Customer Service Vs. Consumer Empowerment
To gain a competitive edge in the current marketplace, businesses need to focus on the consumer.
It isn’t enough to deliver a stellar product or attractive service; if consumers are dissatisfied with how you deliver your core offering or feel unsupported through the process, they will look elsewhere.
That’s where a consumer-centric strategy is pivotal. But how should you approach your customers? This article details two prevailing methodologies in business today: customer service and consumer empowerment. One is clearly better than the other (more on that later).
In the meantime, let’s walk through these important concepts, exploring definitions and case studies.
What Is Customer Service?
Customer service refers to the collective actions, processes, and policies a business enacts to help its customers.
At the advent of the buyer’s journey, a customer service representative might answer questions about the company’s product or resolve pain points holding the customer back from making a purchase. And in the latter stages of the buyer’s journey, a customer service expert might help a customer struggling with check-out or usage.
Customer service is mainly a reactive endeavor. It often involves a company fielding questions, redirecting attention, and – most often – addressing problems. In each case, it is the customer that initiates the conversation.
What Is Consumer Empowerment?
Consumer engagement is a broader take on helping consumers. It involves providing the consumer with the resources, access and choices they need to be successful.
A company dedicated to consumer empowerment might offer the consumer a how-to guide for finding the right product, a list of options to help them find a suitable service, access to information about their prospective purchase, and resources that help them better understand the context for their decisions. In each case, the organization aims to empower the consumer to make the right decision.
Consumer empowerment is more of a proactive endeavor. The company initiates the conversation to ensure consumers feel confident.
Similarities and Differences
To summarize, customer service is reactive, whereas consumer engagement is proactive. Customer service is primarily concerned with customers completing an action (making a purchase, clicking a link, recommending the product to friends, etc.). In contrast, consumer empowerment is more concerned with holistic consumer satisfaction.
Finally, customer service and consumer empowerment differ in their approach to consumer agency. To illustrate the point, you can refer to an old proverb: customer service is about “giving a man a fish,” and consumer engagement is about “teaching a man to fish.”
For a compelling example of consumer engagement, consider Nobul, the popular real estate digital marketplace. Nobul’s founder, Regan McGee, saw a lot of hindrances in the real estate consumer experience: opaque pricing, lack of consumer choice, scarce accountability mechanisms, and few places to find reliable resources on buying/selling.
So, he established an end-to-end consumer-centric platform to address these issues. The company is flourishing – disrupting the once-stalwart industry by shifting power to consumers.
By now, you can probably spot a better consumer strategy.
Customer service will continue to have its merits in an organization; reacting to consumer questions and problems remains an integral part of the business.
But companies should follow up their customer service strategy with a consumer empowerment commitment. Consumer empowerment fosters trust, confidence, and loyalty. It can be a powerful way to stand out in your industry.