There is a particular coffee shop in town that I avoid now.
You know the chain, but I'm not naming names. It rhymes with Aw Shucks.
Normally the baristas are pretty friendly, but there's this one. He refuses to say Hello. One time he didn't say a single word for the whole transaction. I ordered, he took my money, he gave me my drink. Not a word. Not a smile.
It was awkward. It was the opposite of a pleasant customer service experience. And I'm easy to please (even though the tone of this post so far is "kids these days!" Maybe I'm turning into a cranky old person).
A. He could smile.
B. He could say "Hi, can I take your order?"
C. He could not be so smug.
Have we gotten so fancy with our handheld gadgetry and too cool for school with our post-post-modern attitudes? Of course this isn't just a problem among baristas or fast food workers. Our B2B interactions could use a little refresher on good customer service, as well.
These six tips are back to basics for any business or organization who wants to improve their customer service game.
1. Make a great first impression with a live person answering your phone.
In a technological wonderland of options, we rejoice upon hearing a human voice answer the phone and ask how they can help us. Companies like Discover are using this as a big selling point -- "Hey, call us and you'll get to talk to a real live person!"
You may not need to hire a full-time administrative assistant to answer your phone and sit at a desk. But that doesn't mean you have to ditch the phone, answer every call yourself or send people directly to voicemail. There's an app for that (sort of)!
Check out virtual receptionist services online. We love Ruby.
2. Spice up your response emails.
Do you sound like a corporate drone when you respond to your customers or clients? Or maybe your auto-response email on your "contact us" form is a cold splash of water.
I recently had a delightful encounter with a company that sells sporty trailers for hauling bikes, kayaks and gear. The owner of the company emailed my husband and me soon after we sent a standard request for a quote. Here's what he said:
Hello Aaron and Stephanie and thanks for the interest in SPACE!
Just delivered a trailer to Fort Wayne IN. Always think of Breaking Away when I hear from someone in IN.
Attached is the quote for the trailer you listed. You could go either way as far as a Lowrider or Highrider. We've sold both to Outback drivers. It's up to you just need to get the top of the ball up to 17" or so. Me personally I would go Lowrider. Either way you can switch it if you own and can turn a couple wrenches.
If I could ask you a couple questions:
How did you find us?
What are you hauling on top?
Have you been to our Facebook page?
Seen our Emmy winning video?
Let us know what you think and if you have any questions. We would love to hook you up!
Have a great day.
I could pick apart the grammar and punctuation in this email, but I won't. Because I was delighted that the owner of the company emailed us directly. No auto-response nonsense.
Bonus points: He picked up on the fact that my husband CC'd me on the email, so he replied all and included my name. I felt like I was in a conversation with him. I could almost hear his voice in my head.
He personalized the response, attached the quote and gave us more than we asked for. His follow-up questions about how we found him were perfect, because as a marketer of course I'm always interested in how people find companies and brands online. We even did a little research on Todd Olsen and discovered he and his brother invented ROLLERBLADES. How cool is that?
Anyway, obviously I'm a little starstruck by my brief email encounter with Todd Olsen, inventor of rollerblades and tricked out space trailers. Perhaps he will read this post and comment. A girl can dream.
All in all, a great example of how a simple email can delight your customers and even cause them to gush in a blog post.
3. Email or call back ASAP.
At SpinWeb, we have a 24-hour response time goal for our support tickets, and we're trying to move the dial on that goal to be even faster.
Like in the example above, if you have a customer reaching out for information like a quote or next steps in the buying cycle, the faster you can respond the better. They may be contacting your competitor across the street, and whoever calls back first wins.
4. Write a love letter to your customers.
I love to hear someone else talk about how great I am. You do, too. We all do because we're human beings.
Your customers love to hear about how great they are and why you love doing business with them. Write an email or a blog post or a hand-written note to your customers or clients. Give back a little.
5. Give your employees the best tools for providing the best service.
We talked about this on SpinRadio recently in regards to the Chris Brogan post about a bad experience with a hotel in Texas. "Customer service IS marketing."
Poor customer service is poor marketing. It can really come back to bite you in the butt. Piss off the wrong person, and they could write a nasty (or just a mediocre) review and share it with their 300K Twitter followers. Word of mouth like that is the most powerful kind of marketing, for good or bad.
Customer service is about listening to the client tell their story. Don't rush them or gloss over a long email. You might miss an important detail. If you catch those details and reflect it back in the conversation, the client will feel very warm and fuzzy and heard.
I like this little nugget:
"Marketing helps to grow the customer base by telling a story while customer service ensures continued success by listening to the customer tell theirs. A rockstar customer service team can grow a brand by listening, learning, engaging, and of course, helping customers." -- from a recent Zendesk Tweet Chat
What are some of your favorite ways to surprise and delight your customers? Share in the comments below!