A Primer on Customer Service and Managing Expectations
It seems simple enough, meet customer expectations and people are happy. If you exceed them, customers become loyal to your brand and yet many organizations, big and small, are struggling to provide good customer service.
In most cases, I know businesses want to do good for their customers—they just don’t know how. Sometimes they’re just doing it wrong. So before we dive into improving customer service for your organization, let’s set the record straight first.
4 Customer Service Myths
- The customer is always right. The customer doesn’t know what they don’t know. If the customer is always right, does that mean customers who know nothing about shipping and logistics are right when they complain of delayed parcels? The customer doesn’t know how your business works, they have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes so that doesn’t mean their every complaint or request the rule of law.
Practicing the “customer is always right” slogan will ruin even a successful business by exposing it to abusive customers—people who will complain about everything and demand you bend over backwards because they’re your customers. Do you really want to do business with people like this?More importantly, think about the repercussions of this to employees. Yes, more customers equal more profit, but your employees will soon tire of this one-sided treatment. In the end, the expenses of hiring and training a new employee is greater than what you could potentially earn by retaining one bad customer.
- No news means good news for the customer. For whatever reasons, you can’t fulfill a customer’s request on schedule, so you don’t inform him until you find a way to solve the problem. For many successful businesses, this sounds like a good plan.
WRONG! While you’re busy solving a problem, the customer is waiting and his patience is dwindling. Sometimes, it’s not just their patience that’s at stake, be it they can’t wait 30 minutes more for their pizza or because they have an urgent research and it’s crucial for their internet to be fixed.Whatever the situation is, you’re better of telling the truth they can make necessary adjustments.
- A bigger financial investment is prerequisite to keeping patrons loyal and happy80% of customer requests are easy to fulfill—no need for fancy equipment and extravagant rewards. Giving a clear answer and fulfilling their request works better than refunds or rewards.
- You’ll lose a customer right away after you disappoint them. Customers are more forgiving than you think. As long as the reason is just, they’ll be back to do business with you. And even if their last experience with your company was terrible, they will forget this as long as you don’t commit mistake after mistake after mistake.
After debunking these myths, you’ll probably realize that great customer service isn’t complicated or confusing after all. So let’s get right down to it,
The Foundation of Customer Service that Works
Answer their question… then answer another, until you have addressed every question
There’s a reason the phrase, “Is there anything else I can help you” is part of basic soft skills training for customer service representatives. You might think that allowing customers to ask more questions is just inviting them to give you more problems to solve, but wouldn’t it be better if you can prevent said problems in the first place?
Admit Your Limits
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do because of company policies or external factors beyond your control. When that happens, just come clean. Don’t pass the blame or invent a lame, unbelievable excuse. Don’t lie or make false promises—you might put off a long conversation with a disgruntled customer but this will backfire on you.
Don’t forget to explain your reasons nicely by empathizing and explaining the whole situation. A simple “No, I can’t help you” isn’t enough.
On the other hand, if you know the request is out of your jurisdiction, pass it on to the right person.
Surprise Customers Once in a While
Blow customers away with a random act of kindness, be it a freebie, a discount or a small trinket. The cost isn’t important, according to Norbert Schwartz, a Psychologist at University of Michigan’s Social Research Institute.
Phone, Email and In-Person Support aren’t the Only Options
The internet has given many start-up and already successful businesses new channels to provide customer support. But it doesn’t mean these new channels will replace existing ones. Each channel is busy with its share of queries.
Here are different options available:
- Online Chat
- FAQ pages
- Company Forums
Don’t limit the channels of customer service you support. Don McNair, Senior Director of Customer Interaction at Yaskawa Electronic agrees, “The customer has the choice of what technology he prefers to use, so our support systems must address the customer’s (requests) at the technology of (their) choice.”
Not connecting with customers on the channel of their choosing leads to missed sales and unsatisfied customers who might think you’re turning a blind eye to their concerns. As much as 57% of US customers who shop online confirmed they’ll probably abandon their purchase if they can’t find immediate help for their concerns, according to a report by Gartner.
Answer Questions Quickly and Show off Your Business’s Great Service
Using Twitter or Facebook, you can handle queries quickly and the whole conversation will be available for all to see, so people with the same concerns can easily see it.
Most Importantly: Don’t be a Hindrance to Your Own Employees
Give employees the resources they need to serve customers. Companies where almost every customer-related decision needs “supervisor approval” are poor service providers. And if their service isn’t that bad, it’s probably slow because company’s long chain of command for processing requests.
Loosen the leash a little; train employees well enough to make decisions—with the help of clear company guidelines, of course.
Handling Bad Reviews without Losing Your Cool
You can’t please everyone no matter what you do, the most you can do is consistently provide good service and prevent bad reviews from influencing other customers.
Here’s How to Combat Bad Reviews
- Whatever everyone says, don’t lose your temper. Deal with people graciously. Resulting to sarcasm or rudeness will backfire on you—even if you’re right.
- Talk to irate reviewers in private. When a customer posts a complaint online, it’s best to send them a private message instead of posting a public comment. This prevents other people from taking sides, jumping in on the conversation or fueling the complainant’s negative emotions.Donna Faust, Director of Brand Management at Hayneedle; a furniture store based in Nebraska, agrees, private messages “give us the flexibility to find the best solution without multiple fans jumping into the conversation or making the customer feel like we’ve forgotten about them.”
- Don’t be tempted to post fake reviews. Fake reviews are cheap to get so it’s understandable why some are tempted to use them. Be warned though, most of these reviews are obviously fake; you’ll scare more customers than you can attract. Just read some of the funny reviews on Amazon, you’ll see what I mean. Once you get busted using fake reviews, even the legit reviews you have will be discredited.
What is generally accepted in the customer service world may not be right after all. It may be outdated or inapplicable for your business, so don’t be afraid to experiment to see what works best for you. Try some of the strategies here and see how it works out.
© 2014 Incedo Group, LLC