Great customer service ain’t what it used to be. You call a company and have to go through several menus to get to the department you desire. Once connected you are put on hold; listening either to elevator music or, as a friend of mine told me, the same song over and over again so it stuck in his head long after the line had been answered. Waits can be twenty minutes or even an hour before one speaks to a human voice. And, often that first person you speak to cannot solve the problem at all.
New Paradigm of “Great Customer Service”
The new paradigm of great customer service means sometimes where you are sent to another department altogether. This is another twenty plus minutes listening to music or plugs for the company. Sometimes you are actually transferred to a supervisor. And, far too often you’re speaking with someone who is rude and could care less if you terminated your business with the company. I’ve had that experience with phone companies, cable companies, credit card companies, and others where there is stiff competition. You’d think they would do everything in their power to retain your business, rather than trying to get you back. It used to be the case these companies would bend over backwards to keep you a loyal customer. Aren’t they aware there are numerous other choices? Why don’t they care about service, let alone the great customer service that we expect?
Enough complaining. I’ve made my point. As a small business owner – I run my own specialty publishing company, Gauntlet Press – great customer service is my number one goal. A happy customer will usually return even if he/she was initially irate. Here are some tips to keep your customers happy and achieve great customer service.
1 – Customer Friendly Website
Have a customer-friendly website with your contact information at the top, easily visible (a link to how the customer can reach you). I’ve had problems with Amazon.com and the listing of books I’ve provided them. It takes me twenty minutes to even find a way to contact someone who can assist me. It’s a chore and if I was a customer with a concern I wouldn’t take that much time. I would buy from someone else in the future because of the lack of great customer service. Other websites provide no contact information (or outdated useless info). No email address. No phone number. I deal with authors and their agents. If I can’t contact an agent an author may end up losing money. So, make your contact information prominent and easy to find with a link on your homepage.
Make sure your website is customer-friendly. I had to replace my website of fifteen years because it wasn’t compatible with current technology. Striving for great customer service, I wrote down everything I liked and disliked in websites I visited. The new Gauntlet Press website is user-friendly. It’s not complex. The homepage is short. Ordering has been simplified using current technology. There is a contact form so a customer doesn’t have to email me but can ask a question on the website and I receive an email. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it is to have to spend ten or more minutes to find what you want on a website. Will you return? Probably not. So, construct your website as if you were a customer.
2 – Happy Customer = Great Customer Service
A happy customer is a return customer. I get numerous emails and make it my policy to respond to all within twenty-four hours (usually less). I often get responses back like “I didn’t think you would get back to me so quickly.” These customers have had bad experiences with others and I hit the ball out of the park, so to speak, simply by responding quickly.
Next, to provide great customer service, always be polite and professional in your response. Sometimes a customer can be really irritating: “You never sent my book! Get it to me now!” In most cases the book was sent or there was a valid reason I couldn’t send it yet. I could tell the customer he or she would get a better response if he/she was polite. But, I bite my tongue and reply professionally. I explain the situation without chastising the writer. Recently, a customer who sent such an email later apologized when his book arrived an hour after he shot me his email. Not everyone is polite or tactful. Don’t take the bait to reply in kind. Be the bigger person and you’ll keep the customer.
And while on the subject of email, if you’re going to be out of your office for several days or a week leave an “away message.” I’ve emailed people and after a week sent a second email. Too often I get a response “I was out of town! Give me time to catch up.” A simple “away message” would have been enough for me to remain patient. I’m no mind reader, however, so without an “away message” how was I to know the person was out of town?
To read more tips from my guide to providing great customer service, check out the continuation with A Guide for Great Customer Service -Part 2-.