You have a beautiful website. The most professional WordPress site in your market with the best product at the lowest price. Great! But if you do not have your Customer Service culture firmly intact — you've got nothing.
If you are like most website owners, you are concerned about getting found in the cacophony of alternatives online. One way to assist with that is to have Extreme Customer Service.
Customer Service is a Culture
I run into unbelievable customer service fails every day. From some of the top Internet and Technology companies. Names you would recognize.
Then there are those sole props and “Mom and Pops” that have sucky service. They know what they should do but they just don't have the time. Time to prioritize what is important and customer service is right up there.
Back in the day there was was a company called MindSpring. If you had to call about your connectivity or hosting there was a real person that was there to help and solve your problems. No hassle, no long waits, no if, ands or buts. Then they were gobbled up by a larger company — Earthlink.
Things went down hill form there. For both companies. Too big, too ambiguous, too agnostic about customer service. What a shame. They lost that customer service culture that got them to where they were.
Sadly, I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this situation replay itself over and over again. To this day.
In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.Jeff Bezos
Bigger Isn't Always Better
Large companies “sell” their wares based on the customer being a priority. They don't think they are making just a pitch — they genuinely believe that methodology.
All the while they don't recognize that their behemoth organizations prevent that claim from being true. Most still aggressively marketing new product offerings when they aren't even able to adequately support what they already offer.
Going so far as to offer better “introductory” deals and discounts to new customers while raising the prices on loyal customers who've been with them for years or decades. How many times have you experienced that?
Enter “Customer Retention Departments” that are completely based on price — not quality of product or service offered. How does that make sense? These departments wouldn't have to exist if current customers were treated the same (or better) as “new” customers.
I can provide numerous examples where I've been part of panels, surveys or video meetings where I was asked for my input so improvements could be made. Only to witness that nothing changed.
That is because great Customer Service is not easy. It's not a set and forget. It's something that every person in the company has to “feel in their bones” to get it right.
MindSpring was one of those companies. Was.
Small Biz Has the Edge
Us “little guys” have the advantage of being flexible and being able to evolve on a dime. We aren't locked into ridiculous scripts that claim what we can or can't do. If we see a need to do something outside of established procedures — we can do it.
Especially when it is the right thing to do. Some of these huge Internet companies are impotent to do what's right. I've had “customer service reps” admit as much to me.
Whether you are just a one woman show like me or you have a handful of employees, there is a culture you need to get in place. Not a culture of the customer is always right. (I never really believed in that approach. No one is always right.)
But a culture that backs up what your company stands for and the type of company you want to be viewed as. If you mess up; own it. If a customer messes up, approaches you with respect and you can help them out without it destroying your bottom line; do it.
Thank your customer for complaining and mean it. Most will never bother to complain. They'll just walk away.Marilyn Suttle
On an aside…
There are buyers and there are customers. Someone who buys from you once is not a “customer” in the true sense of the word.
Customers come back for more. They are worth every effort to make each point of contact a delight. When they hang up the phone or read an email and discover they have a smile on their face that means your level of service just knocked it out of the ballpark.
They yap you up to everyone they know. They sign-up for your updates. Maybe even post about you on social media. Now, that's the kind of customer I like catering to!
It's an Internal Cultural Thing
Everyone who is the face of your company has to be on the same page. You want to instill a consistent experience in how to communicate and assist your potential and current customers. Excellent customer service naturally should transfer to your supplier and vendor relationships as well.
Solid customer service practices must permeate everything to do with running your business if you are serious about long term success. This includes empowering everyone to have the flexibility to go off script if need be.
I can tell you emphatically that the key to my success has had at its core my personalized service and support. Not just when I am wearing my WordPress Consultant hat but with my other sites as well.
7 Tips for an Excellent Customer Service Culture
Here are the tips that have worked for me that I bet you can put to work to turn buyers into loyal customers.
1. Listen, Listen, Listen!
So many businesses fail to just listen to what their customers are saying. They then fail to implement solutions or strategies based on that.
What I've always done is make note of every challenge my clients face and keep track of those that keep coming up. I have an old fashioned leather notebook sitting on my desk for my off-the-cuff thoughts and reflections.
Next, I then create solutions that solve those challenges and make them available. Not always as a new service but in modifying my processes as well.
2. Respond Promptly
You business emails should be professional, personable and detailed to each specific request. And I'm not talking automated or “templatey” responses. Personalized responses that address each concern in detail — and then some.
Yes, you can have snippets or a swipe-file available for commonly asked questions (which should be in your FAQ as well), however you want to personalize everything around those snippets.
Your customers must feel as though you are responding specifically to them.
3. Under Sell and Over Deliver
I know, you've probably heard this one before. But for good reason. I don't nickle and dime my clients nor do I charge for every little thing. Depending on the relationship I use my discretion on what to charge for or not.
Imagine their surprise when they receive their invoice and that last task or phone call are not charged for as a “courtesy” for being a loyal client? Or they open their package to find a handwritten thank you note and little extra something that wasn't part of their order?
4. Organize Your Responsibilities
Time management is a thing. You need to plan for the necessary time you need to provide the level of service you want to be known for. I get it, easier said than done, but it will pay off in spades.
I use Google calendar to try and keep myself on track. I've also turned down projects that I know I just don't have time for that would impact my customer service levels.
When I manage my time properly (and realistically) and that includes time to respond to emails, I do a better job. I also schedule time for my eCommerce sites so I can take the necessary time to pack shipments with care — and error free.
5. Review Your Website Statics
Look specifically at entry pages, search terms and paths once on your site. Beef-up the pages that are most visited. I do this once a month to keep tabs on what is happening on my websites.
Once you see the information folks are looking for, give them more of it. You would probably be surprised at the data in your server and traffic stats that can help you assist your customers more efficiently. That is if you look at that data through that lens.
6. Closing Customer Service Conversations
Make a point of asking if there are any additional questions or concerns. By always leaving the door open to receive additional feedback or questions, this allows you to offer even better service.
7. Don't Get Locked-in
Avoid the “this is the way we do it” mentality that prevents you from improving and modifying your processes. Your customer service policies, processes and methodology should evolve as needed and when needed without hesitation.
Go Above and Beyond
Don't be like the big guys who have the volume or market control to not have to offer great service. That's their Achilles heal and many times they don't even know it until it is too late.
Look at your available data, develop policies, have a meeting with your staff and find ways to “Listen, Surprise and Delight” your customers. Your bottom line will thank you.
At your service,