2023 The Year of the Customer

There are many new marketing and customer service trends for 2023. Many of them include the use of technology, like using AI to get to know your customers and personalizing your products and services to suit your target market.  Or creating short, snappy, fun videos to attract attention. And then there’s the use of Crypto, NFT’s and the emergence of the Metaverse. These are no doubt important. However, there is one area that is important to many if not all businesses, namely customer service.

What is customer service? According to Cambridge Dictionary, “Customer service is the part of an organization that answers customers’ questions, exchanges goods that are not satisfactory, manages complex requests, etc.”

According to a recent survey, 88% of consumers rate having a live agent as important to very important. We saw customer service levels plummet during the pandemic with long wait times and unmet customer needs. Businesses set up conversational AI, chat bots, and live chats, which are useful and save on costs. They also frustrate customers who have time constraints, are in need of immediate answers, and want to talk to live humans.

Muslim woman wearing hijab in a call center.

There is nothing customers dislike more than being put on hold for long periods, or answering endless irrelevant questions by a bot. Or searching obsessively for phone numbers and email addresses that will enable them to get their problem solved.  Or being forced to fill out a form that disappears directly into a dark hole. These problems have been exacerbated during the pandemic and post pandemic economy. Over the past 2 years, companies have been investing heavily in new technologies that replace live agents, but if they are not careful, this investment may drive their customer to a competitor that focuses on the total customer experience.

Over the past 30 years, companies have emerged, grown, and gained market share in their industry by having stellar customer service.  Here are two examples of companies that have excelled in the area of customer service:

1.      Trader Joes:

This company is known for their excellent customer service and employee training and benefits. They were able to enter a very competitive and low margin business and carve out a space for themselves. They took market share from much bigger establishments because their business model is customer focused. There are some very professional, clean and customer service-oriented Halal food stores. And there are others that fall on the opposite end of the spectrum.  In the Halal market, there is an opportunity to create a Trader Yusuf – but we haven’t seen one emerge to take the challenge.

Earning a 5 star rating for Halal certification business is not easy.

2.      Ritz Carlton:

At this hotel, they have always prided themselves on providing world-class customer service.  Ritz Carlton’s COO Simon Cooper once said, “The goal is to develop such a strong emotional engagement between the hotels staff and their guests that a guest will not consider staying anywhere else, even if they have an option.”  Meanwhile, other hotels are cutting out even essential services like cleaning staff. In the Halal market, there are some high-end Halal hotels with excellent customer service. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for new Halal hotels in some markets, such as in North America.

3.      Alaska, JetBlue, and Southwest:

According to Trip Advisor, these 3 airlines are consistently ranked the top airlines in the USA. The primary reason is top notch customer service. They consistently treat their customers well. People want to be treated with respect – and this includes economy class passengers.  Good prices, no fee cancellations, and free baggage are also some perks that customers want. There are agencies that track complaints against airlines and these three airlines have the best scores. Qatar and Singapore Airlines are ranked highly on international rankings and have excellent Halal options. Virgin Atlantic announced that it wants to create the first fully Shariah Compliant airline in the UK. There are plenty of unmet needs and ample opportunity to service Halal consumers in the airline industry.

Airlines are serving Halal meals now.

Customer Service Tips

  • Understand your customers and what is important to them.
  • Create customer focused policies and procedures.
  • Recruit people with pleasant and helpful personalities.
  • Train employees so that they are well informed about products and services.
  • Allow customer care employees to make decisions and solve problems for customers.
  • Allow customer care employees to be generous with customers, within limits.
  • Reward employees who are good at what they do.
  • Keep phone prompts to less than 3.
  • Always give customers an option to speak with a live agent.
  • Include a call back option on phone calls as well.
  • Have a dedicated email address that can channel messages or inquiries to the appropriate party.
  • Don’t cut out essential services like cleaning in hospitality businesses.

Woman received Halal food with take away bag.

There are opportunities for businesses to create customer focused organizations.  For many in the Halal sector, this will enable growth and increase market share. Using technology in customer service is beneficial, but only if it is used strategically. You don’t want frustrated customers heading for the hills. There are plenty of opportunities for Halal businesses to distinguish themselves by offering stellar customer care.

Islamic Services of American (ISA) is a leading USA based Halal certification and auditing organization serving companies, the community, and the Halal industry for over 45 years.  Contact ISA at isa@isahalal.com or visit the ISA website for more information at www.isahalal.com

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