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.
Like most website owners, you are concerned about getting found in the din 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 don't have the time. Time to prioritize what is essential, and customer service is right up there. That said, some just don't think the extra effort is necessary.
Back in the day, there was a company called MindSpring. If you had to call about your connectivity or hosting, a real person was there to help and solve your problems. No hassle, no long waits, no if, and or buts. Personalized, professional service where they listened and took their time to help.
Then they were gobbled up by a larger company — Earthlink.
Things went downhill from 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.
Bigger Isn't Always Better
Large companies “sell” their wares claiming the customer is 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 cannot 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 entirely based on price — not the 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 to make improvements. Sadly only to witness that nothing changed.
That is because excellent Customer Service is not easy. It's not a set and forget. Instead, 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
We “little guys” have the advantage of being flexible and evolving 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 enormous 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.
On an aside…
There are buyers, and there are customers. However, 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 absolutely that the key to my success at its core is 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 to help you turn buyers into loyal customers.
1. Listen, Listen, Listen!
So many businesses fail to listen to what their customers are saying. If they claim to “listen,” they fail to implement solutions or strategies based on that.
What I've always done is note 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 create solutions that solve those challenges and make them available, not always as a new service but to modify my processes.
2. Respond Promptly
Your business emails should be professional, personable, and detailed to each specific request. And I'm not talking automated or “template” 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 contacts and 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 a good reason. I do not nickel and dime my clients, nor do I charge for every little thing. But, 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 calls are not charged 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 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. However, I've also turned down projects that I know I don't have time for that would impact my customer service levels.
I do a better job when I manage my time correctly (and realistically), including responding to emails. I also schedule time for my eCommerce sites to make sure I can 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. You can offer even better service by consistently leaving the door open to receive further feedback or questions.
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. Instead, your customer service policies, procedures, 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 offer excellent service. That's their Achilles heel, and they often 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,