Customer service has never been worse than it is in today’s business environment. With companies trimming their budgets as much as possible, there isn’t the time or money to spend on customer service skills. If it can be automated, it gets automated no matter how inconvenient it is for the customer.
How many times have you been ready for the now familiar message “please listen carefully for our options have changed” only to find yourself screaming at the phone after one too many option levels? Hey – it works for the business – it keeps their operating overhead down – they don’t have to staff as many people as they used to because the call tree does the job on auto-pilot. No late or sick employee to worry about. No customers complaining about your phone receptionist cutting them off or having a bad attitude.
When you stop to think about all the conveniences we have lost over the years, it’s pretty astounding. Doesn’t it seem like we’re doing more with all the automation that was supposed to make our lives easier? No more secretaries; we have a computer. No more gas jockey; we can do it ourselves and we even get to watch TV while we’re pumping. Nobody to answer your call or tell you when they will; you can leave a message.
I don’t know about you but all this convenience can be very frustrating for me. I can’t ever sit back and let somebody else do the task because I’m expected to use self-serve. I remember the days when service people were expected to be extremely helpful. We have begun to expect poor service and we are no longer surprised when it occurs.
This is the perfect time for small businesses to step up and offer that which cannot be offered by the big companies. Convenience is such a big selling point, how about offering customer service as a convenience for your customers? Many small businesses are run by owners that are too busy running the business to implement good customer service on the Internet. In fact, customer issues may be rare and infrequently occurring, but as the business grows good customer service becomes a necessity. The business owner will eventually find it difficult and overwhelming in the long run.
The post sales process is just as important as the initial sales process when it comes to customer loyalty. A poorly treated customer will not have a reason to do business with you again even when you roll out new products and services. Here’s three ideas for you to implement that will not take excessive time or money but will increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty:
1. Follow-Up Personally with an Irate Customer
Running a business is like having a new adventure every day. You can never be surprised when the unexpected happens, only be ready to deal with it. When things go terribly wrong for your customer, have someone follow-up with a phone call. You may be surprised to learn that Internet shoppers think of online businesses with a bit of celebrity stars in their eyes. It is totally unexpected that an online business would call them to apologize for any inconvenience and make sure the issue was resolved to their satisfaction. I’ve done it – it works like a charm every time.
2. Use Words and Phrases Guaranteed to Calm Any Customer
Customers enjoy the speed of the purchase and the anticipation of the immediate download shopping on the Internet for digital products. Things can go bump in the night at any point in the purchase process, even getting to the download page. Make it easy for your customer to report the issue by having at least one method guaranteed to get results within four hours. And then be sure you always include “we apologize for the inconvenience”, “please reopen this ticket if further assistance is needed”, “thank you for notifying us of this problem”, “please”, “thank you”, “we’re so sorry for the delay”, etc. This type of acknowledgement lets the customer know that you care. Isn’t that really what we want?
3. Give the Customer Value for Their Inconvenience
New people are coming to the Internet every day so you should expect and plan for the “this is my first time” issues. One way you can do that is to provide your customer with more information than is required to resolve the issue. For example, solving the issue and telling your customer how to prevent a similar issue in the future will assist them in using the Internet and they will greatly appreciate the extra time and effort your business took to assist them.
Combine all three of the above ideas and you will provide customer service few have seen on the Internet, let alone in many offline businesses today.
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