service

When you run a business, one of the most crucial areas in which you must excel in order to ensure your survival is customer service. Over the years, I have always made sure that this area was going to be a priority of mine. I have gathered some insights into this subject, and thus I would like to share with you what I call my 10 Rules to provide amazing customer service:

1- Treat customers like people, not numbers
I have seen this over and over, where as soon as the company grows a little bit, the bottom line becomes more important than the clients. The way I have always seen it, is that you need to work to provide satisfaction, not profit. If you work merely for profits, the service you provide will suffer. However, if client satisfaction is a priority, profits are bound to follow. This is why, you need to forget about numbers and make sure that every client walks away satisfied to have dealt with your company. Having a good, solid, satisfied client base is a much more valuable asset than money. Think about how much value a happy, recurring client is worth over the lifetime of your business, compared to a one-time dissatisfied one that made you more profit on that initial sale. When you think about the value of your clients, you are thinking long term, and this vision is what makes the difference between a “flash in the pan” and a company that is here to stay.

2- Provide multiple means of communication
One of my biggest pet peeves as a customer, especially on the internet, is to deal with a company that does not provide a physical address or a phone number. 99% of the time, I will not deal with a company that does not provide such information. It’s not that I need this information, but it’s nice to have it available in case I do need it at some point. I’ve always applied this type of thinking into my business, and this is why I provide many different methods of communication to my clientèle. Plus, it’s smart, because some people prefer to speak with someone by phone than by email and vice versa. Why allow yourself to lose customers in such a way? By providing more than one means of contact, your level of service is perceived as higher quality, and it allows you to actually provide better service to a broader range of customer demands.

3- Communicate your message effectively
Never assume that your clients will understand your logic or that they will read between the lines. This can lead to misunderstandings and a poorer experience by the customer, which is not what you want if your priority is customer satisfaction. For example, take a look at this page for a product we sell. As you can see, the person that wants to purchase this has all the info necessary: the price, the promotion (free shipping), the format (CD), the product details, the length of the CD, an actual sample of what it sounds like (preview), and how to use it (recommendations). All this information in a manner that is precise and easy to read. Whatever your product or service may be, always make sure that you provide as much details and information as possible, in a simple & efficient manner. Ironically enough, the less questions you get & the less interaction you have with your customers, the better service you provide ;)

4- Resolve issues promptly
I have always made it a point that all questions and concerns are dealt with as soon as possible. You wouldn’t believe how many customers I hear say that they are impressed with the quickness in response. Apparently, it’s still very rare out there to get quick service. Another example I can give, is that we ship thousands of items all over the world per month. Obviously, some of them are bound to get lost in transit. The mail isn’t perfect. When I am alerted by a customer that they never received their item, I arrange to send out a replacement immediately. The quicker the issue is resolved, the quicker it is forgotten. In whatever industry you may be in, make sure you always treat concerns, questions, and issues very quickly. You will impress your clients and they will be happier, and a happy customer is a customer that is more likely to come back. Always turn whatever negative arose into a positive.

5- Never deal with a customer when angry
This is a rule that you must always follow, you will not believe how useful it can be. Let me explain why. It occurs on occasion that you will have customers that will be upset about a variety of reasons. They can get pretty mean as well. What you must always do is never ever let that get to you. Yes, sometimes you just want to tell them off and blow some steam, but take a break. For example, I’d get an email from a very angry customer. It was filled with profanity and rudeness. I wanted to write back immediately with sarcasm and anger just to show them what it’s like to receive such a message. But I knew better, and I took a small break. Clear your mind, and change your thoughts. Then come back to that message and deal with it by being polite, respectful, and in control. I can tell you that in 100% of the cases, the client apologized for their rudeness, and we were able to resolve the situation. I have dealt with some pretty explosive situations, and in every instances, I was able to turn it around into a positive. So remember to put your ego aside. Customer service is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about effective communication, and as the merchant, you must be the voice of reason and the one that dictates the pace.

6- Always give more than advertised
If you really want to put the customer experience over the top, you have to provide more value than they expected. Bad service falls below expectations. Good service meets the expectations. Excellent service surpasses expectations. For example, you may want to give out an extra gift or a discount for a future purchase. You may want to give out some extra information on whatever it is that they bought. Seriously, it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive…just something thoughtful and that compliments their purchase accordingly. Everyone enjoys getting a freebie. I remember once I bought a suit and a few days later I received a discount by mail for a free tie. I thought it was a nice touch and it made what I thought was a normal buying experience into a great one. Happy clients are more likely to be loyal, and more likely to recommend their friends. In either case, this benefits your business.

7- Be open to flexibility
It occurs on occasion that a customer doesn’t find exactly what they were looking for, and being a little flexible can turn out to be quite beneficial for both parties. For example, I dealt with this customer recently that wanted to get a volume discount but they were missing it by a few dollars. So I applied the discount anyways. The way I see it, in a business, everything that you see (prices, discounts, promotions) shouldn’t be set in stone. It’s to give a certain direction to clients, but it’s also very important to provide “customized” service to each customer. The future is all about having everything fully customized to our exact needs. The more you can be open to customizing your client needs, the greater the satisfaction will be, and in return, the more business you will receive.

8- Anticipate what your customers want & guide them
Sometimes when dealing with a client, they will not be too clear about what they are looking for, because they perhaps do not know a proper way to express it. Your job in this case is to figure out what is best for them and provide them with this solution. For example, I may get a call from this person looking for a specific course that we do not carry. After talking to that person a little bit and understanding more what it is that they are looking for, I can best direct them towards a product I do have which fits what they wanted in the first place but couldn’t find it initially. The customer will be so grateful to you for taking the time to listen to them and helping them out. One time, I spent over an hour talking with this client about what they were looking for. Sure, this sale cost me more than other ones, but like I mentioned earlier, forget numbers when dealing with clients, just focus on satisfaction.

9- Reward your loyal customers
Did you know that for a business, it is much more costly to find a new customer than to keep a current one? This is why every smart business should include in their marketing plans the budget to reward loyal clients. They are the ones that are the driving force of your business. They are the ones that are more likely to purchase anything new that you come out with and they are the ones that will talk about your product/service and refer you more customers. There is no stronger marketing than this, and no amount of money in the world can buy this type of advertising. Reward their loyalty generously, and treat them like “kings”, because in the end, they are the reason that you have your “kingdom” ;)

10- Get customer feedback
It is extremely important to mold & adjust your business in the liking and the vision that will appeal to your customer base. This is why it is crucial to hear what they have to say about every aspect of their experience dealing with you. Sometimes, when you run a business, it is hard to have an unbiased opinion on things. We tend to think that everything we do is right. This is why getting feedback from your customers can open your eyes on things that may require changes or improvements. Doing this will better your business and provide an even better experience for customers. There is always room for improvement no matter what we think and getting feedback from our clients proves to them that we take this seriously and that customer service is a priority. Doing surveys and questionnaires are a wonderful way to get the feedback that you need to make appropriate changes in your business.