than the one they’re currently reaching out on.

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3. Use data to provide greater value

Companies today don’t have to guess what customers want. Now, they can use trends in customer data as an essential element of the feedback loop.

Customer data can be a great starting point for improving the quality of your products and services. And 53 percent of customers rate quality as the most important factor when making purchases, even over price. Taking a look at the most common customer complaints your service team sees can be eye-opening. Customer-focused businesses take those pain points and use them to grow and attract new customers. For example, after Zappos learned that current customers were frustrated with having to pay for returns, they made returns free, which further incentivized new customers to try their shoes for the first time.

4. Use AI to proactively acquire customers

Innovative companies are taking a proactive approach to acquisition. And with the help of AI, it doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. For example, some companies deploy a chatbot on their website or in-app experience to help with lead generation and boost conversion rates. A chatbot can proactively welcome customers and connect them to support if they have any questions, helping ensure they don’t abandon a free trial signup form or their entire cart due to lingering concerns.

5. Encourage collaboration between sales and support

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, sales and support teams that collaborate are at an advantage when it comes to acquiring customers: they have more qualified leads, create more deals, and close more business. But successful collaboration is next to impossible with siloed software and systems that make it hard to share insights across teams and departments.

To encourage collaboration between sales and support, teams will need that same connective layer of tissue that integrates customer data across departments so they can easily share insights without disrupting their workflow or exposing a lead to what happens behind the scenes.

6. Invest in the customer experience

Research is clear: Customer experience influences purchase decision. In fact, a Zendesk survey revealed that 62 percent of B2B and 42 percent of B2C customers purchased more after a good customer service experience, while 66 percent of B2B and 52 percent of B2C customers stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction.

The same goes for potential customers. Their experience with your customer service is often their first direct interaction with your brand. As such, you’ll want to ensure that it’s an experience that will leave them wanting more.

Research also shows that people often make purchase decisions based on emotional factors. Since customer support is on the front lines, they play a large role in the emotional aspect of your brand. Customer service skills are ubiquitous to establishing real, human relationships with potential customers early on, from the first moment they reach out.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is one brand that continues to invest in the customer experience. Its white-glove customer service experience, which includes complimentary perks and personalization, attracts new customers by invoking a feeling of exclusivity. For instance, it created a concierge-like service where guests can reach out to the business like they would a friend, whether that’s on Twitter, Facebook Messenger, or SMS, to seamlessly arrange spa reservations, get restaurant recommendations, and access special services.

There is no one-size-fits-all customer-acquisition model. Your acquisition strategy will depend on your type of business, customer base, resources, and overall marketing strategy. Even though your customer acquisition framework will evolve as trends change and your company grows, incorporating your customer service team will help businesses at any stage think with the long game in mind. After all, those that interact with your customers directly often know how to serve them the best.

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