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4 Reasons to Power Up Customer Service

Small businesses that focus on providing the best customer experience are on the path to ultimate success and growth - sentiments supported by branding and marketing experts.

Here's a look at how customer service fits into the "experience" and four reasons it deserves your focused attention.

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience. Are they the same?

No, says Ana Palombini in a post for EHL, a news and information site for hospitality business and education leaders.

As similar as they sound, customer service and customer experience vastly differ in meaning, she explains in the EHL blog.

"Knowing the difference between these two seemingly equal terms will empower you to improve how to serve your current and future customers."

Customer service and customer experience have become "converged," according to Salesforce's senior vice president of strategic planning, Peter Schwartz.

"It's more than call centers and successful responses to problems. It is service opportunities in sales, support, and marketing," he says in a Salesforce blog by Vala Afshar.

"Delivering great customer experiences now means providing amazing, almost magical service at every opportunity," adds Schwartz.

Key part of the experience. Most marketing experts and academics agree that customer service is part of the broader customer "experience," which considers everything a customer experiences and feels while interacting with your business.

This could mean everything from what a customer experiences while buying and using your product or service, the ease of the purchase, your website functionality and look, your packaging and customer communications, the EHL post says.

Customer service aims to go above and beyond identifying the sources of annoyance throughout the course of the relationship, says the blog by Palombini. The post adds that to achieve this, leaders of guest services in all functions should work to instill a culture of putting the needs of the customer before anything else.

High expectations. The pressure is on. Small businesses are faced with ever-rising customer expectations regarding their experience at your company.

To be successful, businesses will need to focus on finding ways to build customer relationships and provide exceptional customer service because customers are expecting nothing less and far more.

"They don't just want the right product at the right price — they want the full package," says Afshar, chief digital evangelist for Salesforce.

In Salesforce's latest State of the Connected Customer Report, 86 percent of the consumers reported that their experience with a business "is as important as its products and services."

Furthermore, 71% of consumers told the Salesforce survey that they switched brands at least once in the past year.

In order to stay competitive, your business should provide experiences that "exceed expectations," advises Salesforce chief digital evangelist Vala Afshar.

Impact goes a long way. Keep a close eye on how you handle your devoted customers. Show appreciation for them - their continued satisfaction will translate into repeat business as well as referrals to new customers.

It's crucial to develop and maintain excellent customer service over the entire customer life cycle, advises a Retail Technology Innovation Hub blog. 

Make sure every customer feels respected and heard by your company, the blog says.

Personalized services, providing prompt communication, and fair and reasonable return and refund policies are among the offerings that have become essential to a positive experience.

"Excellent customer service makes consumers happy to interact with your business which makes them more likely to come back and spend more," the blog says.