For many brands, being authentic in today’s highly competitive marketplace can be can difficult to wrap their minds around. What exactly does it mean to be authentic? And why does it matter?
- Is it connecting with would-be clients in a way that doesn’t seem forced or faked?
- Is it making your brand indispensable to current buyers and irresistible to new ones?
- Is it proving that your company cares about more than just its bottom line and its next source of revenue?
In reality, authentic marketing is a combination of all three.
But there’s a challenge that comes with providing authentic marketing.
You want to provide customers with a meaningful and genuine brand engagement experience, but you also want to keep expanding that vital revenue stream.
It is a delicate balance to be sure.
If you want to tip the scales in your favor, that requires rethinking what it means to be an authentic company. You need to determine a way to be a powerfully authentic brand…
…while still maintaining an ongoing revenue stream.
One of the simplest ways to connect with both current and future clients is also one of the most underrated aspects to infusing your brand with authenticity: Customer service.
Let’s take a look at why an authentic approach to your customer service proves such a vital component to your company.
The Relationship Between Service and Authenticity
96% of global consumers consider customer service a vital aspect of whether or not they are loyal to a brand.
If you get customer service right, it can set up your brand for an extended run of revenue, repeat customers, and an unparalleled level of trust and authority. After all, it’s approximately five times less expensive to maintain existing customers than it is to acquire new customers.
Get customer service wrong, and the results can be catastrophic for your business.
But we’re not dwelling on the negative. After all, the customer experience is one that should not just be authentic, but also positive.
Take a cue from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who once said:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
Bezos understands that it’s not just low prices and 2-day shipping that make Amazon a great company. Customer service is also a key ingredient.
Sure great products or fantastic services sell. However, for your business to have any lasting success, you must look beyond basic one-and-done engagement.
You must present consumers a reason to not just engage with your brand, but to come back, discover more, and tout your virtues to others within their social circle. You must offer them personal, human, authentic, world-class customer service that leaves customers raving.
That last point is of particular importance considering nine out of every ten customers claim to be influenced by positive reviews during the buying process.
So yes, customer service is the key to long term success for any business.
What does that have to do with being authentic though?
There’s a huge difference between authentic, excellent customer service, and run of the mill. Between waiting for an hour on an automated customer service line and talking to a human within a minute of making a call to the customer service line.
Consider the feeling you get when you receive excellent service from a business you frequent.
- It makes you feel good.
- It makes you feel like you matter.
- It makes you feel that the company isn’t just seeking out your dollars, but instead are looking for your loyalty and commitment to their brand. Just as they were committed to your needs.
You’re not alone.
Over half of consumers claim to make an extra purchase from a business after receiving positive customer service. That’s a staggering statistic. More than 50% of customers purchase more from companies that provide outstanding, authentic customer service.
That positivity is a driving factor in creating an authentic environment in which the relationships with your current and future customers can thrive.
Again, looking back at your own experiences, when you’ve dealt with a customer service rep that is friendly and knowledgeable, you gain the sense that the company has your best interests in mind.
They are not just providing you with a solution but making sure that the answer gives you the best possible experience.
Back up the solutions your organization offers with both a team and tools that support and promote long-term customer engagement. Find success with that combination and your company will operate on a whole different level of authenticity.
Why Does Authentic Marketing Matter for Your Company?
On the surface, the clearest and most apparent answer as to why authenticity matters for any company is an easy one – revenue. More specifically, recurring revenue.
Remember what we said about it being more profitable to retain customers than acquire new ones? The numbers certainly back up that point.
A customer retention increase of just 5% can result in a profit increase of 25%.
67% of consumers noted that they are more than willing to pay more for a great experience.
Finally, producing fans of your company can result in an ongoing value of 600% to 1,400% per happy customer versus one that walks away less than satisfied.
But affording consumers an authentic experience runs deeper than just dollars and cents.
Companies that develop and maintain genuine engagement for their clients create a level of trust between themselves and their customers.
Obviously, this puts you on solid footing during the best of times, but will also buoy and support your organization through inevitable rough patches.
Look at tech giant Apple, who, according to a survey by Axios, maintains a high favorability rating of 61% among respondents, even after being in business for over 40 years. Much of that is attributable to the level of trust they’ve built up with consumers, particularly their die-hard fans.
Conversely, a company like Facebook, whose rating in the same survey dropped from 61% to 48% over the reporting period, doesn’t carry the same goodwill with their users. Recent security concerns have shown to erode some of the trust they once enjoyed with their user base.
Generating revenue and building consumer trust are undoubtedly great benefits. However, there is a third and perhaps even greater reward that comes from authenticity – a legacy for your brand.
Consumers are watching what you do, just as much as what you sell.
Creating an authentic customer experience also involves your company operating responsibly and caring about the things your customers care about.
To be sure, a study by Cone Communications shows that 76% of consumers would not purchase from a company that does not share similar beliefs as their own.
Another 63% look to businesses to take the lead on social concerns versus government agencies doing the same.
Yes, those are pretty strong indicators, and they reflect the importance to consumers that the companies they do business with not just provide a great product in the marketplace, but a positive presence in the world.
According to Alison DaSilva, Cone Communications’ Executive VP of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy:
“Now, consumers are no longer just asking, ‘What do you stand for,’ but also, ‘What do you stand up for?’”
“Consumers have spoken – their expectations of companies are high and CSR is a critical factor in decision-making. For companies to gain attention and realize bottom-line benefits, they need to authentically build CSR into the brand experience — this means going beyond a CSR report, an ad campaign or page on the corporate website.”
Your level of stewardship and engagement beyond the cash register leads your brand to become an authority and an influencer that can position your organization for sustained success.
Authenticity Begins and Ends With Service
So how do you win over those consumers who want not only a more authentic buying experience but also an authentic company?
Certainly, there are plenty of specific steps you can take to build authenticity into your day-to-day business.
Through marketing efforts, such as:
- Understanding what your customers’ needs and wants are and doing whatever it takes to provide them with the necessary solution
- Speaking in the language of your customers, using words and phrases that resonate with them.
- Creating consistent messaging and content that builds your authority and reinforces the solutions you offer
With technology that includes:
- Deploying technology that allows your customers to communicate with you in their preferred medium (phone, chat, text, email, etc.)
- Creating self-service solutions so clients can resolve concerns on their own terms
- Automation that keeps the customer’s journey moving forward, but never makes them feel simply like a nameless unit moving through a machine
Most importantly, you provide customer service that:
- Focuses directly on the customer as an individual asset and recognizes their uniqueness and importance to your brand instead of viewing them as a cog in a revenue-generating machine
- Builds a community where current and future customers can engage freely with your service and sales teams to get questions answered or problems resolved
- Establishes a two-way mode of communication where your team listens and responds to its audience and then acts upon that information to push your brand forward
Consumers themselves highlight the importance of direct engagement:
- 33% maintain they will abandon a company if personalization is lacking
- 72% expect you should know details of their engagement with your brand
- 77% will view you more favorably if you ask for and act upon their feedback
Ultimately, your aim should be to provide a complete, immersive and personalized service experience regardless of where an individual chooses to engage with your company.
Regardless of your product focus or the industry in which you operate, one of the most significant factors to your success is the service you provide to your customers.
But it’s not just any service, and it doesn’t always relate to providing help after a customer makes a purchase.
Today’s consumer wants their engagement with an organization to mean something – both that it matters to them individually and it has a positive impact on a broader, more social scale.
- Consumers want to engage with companies that care about their overall experience.
- Companies who seek to gain and maintain their trust.
- Companies that care about the things that they care about.
Above all else, they want authentic customer service.
It comes as little surprise, then, that indications show that at some point within the next year, pricing – long the distinguishing between comparable products in a marketplace – will no longer be the primary factor in how one brand compares to another.
It will, in fact, be customer service.
No doubt, your future success will be measured by the authenticity of that customer service.Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endorse or review brands mentioned; does not and can not investigate relationships with brands, products, and people mentioned and is up to the author to disclose. VIP Contributors and Contributors, amongst other accounts and articles, are professional fee-based.
Hafiz Muhammad Ali is a Ph.D. candidate and holds an MSc degree in Digital Marketing Leadership from the University of Aberdeen. He is the Founder & CEO of Omnicore Group which houses a global diversified service, eCommerce, and media companies.
He is a best-selling author of “Digital Passport” which is the first of its kind career book that offers a practical roadmap to a promising career in digital marketing.