“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.” James Cash Penney
I absolutely love receiving tweets like this one:
“Just experienced fantastic customer service from @andybeal @trackur social media monitoring tool, much appreciated.”
When a customer takes the time to tell their Twitter followers that your company provided a great customer experience, it’s reputation gold. When you consider how readily customers take to social media to complain, any time you’re the recipient of unsolicited praise, you should savor the moment—or mark the tweet as a favorite, like I did.
Stand out from the crowd
You don’t have to be Nordstrom’s or Lexus in order to provide your customers with excellent service. Sure, taking back a customer’s return of used car tires—when you don’t even sell car tires—will ensure your place in customer service folk lore, but to delight a customer enough that they can’t help telling their friends, family, and social network doesn’t need to take some kind of herculean effort on your part.
In most cases, earning yourself the generous praise of your customers often only takes being better than your competitors. At Trackur, we don’t have a toll free number and we don’t assign each customer with a project or campaign manager. Most of our customer inquiries are handled automatically by our FAQs and our software is so easy to use we receive relatively few customer support tickets at all. How we’re able to stand out from the crowd is by making sure any contact we do have with our customers goes above and beyond their expectations. Just like Avis, we try harder.
Exceed customer expectations
There are many different ways you can provide a great customer service experience, most of which won’t cost you an arm and a leg–or a set of new car tires. The key is to understand how your stakeholders are likely to reach out to you and then make sure that experience goes smoothly and, whenever possible, goes beyond the experience they expected.
When you can do that, you increase the chances that a customer can’t help wanting to tell the rest of the world how much you rock. Let’s look at some ways you can delight your customers into helping you build a better online reputation.
The biggest frustration most customers have when calling you is that they don’t know how long it will take to get an answer to their question or a resolution to their problem. Discover Card’s current TV ads do a great job of resonating with tired consumers by showing that, when you call their toll free number, you get straight through to a live person.
When someone calls you for assistance make sure that any automated navigation is only one level deep so that they reach a real person quickly. When connected, take their name and number early on, just in case they get disconnected and so that you can personalize the call by using their name. Lastly, be transparent with any steps that you need to take before being able to answer their question or resolve their issue. By telling them how long the call should last, what it is you need to do in order to assist them, and what outcome they can expect, will go a long way to easing any apprehension and increase the chances they’ll finish the call more than satisfied.
Using email for customer service is a great way to serve many customers at once, without the cost of an expensive call center. Unfortunately, emails are notoriously hard to track and customers can get lost between the virtual cracks of your mailbox. Instead, use a company such as Zendesk.com to add structure to your email customer service. Using a dedicated email address, Zendesk will turn emails into tickets, which can be tagged, assigned, and tracked from submission to resolution.
The multi-billion dollar software company SAS is such a believer in live chat that it has an entire team dedicated to providing instant online customer service. Live Chat is a great way to provide quick answers to easy questions and can often remove a stumbling block in a sales process, or help clarify how to get the best out of your product or service. The good news is that, thanks to affordable solutions such as Olark.com, you don’t need deep pockets or an IT team in order to offer live chat customer service.
Providing your customers with self-service tools is crucial. Many of us are too busy to waste our time on the phone or waiting for an email response. Your customers are smart and often tech-savvy enough to find the help themselves. By providing a frequently asked questions (FAQs) or customer forum, many customers will get the answers they need and then move on.
Whenever you start seeing the same question asked over and over of your customer service agents, look for the opportunity to create an FAQ or forum post that provides the answer. After a few weeks, check your web analytics and determine if there’s any question or help article that gets a lot of customer visits. Those are the opportunities to improve your product so that your customers don’t have to scratch their head in frustration in the first place!
Some social networks lend themselves to customer service better than others. Twitter and Facebook are both great platforms for answering quick questions or as a method of escalating to a support ticket. YouTube and Instagram? Not so much. If your customer tweets you a question, try to answer them the best you can within any restrictions of the channel in question. If you find that you need more than 140 characters in order to help them, direct them to your customer service platform of choice, but don’t forget to close the social network loop by later asking them if they received the help they needed.
Close the loop
Closing the customer service loop is important, no matter which method you use to provide customer service. Don’t take it for granted that the support you provided met with the satisfaction of your customer. The last thing you want is to see a tweet or blog post claiming that you weren’t interested in helping them. Instead, follow up shortly after your believe the request has been resolved and make sure the customer feels the same way. Zendesk offers this as an automated customer service survey and will let you know if a customer isn’t satisfied with your response.
When the going gets tough
Most of your customer interactions will involve pleasant customers with easy questions about your company or its products and services. Unfortunately, they won’t all be that easy. Some customers will want you to compare yourself to your biggest competitor, while others will seem like they’re asking such difficult questions, you’ll wonder if they actually are your biggest competitor.
On day 16, you’ll look at how not to respond to difficult customers, and their questions.