The three roles customer service plays in sustainability

Learn about the three key roles the CX team plays in an organization’s sustainability practices

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Playvox Team


Sustainability emerged as a trend among consumers several years ago, spurred by the belief that bottom line business results should fall into three categories: financial, societal, and environmental. In the mid-nineties, the consumer packaged goods, and food and beverage industries began to adopt sustainability efforts in their pursuit of building growth and goodwill among their customers. It soon spread to the apparel, finance, retail, and energy sectors, among others.

Ethical business practices, including how goods were sourced, processed, packaged, shipped and sold, took hold as consumers increasingly voted with their dollars to support companies that showed genuine sustainability practices. While the movement began in the production areas of the business, they quickly reached into other functions including marketing, sales and customer service.

As the world slowly emerges from a pandemic, consumers are no less intent on buying products and services from sustainability-minded companies. Nielsen predicts the sustainability market will reach $150 billion in sales this year. 

While the path to sustainability may be clear in planting trees, revamping packaging, and supporting fair trade farming, it’s not as easy to draw a line from sustainability to customer service. 

In fact, there are three roles the CX team plays in an organization’s sustainability practices so that brands can embrace a shared mission of ethics, fairness and loyalty across the customer lifecycle.

Customers remember how you make them feel 

The first role customer service agents play goes directly to one of their natural strengths: empathy. Making an emotional connection with customers is central to the notion of fairness and it builds goodwill.

In terms of business results, empathy fosters customer loyalty and loyalty leads to positive recommendations. While customer loyalty can have many sources and influences, it comes down to how a customer feels when they interact with a brand. CX agents can bring customer understanding - a sense of being in it together - to their work. This helps retain customers along with the fact that the agent is also solving a problem or fulfilling a need for the customer they are interacting with.

Consumers need to feel a connection to brands that goes beyond cost and convenience. Contact center agents are in an ideal role to make this happen. And there’s good reason to do so: Customers who stick with brands spend 67 per cent more than new customers do.

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Customers expect you to keep your promises

The second role customer service agents play in supporting sustainability practices links back to marketing and branding. Great customer service teams are trained to deliver on brand promises in every interaction. Ensuring that the message is consistent and authentic when dealing with customers strengthens trust in the brand and in the company. 

Companies large and small make explicit promises through the values they demonstrate. When a brand espouses sustainability as a core value, there is a lot at stake. More than 75 per cent of consumers are more willing to buy a product from a company with a corporate social responsibility initiative, which almost always includes considerations for creating and sustaining a healthy environment.

Customer service agents know consumers aren’t afraid to hold brands accountable. The Environmental Defense Fund recently published the Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism report, which showed that consumers hold business leaders responsible for the environmental impact they make through their business. By extension, agents are on the front lines of bringing those values to life through authenticity.

When a customer believes an agent is exactly the right person to help them in the moment, the customer is much more likely to believe in the brand’s value proposition and the brand’s values themselves.

Customers yearn for positive experiences

The third role customer service agents play in driving sustainability initiatives is identical to the customer service role itself: solving customer problems and creating positive experiences. 

It is in this third way that CX teams engender even greater loyalty, driving business sustainability and revenue growth. Brands build loyalty through keeping promises and running programs that provide tangible value for customers. High quality products and services are sure ways to win consumers’ favor. But keeping them as customers means aligning with their personal values and providing memorable experiences.

CX agents are connected to your customers like few others in the organization. They have keen awareness and insight into customer needs and wants. When these are captured and operationalized, they become an invaluable resource to a brand. These insights can guide a company to think, talk and behave like their customers themselves, aligning operations and business practices with a company's ideal customers.

Customer services teams are also ideally positioned to share customer ideas with teams that oversee sourcing, production, marketing and sales, enabling a closed loop process for delivering on the value of sustainability that an increasing number of consumers expect.

Customer service agents are a direct extension of a brand’s sustainability practices and no less critical in the equation than other operations teams. In many ways, they function as a way for you to directly communicate your company’s sustainability practices and values to the customer. When they fulfill these three roles in their organization’s approach to sustainability, everybody - most especially the customer - wins.

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