It’s important to realize that you cannot ever please a customer too much. You’re not in danger of doing that anyway, but you are in danger of having unsatisfied customers who will leave your business in a heartbeat for someone else who offers better customer service. Remember, it’s not all about the product either; it’s about how the customer feels.
Feelings aren’t always rational. If you and your staff (if you have any) can learn the basics of human behavior and communication, and then use that information to adapt the response to the customer based on the individual client, you’ll go really far toward providing excellent business- winning customer service. It’s important to differentiate your business from all the rest, and today, the best way to do that is to develop top notch customer service.
Be Helpful – Even if you won’t make a profit today, being a resource to your contacts and customers is a great way to build long-term relationships. If your product is not right for them, and that does happen, don’t push it. You don’t want a customer who is unhappy. Instead, turn that person into a resource for other more qualified customers by being a resource to them.
Help that person find a product or service that is right for them. You’ll catch the person off guard when you admit that your product or service is not right for them, but this other product or service is. Don’t be surprised if they then turn around and try to convince you that they’re right for your product or service. Either way, they’ll leave happy and recommend you to others.
Demonstrate Integrity – Integrity is an important component of any business that wants to last a long time. You wouldn’t know it from recent headlines, but if you really want to provide excellent customer service, demonstrating integrity will go a long way. You can demonstrate integrity mostly via customer service. Integrity is about being consistent in your actions.
Everyone in your business should be on the same page and be able to demonstrate via their actions the business’s values. If your mission statement says that you value your customers above all else, or that you donate 10 percent to a charity, then you need to show that you do that. In other words, don’t be hypocritical. Simply put, integrity is doing the right thing no matter how it affects you personally.
Train Your Staff – Without proper training, how can they provide great customer service? According to the book, How to Win Customers and Keep them for Life, almost 70 percent of customers who leave a business do so because of perceived indifference of the person they dealt with, whether that was an owner, manager or employee.
That’s why your customer service needs to be customer focused. We often talk about systems and processes when it comes to doing business, but when it comes to customers, if your business is not customer centric, you’ll lose in the end.
By training staff how to speak to customers, whether in chat, in a help ticket, email, or the phone, you’ll reap the rewards many times over by teaching them how to connect properly to a customer, thus making the customer feel important. Not only do you need to train your staff, but you need to give them the power to actually affect change and solve problems. Whether that is a dollar amount, or some other measure of how far they can go to helping your customer feel taken care of, you must do it. Let go of the micromanaging and control of your customer service staff and you’ll see great rewards.
Under Promise Then Over Deliver – Don’t make promises you can’t keep, because customers expect you to do what you say you will do, and they expect you to do it right the first time, and they expect you to be on time. Those are lots of expectations. In order to be a successful business, if you’re going to offer online customer service, then you need to live up to all those expectations.
Therefore, never promise to do something “right now” or “today” unless you know for sure it’s possible. Instead, give a reasonable date by which this problem will be fixed and then make it happen, and if you make it happen sooner than you stated, so much the better. If you solve a problem sooner than you said you would, your customer will feel special and cared for in a way that you couldn’t achieve any other way.
Don’t forget that the concept of under promising and over delivering isn’t just about solving a problem your customer has. It starts from the moment that your customer comes to your website to purchase from you. Your customer should have a good idea what your products or services will do for them, but don’t promise the moon and the stars. Be realistic about the promises you make and the hope you put into the heart of your client. You want them to expect something, of course, but not everything. The reason is that you want them to be extra pleased when they end up with more than they thought they would. Customers who are happy buy more.
Show Your Knowledge – Whether it’s you or your customer service team, it’s important that anyone working directly with customers understand the business they’re trying to support. If you don’t understand your business and cannot show your expertise to clients and customers, it’ll be really hard to provide excellent online customer service.
When you demonstrate your knowledge about your product, you’ll truly be able to point your customers in the right direction. Many problems that your clients have are probably easily fixed with simple trouble shooting.
Use Automation – Having a FAQ and self-help area prior to offering an automated ticketing system on your site, that will enable customers and clients to empower themselves to help themselves, is a great way to use automation. Providing customer self-service is an essential element of offering excellent online customer service. First of all, most people prefer to try to help themselves before submitting tickets and certainly before they call anyone. This is true especially in relation to online business, because this target audience is often surfing the web in the middle of the night or early in the morning before work and hope to get help before typical business hours.
Even if you have a bricks and mortar store, a proper website should offer some form of online customer service, including online self-service options. Having this option can tremendously cut down on the in-person customer service needs your clients have and actually make them more satisfied in the process. Customers enjoy being able to find the answers they need on your website because it makes them feel like you know your product and can stand behind it by answering possible questions and helping with trouble shooting in advance.
A FAQ, or frequently asked questions page, is an essential component of any self-help customer service area that you want to provide. Your customers can go there at their convenience and look up problems. Even potential customers can read it, and often will decide to buy based on the FAQ if it makes them feel secure about purchasing from you. The FAQ is a great place to put information about:
- How to contact you
- Shipping policies and procedures
- Return policies and procedures
- Other answers that have been given previously
- Access to submit a ticket for more help
Customers hate having to hunt for your content information, or return information. Don’t make them. Make it super clear from the start of your help desk. Making it harder for someone to make a return will not prevent returns from being made, but, making it easier can. Why? Because if it’s super easy to return something those who are going to make that choice anyway will do it right away. Those for whom another solution will work will look for another solution or contact customer service personally without having made a return yet. This is yet another way to qualify people so that you don’t waste more time and money on customers who cannot be pleased. The key word here for customer self-help is KISS — Keep it Seriously Simple.
Always Offer Money Back – While it can be scary to do so, especially if you offer a service, it’s important to offer some form of money back offer. If the product is digital or even physical, a return can mean just selling the product again, but if it’s a service where you cannot ever get back the time it took, you’re going to have to sometimes suck it up and cover the cost yourself.
This isn’t to say you have to be walked all over, but there are ways to at least break even on such situations. For instance, you can offer a percentage back based on how much work has been done. But, if a client is really unhappy and you cannot make it right, sometimes it’s best to just give them the money back, take back the rights for them to use the work you did, and move on.
Be Personal – They say “It’s not personal; it’s business” all the time, but the truth is that from a customer’s standpoint, giving you money is very personal. The customer wants to feel like they know you and trust you before opening their wallet. When using email for communication, or chat for that matter, always use your customer’s name.
Thankfully, even in email there are automation possibilities, so that even canned email can be addressed to the name of the customer. So, whether email, chat, or phone, always use the customer’s name as naturally and as much as possible. They will feel more connected to you and more likely to appreciate your help.
Don’t Ignore Complaints – When a customer complains, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, a blog post, or privately via your ticketing system or email, don’t ignore it. Even if there is no apparent solution, the best thing to do is respond in a way that attempts to tone down the situation and seek to offer a solution. Your customers expect to get answers via whatever form they choose to register their complaint, and if you’re going to offer these lines of communication, then you had best be monitoring them.
Even if a complaint can’t be directly addressed to the person, don’t ignore it. If customers know that you will respond to these types of complaints, customers will actually spend more with your company. Even if they weren’t the one who registered the complaint, seeing how you dealt with the complaint, especially public social media complaints, gives future customers confidence that they’ll get any problems they have solved, too.
Ensure that you monitor all social media accounts so you’ll know what is being said about your business, and have a plan in place of how you or customer service contractors will deal with the complaints. You’ll need to determine if it’s a real complaint or spam. Real complaints need answers; spam can and should be deleted. The more personable you can be on social media, the better. Customers want to see “you” and the people behind the business on social media.
Offer Solutions Not Excuses – Customers want you to solve their problems, so go to them with solutions to the problems, not excuses. If you are having trouble dealing with all the questions you get via your customer service channels, then it might be time to get some help. You can hire a customer service Virtual Assistant who can lighten the load for you tremendously. When your customer or client tells you what they need, provide it. If it’s not possible, apologize and refund their money.
Go Above and Beyond – Make the customer feel special and you’ll earn a customer for life. Being simply adequate at customer service is not enough. There is far too much competition out there for that. Just for one moment put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think about the last time you received truly exceptional customer service. There probably are less than a handful of cases. Right?
In the cases you can remember where a business went out of their way to solve a problem for you, didn’t you feel great? One way you can differentiate yourself from your competitors is to visit their online customer service and figure out where they lack and then fill that hole. Even if solving the problem is going to take time, you can make a customer feel super special by providing frequent updates about the status of their issue so that they know that you’ve not forgotten them.
Try a few extra special touches when you’re dealing with a specific complaint as well. Do things such as give a large discount due to their problem, or give them something free. Send them a personal note in snail mail if you have access to their address with a special coupon code or a sneak peak sample of a new product or service you’re developing. Ask for feedback. They’ll appreciate the extra thought, and likely do business with you again.