Customer service is at the core of any successful business. It contributes to your business' growth and ability to attain and gain new customers. The challenge is that most business owners underestimate the time and organizational structures needed to facilitate outstanding customer service.
Include customer service in your business plan (aff). If you are a sole prop, review the time, processes, and software you'll need to be efficient.
I've worked with many a growing online company over the past 25 years. Too often, those that offered the epitome of an excellent customer service experience at the start sadly would eventually lose their way.
How does customer service get sucky?
- Business grows too quickly, and along the way, the start-up culture is lost. Along with the attitude you had when you were hungry. Stay hungry, my friends.
- Some get overly confident in thinking that because their product or service is selling so well, folks won't look elsewhere. Never make this fatal assumption.
- Those responsible for customer service are not qualified for the position. Most only able to read off of scripts and seem unable to use any cognitive thinking to acknowledge customer concerns.
- Qualified customer support personnel who do seem to care but are not given authority to make things right or channels to bring to light needed and necessary improvements.
- “This call may be recorded for quality assurance.” But nothing ever changes. Customer service is unremarkable and goes through the motions.
Treat customers like a number, talk to them in a condescending tone, correct them because you don't appreciate why they are upset, and you won't have to worry about as many customers. Don't be that type of business.
Without a doubt, my commitment to offering customer service above and beyond what folks expect or are used to has contributed to my success. Twenty-five years later, I still handle every inquiry personally, promptly, and from the customer's perspective.
Smaller companies do not realize how excelling at customer service separates them from all their perceived competitors. In addition, they have the advantage of being more flexible and able to do “what is necessary” to resolve customer concerns.
Great customer service is a game-changer.
How to Tell if Your Customer Service Sucks
You get around to replying to emails when you get to it.
Prioritize response time. The faster you can respond, the better. And not with just “a response.” Be sure to provide any details or resources to cover all possible concerns or queries.
In business, business email etiquette matters. You do not email business contacts with the same style and tone as you do your friends.
Formality and professionalism go hand-in-hand with trust and legitimacy. Every person using your company email address needs to excel at communicating with the written word.
Nothing less will do. Informal email communications can reflect a lack of credibility and typically are aligned with — service that sucks.
You don't appear to be trustworthy.
Yes, your website can tout how great you and your product or service are. You can list all your accreditations and awards. However, if that isn't backed by the most standard and everyday customer service basics — your business will most likely fail.
PRO TIP: This includes a website that is all HTTPS. Secure Socket Layer is standard and customary and is included on all professional web hosts. Without SSL, your potential customers will get a security warning before accessing your site. Why would this be a customer service issue? Because HTTPS/SSL encrypts the data transferred between your site and your visitor's browser. Security is a customer service issue.
Next, make sure your about page is not generic and lean on details. Tell your story, include photos of you and your staff, explain in detail why you are passionate about what you do.
Don't forget policy transparency; all that minuscule fine print doesn't count. Make sure that locating contact forms and frequently requested information is easy to find. Also, create a code of ethics and privacy statement.
You offer surveys after each customer interaction and then do not act on that input.
Or, you don't ask how well you did because you don't care. Either way, your service probably sucks because you are not using the available information to be the best you can be.
Every one of us can continually improve. Personal growth includes being open to bad reviews or disappointing input to allow your company to meet its full potential.
You assume it's all about price.
The race to the bottom with the least high price will not necessarily ensure you are the company folks will choose to do business with — or that you will be profitable. In my experience, the folks buying on price alone aren't those worth catering to anyway.
Instead, look at providing value. Offer a price that allows you to provide the service you know customers will need, want, and appreciate. Most folks will pay more when they know they are getting above-and-beyond service.
Don't Have Customer Service that Sucks
How exactly do you do that? By putting the customer first. Regardless and always. You make a mistake — you fix it times ten. No excuses.
You put your customer hat on and do what is necessary to ensure your customers get more than expected. Then have the personnel, policies, and practices in place to make that happen.
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.Mahatma Gandhi
Live by those words. That's how I run my business and why I pride myself on offering White Glove Service. Yes, it takes a lot of work, but that's how you play the long game.
In today's arena, excelling at customer service may seem like a rarity. But, unfortunately, this fact makes customers less tolerable of ongoing issues and inconveniences.
The door is open for you to step in and use that to your advantage. When you offer extreme customer service, you stand out — big time.
That's what I call opportunity.
At your service,