Committing to the Customer… Forever

Photo cred: Jose Téllez

How does your business view its relationships with customers?  It’s very easy, and common, to withdraw commitment to helping a customer once they make the purchase…but the relationship should be more than a sale.

Sometimes there’s a formal arrangement.  Sometimes the customer has to pay for any help after a purchase.

If a business is really there to help, however, they should view every purchase as a long term commitment to making that customer’s experience amazing.

Even if the customer has no intention of buying more products, you should provide them with as much help as possible (within reason, of course).

If I buy a camera from an electronics store and I have a question, I should feel confident in asking an employee for advice long after I bought the camera.  Because I bought that camera from them, the store should make sure that my overall experience with that camera, and their brand, is a great one.

Hell, even if I didn’t buy it from them, helping me out provides them with the opportunity to build trust and loyalty with a new customer.

Take it further and straight up ask your customers to come back for help.  Apple is a great example with their genius bar.  They want their customers to be happy with the product they bought, even if there’s no guarantee of future purchases.

Your relationship with a customer shouldn’t stop at the sale…the relationship shouldn’t stop at all.

6 Cheap Tips For Better Customer Service

Friendly Service
Photo cred: Lilly Tran

Last week I asked the question, “Are All Customers Equal?”.  Many of the responses mentioned the issue of allocating limited resources, and explained the cost advantage of providing better service to better/more influential customers.

If you want to see my responses, just read through the comments.  I thought it might be helpful to share some “little things” that you can use to provide better customer service without spending much money.  Remember that in any first interaction with someone, it’s often the little things that count and stick out.

1. Don’t get mad at people for wanting help.

Nothing drives a customer more crazy than talking to a rude customer service rep who doesn’t want to talk to you.  Guess what, the customer doesn’t want to be talking to you either.  The fact that they’re talking to you means something went wrong with your product.  Be kind and respectful, unless you’re disrespected.

2. Say “Thank You” when the customer you’re helping is friendly and respectful.

This happened to me once with Microsoft (X Box).  My 360 had fallin ill with the “ring of death” and I needed a new one.  I called a rep, put in my order for a free replacement, and everything went smoothly.

At the end of the conversation, before we said goodbye, he said, “I just want to thank you for being so respectful and friendly to me”.  It really stuck with me.  I actually felt good after hanging up the phone with a customer service rep.

3. Check up on your customer once in a while.

Just drop a quick message that says “Hey, how can we help?” and don’t ask for anything in return.  Show that you want your customers to be happy.  Do this enough, you might be able to gain some control over the flow of customer service requests, and allocate resources accordingly.

It could be a mass email if you don’t want to spend the time but don’t message them too often as you don’t want to spam them.

4. Take away the hoops.

Don’t make it hard for customers to get in touch with you.  If you don’t have a rep available, let them leave their number and call them back.  Again…let them know that you care about them.  Trust me, there is a strong correlation between the amount of time a customer spends waiting on the phone and the patience they have when you finally pick up.

5. If you find out there’s an issue with your product, don’t wait for the the complaint…just apologize.

I was having lunch with my girlfriend the other day and she ordered a sandwich without tomatoes (she’s crazy…I love tomatoes).

When the chef watched her open the sandwich and saw that he accidentally added tomatoes, he said, from accross the cafe, “SORRY! I saw your reaction and realized my mistake”.  He then walked over and said “let me get those out of your face” and took the tomoes away.

He was funny, had a great attitude about making a mistake, and provided great service.  (The last time I went there, they gave me a free espresso shot because the yankees hit a homerun.  I love this place)

6. Smile!

You can set the tone of your interaction early by giving off good vibes.  If you’re providing customer service over the phone or internet, then talk or write like you’re smiling to the best of your ability.

Most of these practices are reliant on having good employees that care about the company.  If your employees don’t believe in your company, how can you expect customers to believe in you?

What are some other ways businesses can provide better customer service without spending a lot of money?  Know of any other “little things” that count?

Thanks to Jon Klar for contributing point #1.

Should All Customers Be Treated Equally?

Equality
Photo cred: saxarocks

I had an poor experience with a printing service recently.  After speaking to their customer service, I was still very unhappy.

Nutshell: They said there was nothing that they could do, and if I wanted to cancel my order, I’d have to pay a cancellation fee.

Being very frustrated, I tweeted a complaint about my poor experience with the company (not something I’m necessarily proud of, but that’s for another post).

After doing so, I was contacted on twitter by someone who asked me to email them.

So I did… and they went above and beyond to provide the best possible customer service they realistically could.  They were very respectful, explained the situation, and offered to waive the cancellation fee.  They even offered a discount on my next order.

Now how could you go from not being able to do anything, and even punishing me with a fee, to giving me everything I asked for and more?!

Many “experts” advise companies to approach every community differently based on their needs.  I’m going to go ahead and say that when it comes to customer service, treat every community and customer equally, regardless of their influence.

What do you make of this?  Should companies provide better service for some communities over others?

Take it further…if a customer is a brand evangelist of yours, should you provide them with more benefits?  I’ve always thought it a good idea to take care of your most loyal customers, but is it worth the risk of alienating your average customer?