Sunday, 6 February 2011

Customer Service–How to Get it Right


I recently wrote about Zappos – the customer service driven US online store about which I have yet to hear a complaint.  Tell me if you have one.  Their model is built on customer service, they started that way, it’s their mission statement and apparently they deliver in spades.  And they are hugely successful.  That’s not to say there are not many online and offline retailers who try and do the same, it’s just that this one I seem to hear about all the time.

Today made me think about the whole customer service issue and why it matters so very much.  Boringly (or not if you ever need one) this is about plumbers.  I had a leaking hot water cylinder.  One plumber wanted thousands to replace the whole thing (it’s a huge cylinder) the other came along this morning (Sunday) with a new valve, replaced it, mopped up the floor which I had been paddling in for the past two months and then charged a ridiculously small amount.

The former will get no praise from me and is unlikely to be allowed to darken my doors again, in other words I will never ‘shop’ from him again.  The latter will not only get more work from me, but will be praised and recommended far and wide and no I’m not going to give you his name.  So I will not only ‘shop’ from him again but my ‘customer review’ will go out through personal recommendation to people who will again recommend him on.

The short sightedness of some stores in not realising just how important great (forget good, I mean great) customer service is, is frequently breath-taking.  Some larger stores do not seem to realise that they are only as good as their most junior employee – if they allow that employee on the shop floor, that is, or to answer the phone.

Here are my main tips for Great Customer Service

Respond Fast – to any call, query or complaint.  The faster you respond the less likely you are for your customer to a) go elsewhere and b) complain about you online.

Have your best people as respondents – not your most junior.  Put your best, most knowledgeable people on the phone, responding to customer service emails and any other social media activities such as Twitter and Facebook.  Make sure they know your products.  Customer deserve quick, knowledgeable and intelligent response.

Answer the Phone and Email personally – Voicemail is more and more annoying. Be bothered to answer your phone and talk to your customers.  Don’t send standard ‘we will respond within 24 hours’ email responses unless you absolutely have to.  You will lose customers that way.

Let your Customers have their say by allowing them to publicly review your products and service.  This will not only improve your conversion rates but demonstrate transparency.  You cannot lose by doing this.

Go the Extra Mile – Don’t try and win an argument with a customer, you will be the loser in the end.  If you have a complaint go the extra mile and do something unexpected – send a gift voucher or a personal message.  The aim is to turn customers into friends.  Strangely enough handling a complaint intelligently can help you achieve this.

Competition is everywhere, following up closely behind you and breathing down your neck, particularly in the world of retail.  You may have a great product range.  You may offer excellent prices. Your online store may be beautifully designed.  But if you don’t score at the top for customer service you will lose out to someone who will go the extra mile.  Put your customers first.  Talk to them.  Listen to them.  Help them.  If something goes wrong do that little unexpected thing that will turn them from an unhappy shopper to your loyal friend.  And don’t let juniors answer the phone or answer customer service emails unless you totally trust them.  Customer service has to come from the top and go all the way down the line.  Business building is not a matter of luck.

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